Education Opinion

Can You Predict The Future Technologies in Your Classroom?

By Patrick Ledesma — February 21, 2011 5 min read
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Which technologies will impact learning in classrooms in one year or less? How about two to three years? How about four to five years?

These are some of the questions I’m still thinking about from one of the technology sessions at the Association of Teacher Educators 91st Annual National Meeting that I attended last week as part of my ongoingClassroom Ambassador Fellowshipwith the US Department of Education.

In that session, the presenter challenged us to think about our schools.

“Does your school have a culture of innovation or does your school have pockets of innovation?”

Expanding on the idea of a culture of innovation, we discussed the recent 2011 Horizon Report from the New Media Consortiumand the Educause Learning Initiative. This report “examines emerging technologies for their potential impact on and use in teaching, learning, and creative inquiry.”

Members of the Horizon Project Advisory Board, which is made up of mostly university researchers and corporations (note to New Media and Educause: more K-12 representation next time please....), were asked the following questions:

1) Which of these key technologies will be most important to teaching, learning, or creative expression within the next five years?
2) What key technologies are missing from our list?
3) What trends do you expect to have a significant impact on the ways in which learning-focused institutions approach our core missions of teaching, research, and service?
4) What do you see as the key challenge(s) related to teaching, learning, or creative expression that learning-focused institutions will face during the next 5 years?

The Horizon Report Wiki shows the various stages and development of the report. For example, you can view the early results to see the original 43 technologies, 14 trends, and 19 challenges listed by the board members. I think this early list is as interesting as the final list since it shows the variety of ideas and opinions.

These made the finals in Emerging Trends, Critical Challenges, and Technologies to Watch.

Emerging Trends

  1. The abundance of resources and relationships made easily accessible via the Internet is increasingly challenging us to revisit our roles as educators in sense-making, coaching, and credentialing.
  2. People expect to be able to work, learn, and study whenever and wherever they want.
  3. The world of work is increasingly collaborative, giving rise to reflection about the way student projects are structured.
  4. The technologies we use are increasingly cloud-based, and our notions of IT support are decentralized.

Critical Challenges

  1. Digital media literacy continues its rise in importance as a key skill in every discipline and profession.
  2. Appropriate metrics of evaluation lag behind the emergence of new scholarly forms of authoring, publishing, and researching.
  3. Economic pressures and new models of education are presenting unprecedented competition to traditional models of university.
  4. Keeping pace with the rapid proliferation of information, software tools, and devices is challenging for students and teachers alike.

And my favorite, especially the predicted time for adoption.... (Drum roll please...)

Technologies to Watch

  1. Electronic Books: Electronic textbooks, online textbooks, etc.
    (Time to Adoption Horizon: One Year or Less)
  2. Mobiles: Any computing device you can carry with you and that is easily tranportable, like your Smartphone, iPad, tablet computer, etc.
    (Time to Adoption Horizon: One Year or Less)
  3. Augmented Reality: Adding a computer-assisted layer of contextual information over the real world.
    (Time to Adoption Horizon: Two to Three Years)
  4. Game Based Learning: Using computer games to teach and enhance the curriculum.
    (Time to Adoption Horizon: Two to Three Years)
  5. Gesture Based Computing: Using gestures to interact with the computer.
    (Time to Adoption Horizon: Four to Five Years)
  6. Learning Analytics: Using data mining, interpretation, and modeling to improve teaching and learning.
    (Time to Adoption Horizon: Four to Five Years)

Check out the full report for a more detailed description and examples of each emerging technology.

Do you agree with the predictions of the Technologies to Watch list?

For the most part, I agree with the potential of the technologies on the list. I’m having a difficult time with “time to adoption” because the term “adoption” suggests that these technologies will have widespread presence and impact in teaching, learning, and creative expression within that timeframe.

The presenter has also framed the discussion of this report in the context of schools and our ability to adapt to these future technologies in classrooms.

“Does your school have a culture of innovation or does your school have pockets of innovation?”


It’s a tough question. After all, we in K12 schools are not held accountable for our ability to innovate. Our high stakes standardized assessments do not measure innovation. In addition, many teachers work in schools with limited technology resources. We are also challenged by limited time, an ever expanding diverse socio-economic student population, and need for high stakes test preparation since the results are being linked to teacher evaluation, school evaluation, and teacher education evaluation.

As the cliche goes, “what is tested it taught.” Innovation isn’t tested.

In this context and without a standard definition of innovation and a way to accurately verify its presence or absence, many teachers work in schools that have pockets, rather than a culture, of innovation.

We have pockets of teachers who are the pioneers defining the model examples and best practices for using technology with students. Perhaps you are one of these pioneers. Perhaps you are a “pioneer in preparation.”

There is nothing wrong with living in pockets given our circumstances. We as teachers operate within the confines defined for us by our school, district, state, and national policies. We strive to do better within our individual contexts. We do what we can to innovate when possible.

Most importantly, we want more from our leaders, policy makers, and researchers to support our transition to that culture of innovation.

So, for the next group of Horizon advisors or for any group writing a report about the future of technology, please support us and the overall cause by helping us in our continuing examination of the following questions:

  1. What will teaching, learning, and creative expression in schools and classrooms need to look like for educators to adopt emerging technologies to transition from “pockets of innovation” to a “culture of innovation?”
  2. What will be the challenges in this transition?
  3. What policies and support will we need for us to meet these challenges?

Answer these questions and we won’t be guessing about the Technologies to Watch.

We’ll be guiding the creation and implementation of these technologies and using them to innovate in schools.

The opinions expressed in Leading From the Classroom are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.