Key Trends

As IT support becomes more and more decentralized, the technologies we use are increasingly based not on school servers, but in the cloud. The continuing acceptance and adoption of cloud-based applications and services is changing not only the ways we configure and use software and file storage, but even how we conceptualize those functions. It does not matter where our work is stored; what matters is that our information is accessible no matter where we are or what device we choose to use. Globally, in huge numbers, we are growing used to a model of browser-based software that is device-independent. While some challenges still remain, specifically with notions of privacy and control, the promise of significant cost savings is an important driver in the search for solutions.

It becomes more and more evident every year that students are not deeply engaged in learning at school. Studies have shown that this lack of engagement contributes to the rate of early dropouts, yet students still struggle to find personal relevance in much of what they are asked to do in school. Efforts to alter this trend, such as project- or challenge-based learning pilot programs, mentoring, and community involvement in learning, show promise. Even with these positive steps, it is clear that this trend will not be an easy one to reverse.

The perceived value of innovation and creativity is increasing. Innovation is valued at the highest levels of business and must be embraced in schools if students are to succeed beyond their formal education. The ways we design learning experiences must reflect the growing importance of innovation and creativity as professional skills. Innovation and creativity must not be linked only to arts subjects, either; these skills are equally important in scientific inquiry, entrepreneurship, and other areas as well.

Technology continues to profoundly affect the way we work, collaborate, communicate, and succeed. Information technologies impact how people work, play, learn, socialize, and collaborate. Increasingly, technology skills are also critical to success in almost every arena, and those who are more facile with technology will advance while those without access or skills will not. The digital divide, once seen as a factor of wealth, is now seen as a factor of education: those who have the opportunity to learn technology skills are in a better position to obtain and make use of technology than those who do not. Evolving occupations, multiple careers, and an increasingly mobile workforce contribute to this trend.

Technology is increasingly a means for empowering students, a method for communication and socializing, and a ubiquitous, transparent part of their lives. Technology is impacting our lives, and the lives of students, in new and expanding ways. Once seen as an isolating influence, technology is now recognized as a primary way to stay in touch and take control of one’s own learning. Multisensory, ubiquitous, and interdisciplinary, technology is integrated into nearly everything we do. It gives students a public voice and a means to reach beyond the classroom for interaction and exploration.

There is increasing interest in just-in-time, alternate, or non-formal avenues of education, such as online learning, mentoring, and independent study. More and more, the notion of the school as the seat of educational practice is changing as learners avail themselves of learning opportunities from other sources. There is a tremendous opportunity for schools to work hand-in-hand with alternate sources, and to examine traditional approaches and re-evaluate the content and experiences they are able to offer.

The way we think of learning environments is changing. Traditionally, a learning environment has been a physical space, but the idea of what constitutes a learning environment is changing. The “spaces” where students learn are becoming more community-driven, interdisciplinary, and supported by technologies that engage virtual communication and collaboration. This changing concept of the learning environment has clear implications for schools, where learning is the key focus of the space.