The new NMC report is out, and it is, as always, a fascinating, useful, and thought-provoking document.   Above is the promotional video capturing most of the highlights, below, at bottom,  is the full report.

My post on the 2012 report is here.

A few comments and observations:

1. The set of “six emerging technologies most likely to influence their sectors” evokes a mixed reaction.   Cloud computing, mobile technologies, Open Content, and 3D printing are developments of enormous value and significance to student learning: they make for greater connectivity to information and networks, greater affordability and flexibility, tremendous creative opportunities, and improved personalization of learning and customization of course design.

Learning Analytics is something I’m all for, when done well and for good and with nuance and care, but we all know there is much to be concerned here about the potential for loss of privacy and the mechanized automation of learning.     These concerns are, to my eyes, underappreciated and underemphasized in the discussion inside the report.

Remote and virtual laboratories wouldn’t have made my list.

Remote laboratories enable users to conduct experiments and participate in activities via the Internet using remotely controlled but real laboratory equipment.

Virtual laboratories are interactive online environments for performing experiments with simulated equipment. Both, however, offer the promise of authentic laboratory experiences regardless of the locale of the user.

I don’t mean to dismiss their value or significance altogether, but they are hard to get too excited about.   In an era of maker spaces and in a time when we need again, or as always, tremendous bursts of innovation in our student laboratories, it is hard not to fear that virtual and remote labs are as much a step back or step away as a step forward.  Sure, bring them, but don’t prioritize funding or time for them over real labs.

2.  The timeline seems a bit off to my eyes, also.   I’d have put 3D printing in the mid-time range, 2-3 years, and I think Learning Analytics is going to be slower in development and implementation by most regular users– it belongs in the further out time range, 4-5 years.

3.  For a reason not explained, (or did I overlook it?), this year’s report halves the number of emerging trends when compared to the 2012 report, only six rather than twelve.

Some of the exemplary elements in last year’s report are missing: collaborative environments, personalized learning environments, semantic applications (an abstract term, but best exemplified in tools such as Wolfram Alpha and one my very favorite iphone/ipad apps, TripIt), and Tools for assessing 21st century skills.   I’m sad to see them missing, and I would have placed any one of them over virtual/remote labs.

4. The two pages summarizing key trends, as differentiated from emerging technologies, is also useful (and entirely absent from the video).     I’m especially taken with these three, which deserve careful consideration and effective implementation in every school journeying toward becoming a school of the future:

  • Social media is changing the way people interact, present ideas and information, and communicate.
  • Openness — concepts like open content, open data, and open resources, along with notions of transparency and easy access to data and information — is becoming a value.
  • The abundance of resources and relationships made easily accessible via the Internet is challenging us to revisit our roles as educators. Institutions must consider the unique value that schools add to a world in which information is everywhere, and generally free. In such a world,sense-making and the ability to assess the credibility of information are paramount.

5.  As with key trends, the two page of key challenges is as important as the far more visible emerging technologies.    Several deserve highlighting:

  • Ongoing professional development needs to be valued and integrated into the culture of the schools. There is immense pressure placed on teachers to incorporate emerging technologies and new media in their classrooms and curriculum. All too often, when schools mandate the use of a specific technology,teachers are left without the tools (and often skills)to effectively integrate the new capabilities into their teaching methods.
  • K-12  must address the increased blending of formal and informal learning
  • The demand for personalized learning is not adequately supported by current technology orpractices
  • We are not using digital media for formative assessment the way we could and should.

6.   The report is terrific also for its resources and links.   Here are some of the best:

Mobile Learning:

Learning Analytics: 

From this excellent article:

The way to take advantage of online learning technologies has to include the ability for timely, reliable, prescriptive information for those engaged in the learning experience (students and their instructors) as well as a rich semantic data set for learning engineers to be able to improve those resources continually.

The only way to do this is to have algorithms and data that have an explanatory capability in order to give guidance to each user group on what to do next.  This means developing rich models that encapsulate the intent of online learning content and well-instrumented learning environments that provide large sets of meaningful data that can feed these analyses.  Now we need to recognize the next step is in fact a harder one to take, but well worth it for everyone involved.

Open Content

3D Printing

  • Playmaker School : “a collaborative project between GameDesk, New Roads, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has implemented a Maker space as part of the in-school curriculum, with lessons tied to core curriculum standards. Students design objects that can be immediately replicated and prototyped through a 3D printer to create models that demonstrate physics concepts.”   I’m eager to visit and learn more about Playmaker.