What Will Your Classroom Look Like in 2017?

June 27, 2013
Sarah Jackson
Common Sense Media
San Francisco, CA
CATEGORIES Common Sense Resources, Digital Literacy, In the Classroom

by Kathleen Costanza 

In the last 10 years, there’s been a whirlwind of rapidly expanding digital tools, morphing and adapting for classroom use faster than anyone could have predicted. As we saw at ISTE last week, there’s a palpable enthusiasm in the education world for the untapped potential of these tools.  We hope you’ll check out our edtech ratings and reviews for help finding the best apps, games, websites, and digital curricula for your classroom. Yet, even with this help there’s so much radically transforming in a typical math class that the future sometimes seems wildly unpredictable.

The New Media Consortium has published its 2013 NMC Horizon Report, which aims to pin down what exactly is coming down the line. NMC released the report in conjunction with ISTE and the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN). More than just peering into a crystal ball, the report analyzes trends and patterns to highlight the most influential technological advances and where they will lead students and educators next.

First, the report investigates technologies already being used in many schools that will be further integrated in classrooms in a year or less: bring your own device (BYOD), cloud computing, mobile learning, and online learning.

The report found that 42 percent of K-12 schools are already implementing some variation of a cloud system. As cloud usage expands, access to documents and applications will hopefully mean unprecedented flexibility for teachers and students to create, edit, and review materials wherever, whenever.

“We know that people will work from wherever they want, whenever they want, in whatever way they want. How is present-day schooling going to prepare them for that world?” asked educational researcher and 2013 TED Prize Winner Sugata Mitra in his fascinating talk, “Build a School in the Cloud,” which the report mentions. Mitra explains how cloud computing, while already being used in an increasing number of schools, has only begun to see its full potential in education. “My wish is to help design a future of learning by supporting children all over the world to tap into their wonder and their ability to work together. It will be called the School in the Cloud. It will be a school where children go on these intellectual adventures driven by the big questions which their mediators put in.”

The report says that in two or three years, electronic publishing, learning analytics, open content, and personalized learning will begin to find mainstream use. 

The Horizon report spotlights numerous examples of every new technology emerging. For example, schools will begin to see the use of learning analytics, or the analysis of educational big data, to streamline decision making and track students’ progress. The report points out GuideK12, a geovisual analytics tool originally designed for the U.S. Census Bureau and repurposed for educational policy making and curriculum design.

Looking even further forward, in four to five years schools will have access to 3D printing, augmented reality, virtual and remote laboratories, and even wearable technology.

Although 3D printing still is four to five years away from widespread adoption, the report says that cutting-edge schools are already using its most practical applications. In the coming years, NMC predicts that students in science and history classes will be able to make and interact with models of fragile objects such as fossils and artifacts, while chemistry students will print out models of complex proteins.

Virtual and remote labs, meanwhile, do the opposite, allowing students to experiment without physically interacting. “Institutions that do not have access to high-caliber lab equipment can run experiments and perform lab work online, accessing the tools from a central location,” said the report.            

To put these upcoming advances in context, the report outlines the significant challenges of these innovations, especially those further away. (We’ve written about some of the initial pitfalls of wearable technology such as Google Glass.) It also outlines overall key trends to conclude the report.

“The abundance of resources and relationships made easily accessible via the Internet is challenging us to revisit our roles as educators,” write the report’s authors. “Institutions must consider the unique value that each adds to a world in which information is everywhere. In such a world, sense-making and the ability to assess the credibility of information are paramount.”

This “sense-making” and access to tools to assess credibility is exactly why we launched our edtech ratings and reviews and what we strive to help educators teach with in-depth in our digital literacy curricula.

There’s not a perfect picture of what classrooms in 2017 will look like. But it’s certain that a new set of skills, worlds different than what we were taught, will be necessary for kids to navigate whatever the future holds. And for technologies that you don't have to wait till 2017 to check out, join our monthly #appyhour Hangout series to hear how educators are using digital tools for learning. You can watch live via YouTube and Tweet along at #appyhour. The next session is scheduled for July 10.