2011: My Predictions for Ed-Tech

The ReadWriteWeb writers have been publishing our predictions for 2011. (Mine, quite broad and not that brave, are here.)

I have some more specific education technology predictions, but as I write them, they feel sorta glum. I do think education technology will be big - HUGE - in 2011. I know, I know, we've been predicting that for 30 years. But I think we've reached an inflection point where we have increasingly affordable consumer hardware (iPod Touch, cellphone, netbooks, e-readers) and software (cloud-based, collaboration, creation, communication tools) that can be incorporated into both in-and out-of-classroom learning environments. There's investor interest, government interest, entrepreneurial interest, parental interest... and yes, even student interest in technology and education.

Exciting times.

But technology plus education doesn't necessarily equal magic. It doesn't necessarily equal learning. It doesn't necessarily equal profit. I predict in 2011 much of it won't.

Accountability, assessment, and analytics

2011 will be a year for data science, as we struggle to make meaning (and make money) from the explosion of data we are creating. There is a lot of potential here for education companies to build tools that will track learning and performance and, where possible, deliver lessons and recommendations accordingly. My fear: the push for more data will simply result in a push for more standardized testing, and these scores will remain the underpinning for decision-making and funding.

The changing textbook market

I predict that legal battles around IP will dominate 2011. It's clear that some of our laws governing patents and copyrights are woefully out-of-date, as are some of our sensibilities about why content should be guarded and not shared. But I also predict that open educational resources will flourish in the coming year, and more educators -- individually and as part of school initiatives -- will move to build and share curricula online.

But the traditional textbook market -- a multi-billion-dollar beast -- is not going to go away quietly. I do think that textbook publishers and (re)sellers will have to adapt as education rethinks "print." Clearly, publishing e-books is one way that the textbook industry will adapt. Some will do this more successfully than others if they really embrace the new media, not simply convert textbooks to a PDF.

2010 was a big year for online book-rental service Chegg; it raised a lot of investment and acquired a number of companies. But I don't see textbook rentals as anything other than a stop-gap measure, and I think Chegg is going to pivot to offer not just student book rentals, but more course administration (scheduling, social networking). That leads me to...

The battle for the LMS

The LMS. This was Blackboard's game to lose, and (barring a last minute upset in with their mobile features) I think they have. In 2010, Blackboard's share of the learning management system market fell from 71% to 57%, and the company's competitors will continue to multiply and grow in 2011 as schools look elsewhere for cheaper and/or open source alternatives.

However, as more schools -- at the K-12 and university-level -- move to "the cloud," I predict that Google Apps for Education will be an increasingly appealing alternative to an expensive LMS, particularly as the number of third-party apps available for integration via the App Marketplace increases. Of course, this market offers a lot more than course management tools, and I expect there will be a lot of opportunities here for developers -- good news for them, and good news for Apps for Edu users.

Hardware fail

Ah, the interactive whiteboard. The promise. The price tag.

One of the myriad problems with the whiteboard is that it's one large piece of immobile technology in the classroom, when what we want instead is one-to-computing and personal mobile devices. But it's less that the investment in one whiteboard is a bad thing. You can run into the same problem outfitting a class with multiple net-books (iPads, iPods, laptops, etc). You can't simply put a tool in the classroom -- in the hands of teachers or students -- and expect to instantly improve teaching and learning. But nonetheless I bet that's what happens in plenty of cases in 2011 as the next craze -- tablets -- gains commercial and classroom adoption.

I predict many schools continue to ban the computing device that more and more kids are actually going to carry with them -- their cellphones. And some schools, fearing privacy issues and lawsuits -- will ban social networking and text messaging. (The State of Virginia? I'm looking at you.)

For-profit universities, charter schools, and the digital divide

I worry about the future of public education in this country. I worry that in our pursuit for better test scores and shiny gadgets and online content delivery methods that we will continue in the coming year to fail to meet the needs of students, particularly those most at risk. I worry we're going to miss the opportunity to really get things right in 2011. I hope I'm wrong.

Photo credits: Flickr user
Vince Alongi


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