The Five Digital Education Trends to Watch For This School Year

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Educational tools have come a long way since pencils and chalk. Now, educators can choose to incorporate a wide variety of technologies into the classroom, from video lectures to tablet apps. Yet with an overwhelming amount of options to choose from, how do educators know which tools will help or hinder their students’ learning? Most often, it’s not what educators are using, but how they’re using it; technology tools still rely on thoughtful, passionate, and creative educators in order to be effective, and not every tool is right for every classroom or type of learner.

As back-to-school season approaches, we’ve taken a look at what new technologies, tools, and digital strategies are expected to break into the classroom (or see a rise in popularity) this school year. Hopefully, this list of the latest digital education trends will inspire new learning approaches and ways to help bring your subject to (digital) life.

1. Mobile Learning

Mobile learning, or mLearning, has been a major asset for employee training and corporate development, but this year, mobile devices are expected to see a significant rise in popularity in the classroom, too. More and more schools are investing in tablets to experiment with digital learning and expose lower-income students to “what is a part of all our worlds today,” L.A. school board member Monica Garcia told the Los Angeles Times. Other schools and colleges are allowing BYOD, or bring your own device, into the classroom as a way for students to connect with educational material on the spot.

2. Cloud Education

From software to social media, nearly everything is stored in the cloud, and this trend shows no sign of stopping. Now, education data is expected to upgrade to cloud storage for increased access amongst students and educators. “With the cloud, the world will be our classroom,” writes Matt Britland for The Guardian. “ELearning will change teaching and learning. Students can learn from anywhere and teachers can teach from anywhere.” Britland points to the emergence of MOOCs, or Massive Open Online Courses, as the stepping-stone for cloud storage, and concludes, “It’s time for all schools to embrace the cloud.”

3. Digital Textbooks

As educators turn to video and audio tools to supplement their material–and allow for increased mLearning in the classroom–it only makes sense that digital textbooks will begin outranking print pages. In fact, 37 percent of K-12 teachers say they plan on transitioning to only digital textbooks within the next one to five years. The key determinant for digital textbooks’ success is students’ access to mobile devices, either in the classroom or at home, as well as digital textbooks’ ability to bring a vibrancy to learning unfound in traditional print pages. Not every digital textbook offers something extra, and educators will only be incentivized to make the switch with textbooks that prove their worth.


4. Data-driven Decisions

With the increase of online activity, more and more educators are able to capture data about their students’ learning and put it to good use. “Just as businesses have been mining such data for years in order to predict trends and consumer behavior patterns, schools are now finding that such ‘learning analytics’ will be effective in personalizing the educational experience,” reports Open Education Database. Now, educators have immediate access to online test scores, homework completion and, often, what specific questions are bogging down their students. These numbers provide ample opportunity for educators to hone their teaching strategies and better determine what works for each student.

5. Social Media

Social media may seem an outlier–it’s typically what distracts students from learning, not what engages them in it. However, some educators are beginning to meet their students halfway. Times Higher Education, citing information from the “NMC Horizon Report: 2014 Higher Education Edition,” reports that educators are using social media outlets “as professional communities of practice, as learning communities, and as a platform to share interesting stories about topics students are studying in class.” Social media offers a unique opportunity to communicate quickly and concisely about topics, and surrounding interests, in the classroom.

What do you think? Are you seeing these trends in your own classrooms or with your students, or have we missed the mark on the rising trends in education? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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