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What’s on the Ed-Tech Horizon for 2013?

by Justin Marquis Ph.D.

I recently looked at Hack Education’s reflections on what their blogger Audrey Watters predicted would be big in 2012, compared to what actually happened.  It turns out that Audrey hit much more than she missed with her predictions, and that inspired me to make some educated guesses about what 2013 might bring for the world of educational technology. I’m far less conservative than Audrey, so some of these projections might be long shots. But that’s what makes them fun! Between the two sets of predictions, I am sure we have an accurate picture of what will occur in educational technology in 2013.

  1. iPad mini makes some miniature waves – Apple had another amazing year in 2012. The release of the iPad mini as well as a revamped and much more robust iPod Touch just in time for the holidays kept them at the top of the technology pile. But my prediction is that neither of these moderately pricey devices is going to have a significant impact in 2013 or beyond, mainly because of the high cost of Apple devices compared to the plummeting costs of other devices – namely Android tablets. See #9.
     
  2. We look beneath the Surface for inspiration – I am anxiously awaiting the release of the Microsoft Surface Pro tablet early in 2013, mainly because I want a laptop that is really a tablet, or is it a tablet that is really a laptop? Anyway, this device should be as small as a tablet and as robust as a low to middle level laptop. Most importantly,  it will run the thousands of dollars’ worth of Windows software I have previously invested in. I believe, however, that much like the Surface RT which has yet to make a major splash in the market, the Pro won’t either, mainly because of its (speculated) steep price tag (possibly $1,000+) for a tablet. That is certainly going to place it out of reach of the education market.
     
  3. Cheap tablets make technology accessible for every student –  I bought my son a Nabi Android tablet for Christmas. It was shockingly inexpensive for the features it offers and will allow him to explore the world of computers and technology on his own device. There is no good reason that similar devices cannot be made available to every single U.S. school-age child and even preschoolers. They are functional, adaptable, and most importantly useful for helping children become technologically literate. Such an effort is already underway in India, for example.
     
  4. Creation goes mainstream – If cheap tablets for kids really can make significant inroads into education, they will open up the world of creation for all children. Movies, music, books, websites, they will be able to create whatever they can imagine. Teacher training is going to be imperative in this new digital age, and should be facilitated by providing teachers with support and ongoing professional development opportunities to ensure that the transition is relatively painless.
     
  5. MOOCs get credit – The early November announcement that the American Council on Education is going to attempt to determine if some MOOC offerings are equivalent to existing college courses, and thus should count for transfer credit is the first tentative step toward making all education free and easily accessible. If not in 2013, then in the near future, this move should prompt #9.
     
  6. The floodgates open – If MOOCs become an accepted route to college credit, there is going to be a gold rush that the miner 49ers would be proud of – a MOOC-rush, if you will. Every education and Internet entrepreneur is going to try to get in the game, leading to an explosion of massive online courses, and countless new models for monetizing them.
     
  7. Bigger and bigger data – There will be some who attempt to capitalize on the MOOC-rush through sophisticated reliance on big data to take the "massive" out of the MOOC and produce individualized learning content based on a wealth of data and information sources. This will throw a kink into the accreditation process for a while, but it will eventually (well beyond 2013) become the way much of this free open online learning happens.
     
  8. Educational entrepreneurs make their move – Even aside from the MOOC-rush, educational entrepreneurs are going to make a big play for power in the next year. Once enough millionaires get involved in making money through education, lobbies are going to form to create intense pressure on the government to further open up public education to private investment. That may well signal the end of education as we know it. Whether for the better or the worse remains to be seen.
     
  9. The rise of the edu-sumer – A new class of consumer will arise with this new model of learning, the edu-sumer, who is able to shop around amongst a wide array of free and paid educational offerings to select the courses, faculty members, and perks that best suit their individual needs.
     
  10. President Obama shakes things up – One man stands alone against the rising tide of educational change. Barack Obama. Will our second term President embrace the changes coming in education and guide our education system in a way that benefits most people? Or will he be inundated by the same kinds of pressures to yield that have thus far crippled true universal healthcare, and other so called "entitlements?" It is very possible that the President will get behind these movements and push education to adapt to the massive changes coming. I hope so for the benefit of us all.
     

These are my 10 bold predictions for the world of ed-tech in 2013. While some of them start to read like science fiction or the EPIC 2020 video, I think that they are all actually within the realm of possibility. If not next year, then hopefully in the near future. Stay tuned.

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Image courtesy of satit_srihin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net