LearnPlatform - 5 EdTech Predictions for 2016

Is edtech a bubble? No. Is edtech working perfectly? No. Is edtech getting better every day? Just about… Here are the 5 edtech trends to look out for this year!

1 — Blended Becomes Personalized

Thanks to Moore’s Law (price down, computing power up!) and initiatives like USED’s ConnectED and the Office of EdTech’s National EdTech Plan, access to broadband, hardware and even blended pedagogical models (station-rotation, hybrid, etc.) will cease to be limiting factors for millions of students in 2016. Now, the challenge is personalization.

Although “adaptive” and “user-centered” have become buzzwords full of sizzle and no steak, educators will no longer ask, “Where’s the beef?” in 2016. Improving interactive, learner-centered environments to promote retention, identify classroom needs and challenge every student will motivate edtech discovery, differentiation and evaluation. Ultimately, this will help educators determine which interventions and approaches are working for individual children and specific student groups. And properly managed, data-driven classrooms will encourage all types of learners and enhance their education.

2 — For Districts & States: ESSA = More Power = More Responsibility

With the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, the first major federal education overhaul in over a decade, districts and states are already preparing for the upcoming shifts. While common core required “learning shifts” of students, ESSA gives more power to local districts and states. And we all remember what Uncle Ben said… “With great power comes great responsibility.”

Expect states to empower their districts and schools to spend on various edtech interventions, and expect them to want verifiable results — in the form of return on investment, product impact analyses, and stronger contractual agreements (contracts that focus on outcomes, not just access, activities and licenses). At LearnTrials, we are particularly excited about this, since our platform improves edtech management and equips districts and states to know what’s helping them drive results for the lowest price!

3 — Quality Will Start to Matter

I’ve been fond of saying, if efficacy mattered, education policies, practices and purchasing would be different. Since accessibility will not be at the forefront of edtech issues (see trend #1!), and over 2,000 superintendents have already taken the Future Ready pledge, edtech purchasing and contract negotiations will no longer depend on the biggest sales force, loudest marketing or most users. Instead, the quality of purchased, open and freemium tools will begin to play a more significant role.

Platforms like LearnTrials enable educators to see and share their experiences and outcomes, manage rapid product pilots and conduct impact analyses in moments (rather than months), so they can quickly understand the quality and efficacy of edtech in their local situation.

As my friend at the U.S. Dept. of Education always said, ‘Don’t tell me what you care about; show me your budget, and I’ll tell YOU what you care about.’ And speaking of spending…

4 — Continued Growth in Spending Leads To More Differentiation

U.S. schools and districts will spend 20% more than the $8 billion spent on edtech last year (GSV CapitalSIIA), plus north of $1 billion of teachers’ own money, leading to a global rise that is predicted to “grow from $43.27 Billion in 2015 to $93.76 in 2020” (Hack Education).

Currently, there are over 100,000 educational apps available, and educators simply don’t have time to sift through all the marketing mumbo jumbo. Over time, the best products will rise to the top, but only if they can differentiate themselves. However, both statistically and academically, star ratings have shown almost no differentiation — 85% of those education apps are rated between 4 and 5 stars in consumer directories like Graphite, EdSurge, the App Store and Google Play.

Soon, more sophisticated methods for differentiation will gain traction. This Research-based Rubric for Grading EdTech is used by thousands of teachers and their districts to determine which tools are working right now. With contextualized insights, the LearnTrials platform also provides the full story and powerful search functionality, without any influence from politics or marketing. Teachers won’t have to use machetes to hack at the question, “what works?” Now, they use scalpels to ask, “what’s working for 3rd-grade English Language Learners in rural districts like mine, where more than 50 percent of students get free or reduced lunch?”

5 — Outcomes Begin to Drive Inputs

Experts like Tom Vander Ark (@tvanderark) of Getting Smart and Julia Freeland (@juliafreeland) of the Clay Christensen Institute agree that competency-based models (based on mastering skills, not filling in bubbles on a test sheet) will continue to gain momentum in 2016. Along with the other trends, this will intensify focus on results, not just activities.

Understanding how different edtech impacts outcomes is complicated, but no longer impossible. In fact, the team at Lea(R)n recently received support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to make our rapid impact analyses available to districts and states. Our proprietary edtech management system will crunch the numbers and generate reports for any product in moments, instead of months.

And more insights in less time means more effective budgeting, informed instruction and scalable innovation based on actual efficacy.

What edtech trends do you predict will lead the way in 2016?