Thoughts and Hopes for 2016

Today I saw an article from Education Dive with some CIO predictions for 2016.  It’s a great article and worth a read.  I’ve never been much of a prognostigator, but this article inspired me to share some of my thoughts and hopes for 2016.

Starting on a more pedantic level, we are seeing a significant support challenge due to the proliferation of new, cloud based, edtech services. Faculty should certainly have the freedom to choose the tools that best meet their pedagogical needs, but that has to be tempered by the reality that institutions can’t support every service. Faculty choice needs to come with additional responsibility to self-support in cases where a tool isn’t supported centrally.

On the more macro side, one of the biggest issues I see facing educational technology in higher education is that we have spent so much time looking at how we could do something that we have forgotten to ask why (or even if) we should do something. Many of the edtech “solutions” we’ve seen in the last few years are aimed, ostensibly, at those with the least access to educational opportunities and the hardest path to success. If we don’t take the time to look closely at the appropriate, relevant, and meaningful use of technology, then we are doing this population of students a great disservice, and edtech really just becomes a solution looking for a problem.​  So my hope for 2016 is that we can move the needle on alternative ways of looking at (and measuring the success of) edtech solutions.

One ​promising development I see is an increased sense of the need for students to own their own educational data.  In 2015, Domain of Your Own programs at various schools were an interesting first step.  Even as students question whether they really own the data, these projects are giving students a space they own to create, maintain, and share their educational work and helping to develop some important digital skills that students will be able to use well after they get their degree.  For 2016 I’m very excited to see the first work on a personal API that will, hopefully, start to decouple the evidence of learning from the tools of learning.  BYU is leading the charge here, and it’ll be interesting to see where it goes (for another take on that project, check out this post from Jim Groom).

Last year we saw increased focus on scaling and automating the educational experience while commoditizing the student (and the student’s data).  Audry Watters over at Hack Education has done her usual amazing job documenting this, so instead of trying to summarize here, just go read The Algorithmic Future of Education and Top Ed-Tech Trends of 2015: The Compulsion for Data.  It is my hope that the coming year builds on work folks like Michelle Pacansky-Brock and Maha Bali (and many others) have been coordinating to renew focus on humanizing online education.  If you’re interested, check out the #HumanMOOC hashtag on Twitter.

​I suspect 2016 will bring continued focus on personalized learning, but with an unfortunate emphasis on algorithmic ​predictions of what the student needs next rather than enriching the connection between the student and the teacher so that they can work together to find the appropriate path to the student’s objectives. While we will waste time on the former, I’m hopeful that the latter will continue moving forward as well so that maybe in 2017 actual student centered learning can be the trend we’re discussing.

Skeletons wishing a happy new year 2016

flickr photo by Marco Trovò shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

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