Thursday, December 01, 2016

Looking backward and forward

What was hot in educational technology in 2016 and what are some cool new things that are on the horizon for 2017?
Let’s take a look backward and forward in case you missed anything or want to start planning for some new technologies!


Virtual reality hit the educational community in 2016 with the release of the low-cost 360° cameras (like the Ricoh Theta series) and the prominent use of Google Cardboard headsets for classroom use. Discovery VR, Google Expeditions (iOS | Android), and ThingLink VR are some of the large-scale projects in this area specifically targeted for education.
In my Kathy’s Katch April column, I covered how and why educators might want to use virtual reality in the classroom. Since that time, I have spent time teaching teachers how to have students create 360° images and share these online with others. The ability to share and use local landmarks, trips, buildings, etc., with others around the world helps increase the global literacy of our students.
I have created a Flickr group where teachers and students upload their 360°images for others to transform and use. With a simple app on a smartphone, such as Google Street View (iOS | Android) to create the image and a set of low-cost headsets, students can both share and view images from around the world. I also have a page devoted to both augmented reality and virtual reality that includes successful practices and suggestions for both of these technologies.
Here is a group of 360° images I shot in Sydney, Australia this year. You should be able to scroll around the images with your mouse.


One of the most innovative new things to show up in the classroom in 2016 is Breakout EDU. If you have not participated in a Breakout EDU session at a local, regional, or national education conference, you must do it the next time you see one offered. This is not just a technology experience, but the online collaboration and sharing among the many educators using creating these immersive learning games qualifies this item for a 2016 edtech trend in the classroom.  Breakout EDU experiences have been used at faculty meetings, parent nights at schools, at all types of education conferences, and, of course, in many classroom settings. Breakout EDU games teach critical thinking, teamwork, complex problem solving, and can be used across the curriculum.
Here is a video that gives you a quick idea of how Breakout EDU works. However, you really need to feel the excitement for yourself by participating in a session!


Who would have predicted this card game of the 1990’s would lead to a world-wide, real-time, collaborative crowd game in 2016? Everyone seemed to get caught up in this fun, outdoor scavenger hunt. It was so interesting to be part of it and finding new “friends” everywhere who would share their tips and locations to visit to gather new objects. In addition, the ability to find cool new things in both my town and in larger cities was really interesting. Did you know that there is a large Statue of Liberty reproduction in an office lobby in Boston? Or that you can find a monument to the now-defunct elevated artery in Boston?
While looking for items to collect and Pokemon to capture, and as I found these fun places, I began to think about the use of this game in the classroom. I started to take my own photos of the interesting spots I visited. I also began to look at the large database of information I was collecting in the game– the number of each Pokemon I captured, the points I received, the “power rating” of each Pokemon I had collected, and the actual time and date each event happened.
Because data literacy is one of the life-long skills we want our students to attain, having them use their Pokemon Go data and photos to write a story, create an infographic, and enter and evaluate their findings is a great way to target the data literacy skills. My August Kathy’s Katch column provides many other ways this phenomenon can be used to support teaching and learning.
The lesson I learned with Pokemon Go is not that gaming and gamification are essential to learning. My idea for the use of this particular game had more to do with using student passions to drive teaching and learning in ways we might not have thought of before.


The Chromebook finally came of age in 2016. They became a bit more powerful and speedier, their screens became easier to use for extended periods of time, the touchscreen Chromebooks allowed additional ways to input information (a big help for those that needed accessibility options), and the newest Chromebooks even began to run  apps from the Google Play Store (the apps that run on the Android phones).  I have the Asus Chromebook Flip C-100 (under $250) and it has an all-day battery life, a beautiful touch-screen that can be folded back and be used as a touch-screen tablet, and it is one of the first Chromebooks to run the Android apps.
But it is not just the hardware and software improvements of the Chromebook that have made it a choice for many schools. Thanks to the developers who create online tools, many of these powerful tools now work with the Chromebook. Since the heavy-lifting is done on the Web site’s server, the Chromebook does not need to do the processing locally, and the online tools work great!
I have a page devoted to the tools that work with Chromebooks and laptops, broken down into thirty categories such as animation tools, audio editors, citation makers, curation tools, coding tools, collage tools, image editors, drawing tools, concept mappers, podcast creators, timeline makers, video editors, word cloud generators, and more. I can find an online tool to replace almost any software that runs on a computer, thus opening up the field to the low-cost Chromebook. Getting a device for every student that is low-cost, durable, lasts an entire day without a charge, and can do almost anything is a worthy goal for schools!
That being said, I still believe that the iPad has an important place in the classroom. The simplicity and power of  single-purpose creation apps allow students to easily create a product to showcase their acquisition of content knowledge. I recommend a mix of devices in a school setting so students and teachers have access to the best tool for the job!


I could go on and on with the trends that I have become excited about in 2016– codingsketchnotingOpen Education Resources (OER), and design thinking are others that come to mind. But these are just my opinions. To take advantage of the expertise of a group of very smart people involved in K-12 educational technology, you should take a look at the NMC/CoSN Horizon Report: K-12 Edition.
The Horizon Report is put out each year. The panel of educators and technologists who investigate and come to consensus on the upcoming trends start off with over fifty important trends in technology that could have an impact in schools. These are narrowed down to six over the course of the creation of the yearly report. However, these trends are not thought about in a vacuum. While debating the choices, the participants are also considering these three questions.
  1. What’s on the horizon for K-12 education institutions?
  2. Which trends and technologies will drive educational change?
  3. How can these institutions strategize effective solutions to difficult challenges?
  4.  Give the entire report a read when you get a moment!


What are your thoughts on what was trending in educational technology in 2016? What are your predictions for 2017? Share with us on Twitter! #kathyschrock