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Envisioning Educational Technology’s Future

Every once in a while I come across a work that is truly exceptional in its thinking and execution.  Such a work is that of Envisioning the Future of Educational Technology.  Looking 30 years into the future in terms of  new learning technologies is an audacious act by any measure, but is even more compelling by the graphic poster that is both beautiful and informative.

This visualization is the result of a collaboration between the design for learning experts, TFE Research, and emerging technology strategist Michell Zappa, who describe this work below.

“This visualization attempts to organize a series of emerging technologies that are likely to influence education in the upcoming decades. Despite its inherently speculative nature, the driving trends behind the technologies can already be observed, meaning it’s a matter of time before these scenarios start panning out in learning environments around the world.”

Zappa and his team divided the chart into three areas: the classroom, the studio, and the virtual. Undoubtedly, the classroom is the most endangered of the three teaching venues, and within the span of two decades, it will be unrecognizable from the classroom of today. Current whiteboards and tablets will be displaced in the near future by digitized classrooms with performance-based dashboards, cascading knowledge maps, desk-sized screens and eye-tracking. Ultimately, physical classrooms will yield to studio and virtual spaces.

The studio marks an intermediate space between the traditional classroom and a completely virtual one. They describe the studio as “a peer to peer environment where groups coalesce to discuss, learn, and solve problems with each other and the teacher as facilitator.” There is a lot of current activity in this sphere which includes educational games, achievements and badges, educational programming tools, student- developed applications, and self-paced learning. The essential characteristic of the studio is that learning is a student-driven and “gamified” endeavor that is engaging and enjoyable.

The virtual sphere is where the “opening of information” trend occurs, a significant threat to traditional institutions of higher education. Virtual is defined as “disembodied environments, where learning, discussion and assessment happen regardless of physicality or geography.” Open courseware, online communities, video courses (like MOOCs), education app stores, and the digitization of books, are developments that will happen in this area.

One trend that I have blogged about in the past is what they term “disintermediation,” by which they mean “undoing the traditional student-teacher model, these technologies offer a scenario where AI (artificial intelligence) handles personalization while teachers focus on teaching.” This is similar to my blog post of the “disaggregated professor,” where the traditional role of the professoriate being broken up into discrete parts are farmed out to computer-generated programs or to poorly-paid graders. Assessment and student grading is ripe for a computer takeover, and so is content dissemination based on individualized student performance. Some technologies in this area include mobile platforms, student-to-student teaching platforms, and assessment and assignment algorithms.

A lot more can be said about this tremendous visualization of ed-tech’s future. What is clear is that we are currently in the middle of a major paradigm shift in terms of teaching practice, one that is accelerated by “disruptive technologies.” Teaching and learning will never be the same–and maybe that’s a good thing.

License and Credits

“Envisioning the future of education technology” has a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license, which means that you are free to use it as an individual (or in your organization) whichever way you see fit, as long as you credit the authors.

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