What’s Hot & What’s Not in Education’s Digital Transition

LeiLani Cauthen

Over a warm cup of coffee and a fabulous breakfast at the trendy Marathon Grill in Philadelphia, the Learning Counsel met with some of our fav’s from education and some partners straight outta the tech innovation industry. It was the perfect crowd, the perfect conversation. Promethean kindly sponsored and lent top executives to the discussion.

First we ordered and enjoyed some good food and old-fashioned camaraderie, then Dr. David Kafitz and I led with points off our “What’s Hot | What’s Not” list from our research and seeing things first-hand in 25 cities over the past 18 months.

Let’s start off with what’s NOT.
Not at all.

10. No Privacy Policy. We sort of brushed over this one quickly, but the truth is everywhere we go there is buzz about the new Facebook privacy policies and interpreting what that means: rumours of betrayal of other giant-sites-who-cannot-be-named and more. Privacy of what and for whom, a tricky path to walk but oh-so-important. Have a care folks, privacy is a big deal so it’s very uncool not to have something out there in writing.

9. Collaboration limited only to email. We were happy to note that the Districts who sent representatives were on board with this, and we had a few comments about Apps like Snapchat and others in use.

8. Parent Portals that deliver what paper did. Enough said about having on your website what paper used to do, “school photos are on Friday…”. This is old-school now. Figure out how to spice this up.

7. The paper student cumulative folder. Really? How can you afford to not go all digital with student portfolios now that storage is so cheap digitally and paper storage is very costly? Get budget smart people!

6. Digital Curriculum without intelligent learning engines. We heard comments about how, yeah, digital curriculum needs to be more than the stuff of learning and actually have some pattern-recognition built in to help teachers personalize. This is becoming expected from software companies.

5. Analytics without purpose. Teachers haven’t all taken those college-level statistical analysis classes to get what all the dashboard stuff means in a lot of learning management and student information systems. Truth is this subject goes over a lot of heads. There are analytics of things that, on inspection, are not hot with people because they then result in endless arguments as to meaning and use.

4. 50+ log-ins. We are way past critical mass with the numbers of log-ins and systems in schools in addition to subscription sites. You’ll be seeing more on this from us—industry comparatives as to password sign-ins. No one beats the education system level of logins.

3. eBooks are the textbook replacement. This is becoming not-hot now. The form factor of digital is making reading materials still hot in book-type form but the learning objects, the pieces and parts of things-to-learn do not necessarily all have to be in eBook form. App form probably, chunk form undoubtedly for LMS’s, but not a full eBook.

2. Prohibition of use of Student Devices. This is so three years ago. Now with modern Mobile Device Management and a crack team managing the ecosystem, you can seamlessly weave in student-owned devices with the ones issued by the school to get a full-coverage model and everyone familiar with their own device. Not that there aren’t other issues, but total prohibition is not hot.

1. One size fits all devices. This has become so not-hot because people are realizing that middle and high school kids often times need a keyboard full time. They also need their own machine. Chris Edmonson, Director of Instructional Technology from Clovis Unified School District in California mentioned the many thousands of laptops they are using for high schools in a large 1-1 program.

Now on to what’s HOT!

10. Allocation of instruction time—screen learning time and non-screen learning time. The Learning Counsel introduced the idea that the discussion going on around the country is no longer about the lines of demarcation between what is “whole group” learning with things like books and interactive whiteboards and looking up things as a group on the internet, and online learning/distance learning, and “blended” which is defined in a multitude of ways. No, now it’s about a clear and simple line between what is “screen learning” and non-screen learning (traditional whole group) and what those optimum ratios are. That simplifies it all down. And we know the secret percentage and told everyone there at the breakfast.

9. To Individualize or Personalize – knowing which is which. We discussed the difficulties teachers have in individualizing when they may be doing it manually-with-technology. It’s a star-high goal and not often met well. When the software is more than piecemeal bits and is organized into a scope and sequence package with embedded pre-assessments, formative assessment, and all kinds of gating and metrics, well then it becomes a piece of cake. That’s the “fully loaded” stuff the Learning Counsel likes to talk about as the “immersive-environment digital curriculum.” You can individualize for each student as a teacher with that far easier, or not-so-easily for each student with various chunks of materials and individual lesson plans. Tech is making that easier at least with a means of central posting and communication back and forth. To personalize, well that’s a different thing and really means that the individual is involved in part of the determinism of where they go with learning. The teacher is sign-posting the major thoroughfares, the student is taking side alleys of interest and coming back to the freeway as needed. That’s the penultimate level of where tech can take us with teaching and learning.

8. Education in the “Age of Experience.” We touched on this during breakfast, our common discussion area of the “end point of Education’s tech transformation.” We believe education will level up to this and so had some conversation about that and how it will look when institutions are wrapping up education in a total experience much like the uber-brands such as Disney, Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Starbucks and others are already doing. This whole involved path and philosophy is forthcoming in our book to be published sometime later in 2015. This is a hot topic. People are relieved to know that someone is at least giving a view to some end point.

7. New digital resource vetting & aligned renewal procurement. Beatriz Arnillas, Director of Instructional Technology at Houston Independent School District pointed out that her District is hard at work with some hundred or so various vendors getting lined-up all on to one calendar date to have their subscription sites renew at once. This is a major, and very hot new line the industry is going to have to remodel itself to get behind.

6. Knowing your terminology. Can anyone say what “blended learning” means? This is a point of much conversation. What’s hot right now is getting your own institution behind a set group of definitions of terms.

5. Digital Curriculum Super Powers. The Learning Counsel introduced a new line of conversation about what the abilities of new software for learning really are, how they differ from the analog world with things like avatars, plagiarism checkers, embedded annotation capability, animations, machine-learning, physical manipulative interfacing with touch screens and more. We have a paper coming out about this soon.

4. Student Digital Data Privacy Rights. This is Hot. Join the conversation about what these are like our group did over breakfast at our upcoming Gathering annual event in Albuquerque where we will draft a Bill of Rights with live authorship by the whole group of experts we bring in.

3. Taking Inventory. Again. Places like Houston ISD have some 140,000 different pieces and sources of digital resources. It’s massive, and they’re far from being alone. The conversation about how to do this was an interesting one, and pretty much all were in agreement that it’s never over.

2. Content Packaging Standardization (Thin Cartridge, Common Cartridge.) Ourprops to IMS Global who is leading the charge on this conversation. This is a mighty big deal to many schools and plays off the #1 in our What’s Hot list.

1. New Learning Management Systems. Lots of schools are talking about their new LMS’s like proud new parents or nervously naming who they think they’ll choose for their LMS. This is a Hot area of purchase for some 30% of all schools right now and more and more schools are leaping into the fray. One caveat here – there are so many LMS’s even we at the Learning Counsel can barely keep up. Good luck out there!

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