5 EdTech Trends to Watch This Fall

The heat of summer may still be strong, but classes at schools and universities will be back in full swing for the fall term faster than you can say, “Turn up the AC!” Important conversations centered on the edtech sector have filled the summer chatter thus far—even a simple glance back at the news reveals as much.

With the fall now clear in sight, Boundless put together a list of the top edtech trends to watch this semester.

1. Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT)

As society progresses at a rapid clip in adopting technology, not all school budgets can keep up. Given budget constraints, purchasing tech devices for entire classes might not be an option. However, many students interact with technology at home, but these tools aren’t being leveraged in class.

To combat this problem, schools and districts should consider Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) as a solution. This would allow educators to use the tech tools students already possess, like laptops, tablets or phones, to enhance the learning experience.

Instead of investing in pricey 1-to-1 laptop programs, some educators have taken advantage of the mini computers many students already carry everywhere: smartphones. Students can use these devices to tweet, research online or video chat with students around the world. If a student doesn’t have a smartphone, a traditional phone can still get worked into learning, perhaps by participating in texting polls.

Though some educators are hesitant to jump aboard the BYOT train, there are ways to make this technology work in the classroom. For example, educators can help students shift their perception of these devices away from just texting and Facebook platforms to ones that make learning better and more fun.

Of course, one criticism of BYOT is that not every student will have the right device to bring, or even one at all. Some bloggers say that instead of viewing this as a setback, educators should embrace the challenge and learn to work around it.

2. Cloud Computing

As colleges and K-12 schools push to reduce their IT infrastructure costs, the option of cloud computing becomes much more appealing. In 2011, several business embraced cloud computing services, like those from Apple, Microsoft and Amazon, and set the stage schools to follow suit.

Schools and colleges are making the transition to the cloud and providers are taking note. This summer, Microsoft said Office 365 will be available for K-12 schools and universities to use for cloud collaboration and communication. The suite will connect educators, staff and students in the cloud for document sharing, email and more.

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3. Open Educational Resources (OER)

With the cost of textbooks growing and showing little sign of stopping, students want cheap or free alternatives. In their Googling, students often encounter Open Educational Resources (OER), free materials meant for reuse and repurposing in learning and teaching.

Though finding and using these materials has been a historically difficult task for students, several companies, universities and other organizations have solved the biggest challenges to OER and made them easily accessible for student and instructor use. Starting this semester, students at schools anywhere can study with OER relevant to their courses through Boundless and forget forking over hundreds of dollars for clunky textbooks.

4. Gamification

Making learning fun and engaging though the use of games and interactive features has become a new goal in educational technology. This year, major players from the gaming industry and nonprofits teamed up to build a new lab that would research how to engage students and measure learning through games.

The Games, Learning and Assessment (GLASS) Lab, managed by the Institute of Play, received more than $10 million in grants to complete its research. The lab will use educational standards and learning measurements to modify popular games and create new ones for use by middle and high school students and districts.

Simply encouraging learners and educators to commit to gamification is not enough; sometimes an incentive is needed. Mozilla’s Open Badges Project makes it easy for learners to get recognition for skills and achievements that happen outside school. They can earn and display earned badges on resumes, websites, social networks or elsewhere.

With such major support and promise in a projects like the GLASS Lab and Open Badges, it’s no wonder gamification has become a major edtech buzzword.

5. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)

The time for MOOCs is now. Recently, Coursera announced a dozen universities had partnered with its platform to provide more than 100 free, open courses. Starting this fall, students can take courses in anything from poetry to computer science with educators from Duke, Caltech, UVa and many more.

Earlier this summer, Harvard and MIT introduced edX, their new joint online learning initiative. EdX allows the universities to extend their courses to a global online community in support of improving education. As the new semester rolls in, eyes in the edtech sector will turn to see how Coursera, edX and other MOOCs fare.

This fall, expect these edtech trends to roar in at full throttle. Let us know how you plan to use them in your classroom in the comments below or on twitter @goboundless.

Photo by Flickr user marleighnorton

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