Advancing Learning Environments

Mediaplanet spoke with education technology expert Keith Krueger of CoSN about the future of classrooms everywhere.

In your opinion, how has the rapid growth of technology in the education system improved learning environments?

Technology, specifically robust internet and wide access to computing devices, has changed the mindset of education from one of overcoming scarcity of knowledge to one of abundance of information. Knowledge is now less about finding information and more about transforming information into knowledge. Classrooms are no longer limited by the knowledge of the teacher, the textbook and the decade-old copy of the encyclopedia. With technology, we have the ability to link students to the world — and with a great teacher, learning is limitless.

How do you see learning environments changing five to ten years down the road?

The core promise of technology is the possibility of a more personalized learning environment. That will enable a student to progress at their pace, and go to deeper learning based on their interests and passions. We will find a way to use data to inform instruction, not simply for high stakes testing. I envision an engaging learning environment both at school and outside which creates lifelong learners.

We live in an era where technology itself often precedes the practical application of technology solutions to teaching, learning and creative inquiry challenges. In order to use new tech tools in meaningful and engaging ways for education, it's important to understand the trends driving technology adoption in the K-12 environment. According to a panel of 59 experts across 18 countries for the latest K-12 edition of the NMC/CoSN Horizon Report, the key trends accelerating technology adoption are as follows:

1. Coding as a literacy

The digital economy of the future will be driven by those who have programming skills and an understanding of how computers work. It is becoming more important for students to interact with technology and to have the ability to control the devices, programs and applications they interact with.

2. Supporting students as creators

Learners are beginning to explore subjects through active creation instead of by passive consumption of content. Makerspaces, fabrication laboratories, media centers, intuitive creative suites of desktop programs, and apps provide hands-on opportunities for students to boldly channel their creativity into inventions, solutions and expressions.

3. Collaborative learning

Collaborative learning models are proving to be increasingly successful at engaging students. Collaboration mirrors the way humans solve problems, and technology tools help students (and faculty) connect with one another. Synchronous and asynchronous workspaces built into tools like Google Apps for Education and Microsoft Classroom remove time, space and demographic barriers among learners.

4. Deeper learning approaches

For students to remain motivated, they need to have sense of how their knowledge and skills will have an impact. Social media platforms like Twitter, WeChat and Snapchat keep students connected to one another and to local and global issues. When folded into pedagogy and combined with content creation tools like YouTube and WeVideo, these same outlets can be used to actively contribute insight or solutions in meaningful ways.

5. Rethinking how schools work

Adaptive learning tools and open educational resources are, respectively, personalizing and democratizing how students learn. Combine these with a mobile technology like a network-connected smartphone or a tablet, and students have a powerful any-time, any-way, any-place learning environment.

6. Redesigning learning spaces

Flexible learning spaces allow for students to group and regroup as is appropriate for a lesson. Network-enabled classrooms allow students to connect and collaborate in familiar mobile-first and social modalities that are part of their daily digital habits outside of the classroom.