In just one or two years, experts predict Bring Your Own Device policies and makerspaces will be commonplace in schools. A 2014 Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) surveyfound that 81 percent of surveyed schools either had a BYOD policy or planned to implement one. These policies reflect the reality of students’ lives and can also cut down on school technology costs. Similarly, the popular Maker Movement and increasing emphasis on hands-on learning has propelled school makerspaces into the limelight. School leaders see these spaces as a way for students to take initiative: designing, prototyping and building their ideas from start to finish.
3-D Printing: The report notes that in the next two to three years, 3-D printing and adaptive learning technologies will have become mainstream school technologies. Experts believe 3-D printing offers tremendous opportunities for students to explore objects and concepts that might be difficult to experience in school. The printer can help students visualize mathematical graphs and models or touch replicas of historic artifacts. Low-cost online design tools and cheaper machines are helping to make 3-D printing accessible to schools, while project-based pedagogy is making it popular.
Adaptive Learning: Adaptive learning refers to software that adjusts to students’ learning needs as they use the product. Increasingly, this kind of software is being used to allow each student to move at his or her own pace. The idea is tremendously appealing to some education leaders, while others worry that relying on software to recognize student needs will actually diminish the personalized attention from an educator that each student deserves.
While the authors of the NMC Horizon report feel adaptive learning could soon be a game changer, they caution that the software may not be sophisticated enough yet to meet educators’ dreams. Instead, the authors posit its best use may be to analyze macro-level data on the effectiveness of curriculum and instruction.
Badges and Wearables: On the long-term horizon, experts see digital badges and wearable technology as important technology developments in four to five years. Badges are already being used to recognize competence in a skill in digital spaces like Khan Academy. Increasingly, schools are looking to badges as a way to validate informal learning for both students and teachers. While not yet pervasive, badges could offer a more comprehensive way to certify learning opportunities, inside and outside of school.
NMC Horizon reports have highlighted wearable technology in the past, pointing to learning opportunities in virtual reality experiences and the potential for biometric devices to teach about nutrition and exercise. Now, educators around the world are beginning to use wearable technology to push limits and offer creative outlets, but use is not widespread. Experts note one place that wearable technology could have a particularly large impact is on disabled students