Classroom Technology

Ed-Tech Trends to Look for in 2015: Project-Based Learning, Maker Spaces

By Sean Cavanagh — June 29, 2015 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Over the next few years, schools will increasingly count on technology to try to spark student creativity, independent learning, and innovation, rather using digital tools in passive, rote ways, a new report predicts.

That’s one of the overriding trends forecast in the Horizon Report: 2015 Edition, released Monday at the International Society for Technology in Education conference, a massive ed-tech gathering being held this week in Philadelphia.

The annual report, which seeks to identify short- and longer-term developments in ed tech, predicts that schools’ interest in bring-your-own-device programs, blended learning, and other omnipresent strategies for improving learning through ed tech will continue to grow.

But the analysis, jointly published by the New Media Consortium and the Consortium for School Networking, also foresees burgeoning interest in K-12 in promoting “deeper learning” through technology, and moving students from “consumers to creators.”

A growing number of schools are demanding that students “demonstrate their mastery in forms that surpass traditional tests and worksheets,” writes the New Media Consortium, an Austin, Texas-based association that aims to help K-12 and college officials make sense of digital trends.

“Emerging instructional frameworks are encouraging teachers to use digital tools that foster creativity along with production skills,” they explain. "[E]ducators are increasingly becoming creators, too, and are therefore in the position to lead activities that involve developing and publishing educational content.”

In keeping with that focus, the authors see more schools placing an emphasis on project- or “challenge"-based learning, as well as “STEAM” learning, meaning studies focused on science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math education.

Another fast-expanding K-12 strategy meant to foster student creativity: a reliance on “maker spaces"—places in schools, libraries, and other settings, operating with varying degrees of structure or informality, where people invent, create, and problem-solve.

“We’re seeing maker-spaces spread like wildfire,” said Samantha Becker, who managed the report from the New Media Consortium, in an interview.

They represent “the manifestation of some of the biggest trends we’re seeing in K-12 education,” Becker added, in that they include a focus on both “play” and an “entrepreneurial mindset.”

Learning, and Collaboration

The authors also see an increasing commitment to collaborative learning, or the idea of students and teachers working together in “peer to peer,” settings or in groups.

Within five years or so, the authors identify adaptive technologies, digital badges—meant to signify mastery of learning and award certification in a skill set—and “wearable” technologies (the subject of a number of sessions at the ISTE conference) as trends to watch.

Information for the Horizon Report is gathered from an international panel of experts on ed tech, who share information and stage discussions online and draw from available research on digital trends.

The research for the report is jointly conducted by the New Media Consortium and the Consortium for School Networking, which represents K-12 technology officials.

Beyond simply trying to engage students, there are practical reasons that more schools are seeking out ed-tech strategies that encourage student creativity, Becker said. They’re convinced those skills will help students succeed in college and the workforce, she said.

K-12 officials are becoming increasingly convinced that “it’s just not enough for students to experience rote learning,” Becker explained. “It’s about students being able to create something to demonstrate what they’ve learned.”

The authors of the report also identify major challenges to schools using technology. Among the most persistent: Teachers’ lack of comfort with digital strategies and how to use them to improve instruction.

What complicates efforts to help teachers become more tech-adept is that “digital literacy is less about tools and more about thinking,” the authors note. That means skills and standards for technology and the teaching profession are going to be “somewhat ephemeral.”

See also:

Major Policy Shifts, Economic Forces Shape the Ed-Tech Marketplace
Why Ed-Tech is Not Transforming Teaching
Companies Face Rising Demand for Bite-Sized Chunks of Curriculum

A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.