How Do We Keep Education Relevant?
When Austin-based NMC (New Media Consortium) presented their latest report at BETT 2015 in London, UK, it brought several interesting things to our attention. The Horizon Report – Technology Outlook for Scandinavian schools for 2015-20 revealed, not surprisingly, that experts are expecting more new trends to occur in education in the near future. The report also shared that Scandinavian countries are rated high on technology infrastructure maturity, with high numbers of devices, with strong network capabilities available. This is something worth studying, further, for use in identifying both trends and challenges in the use of ICT (Information and Communications Technology) in education.
Games and Gamification
Perhaps the most sensational news in the report was the mention of games and gamification as a near-term trend in education. With nearly 60 Scandinavian experts on the advisory board for the report, this means that the majority of these experts see gamification in learning as productive and possible to implement with small adjustments to the existing learning environments. The positive feedback from multiple users of Finnish produced Minecraft in Education may also be one of the reasons for games and gamification entering more and more classrooms. The report states that “effectively designed games can stimulate large gains in engagement, productivity, creativity, and authentic learning.”
Perhaps we see this trend entering more classrooms as innovative teachers take in the fact that they need to challenge existing ways of learning, or “changing paradigms”, to quote Sir Ken Robinson from his famous 2010 TED talk. One reason might also be that the dropout rates from secondary education has to be addressed, and we know that most students use games, daily, and find a sense of self-motivation, personal achievement, and joy of mastery interacting with them.
This can, along with coding and programming, be seen as shifting the role of student from consumer to creator, which has been notably pointed out in the NMC report. This might also lead us forward to what the report predicts as a long-range trend in education—increased use of hybrid learning designs.
Cloud computing seems to be one of the most relevant and easily adoptable technology and trend in education at the moment. The NMC report states: “Over the past few years, cloud computing has been firmly established as an efficient way for businesses to protect data, develop applications, deliver software and online platforms, as well as to collaborate. Education institutions are deploying similar cloud-based strategies to boost collaboration, productivity, and mobility in teaching and learning.”
More and more schools are now delivering Office365 from Microsoft to their students, making cloud computing accessible and easy. The same goes for Promethean’s on-going development of the cloud-based platform ClassFlow, bringing existing devices to new life in numerous classrooms around the world, creating collaborative learning environments for lesson delivery, engagement, personalization and creativity.
One of the most fascinating and innovative uses of technology in Scandinavian education was presented after the NMC report, when students from Rothaugen lower secondary school in Bergen, Norway, told about their use of drones when working with angles, measurement and coordinates in Math. Their teacher, Terje Pedersen, is one of the really innovative educators, who thinks “outside the box” when using new and challenging technology in new learning environments with his students. In their drone projects, students also invited specialists to talk about both practical and ethical sides of using drones.
Additionally, the drones have to be programmed by Pedersen’s students. Pedersen refers to his students’ work as “delightful chaos”. Programming is mentioned in the Horizon Report for Scandinavia as a long-range technology (4-5 years). Even though many students work with programming through various programs, the reason for not making it a near-term technology in the report is simply the challenge of making it a common skill to teach in most classrooms. Only a small minority of curious teachers has mastered programming at this time.
But as one student representative, commenting on the Scandinavian report, said, referring to a totally different type of teacher: “My old science teacher once said, ‘There is no such reform that can’t fit into my teaching!’” The challenge we have re-thinking schools in the 21st Century is not the innovative teacher or technology, but rather those educators and leaders, who have not seen the path, yet, to get on it for the journey.
For as the Scandinavian Horizon report states, there are what NMC and their advisory board called “wicked” challenges for the implementation of new pedagogies; problems we cannot yet fully understand, and therefore are not able to address, such as scaling teaching innovations and creating systemic policies and synergies for better learning. However, innovative teachers are already addressing that one “wicked” challenge: How to keep education relevant.
We should measure learning change using good standards and objectives, and technologies that can increase motivation, as well as enhance relevance and mastery. As OECD Education Director, Andreas Schleicher, reminds us: “Learning is not a place, it is an activity!”
New Media Consortium in Austin, TX, publishes the Horizon report for Scandinavia with representatives from governmental bodies for education technology and innovative learning in all three Scandinavian countries as editorial board. The report’s advisory board members are from government, school leadership, and the EdTech industry. There is significant input on the board from numerous teachers and head teachers.
Educator Terje Pedersen from Bergen is willing to be contacted through his twitter account for further information about the use of drones in education.
About the Author:
Lars Persen, has worked as an educator and school leader for 16 years, both in Norwegian state schools and in IB institutions in Germany. He is now pedagogical leader at Norwegian Promethean partner, Scandec Systemer, and also a Promethean Expert and Fellow. He has also served on the advisory board for the Scandinavian Horizon Report 2015.
Feature image credit: Close to 500 teachers and education experts listen to Samantha Becker from Austin-TX-based NMC as she presented the Scandinavian Horizon Report at BETT 2015 in London, England. Photo: Lars Persen