Simple Tips for Introducing the Latest Edtech Trends in the 2018–2019 School Year
A new school year signals new beginnings for all of us in the education world, whether we’re in the classroom ourselves or working behind the scenes. As we gear up for the 2018–2019 school year, we’re looking forward to exciting advances in educational technology (edtech) that will be rolling out soon to classrooms around the country.
However, new edtech pieces come with their own learning curve. In the midst of meeting new students and planning lessons, how can educators prepare to use these new tools? As with all things at the beginning of the school year, we can ease the transition with a little prior preparation. Below, we explore four of the rising trends in edtech for 2018–2019. If you’ll be introducing these trends to your classroom this year, use the following tips to stay ahead of the curve!
1. Game-based learning
Presenting activities using gaming concepts, such as point-and-reward systems, is motivating and engaging. No wonder IT services company ITinspired noted gamification among the rising trends in edtech in its recent white paper, Technology Trends in the Classroom: What’s on Tap for 2019 and Beyond.
Using motivators such as badges, points, and competition can be problematic for some classes, so it’s important to think through how game-based learning will be presented. In the NEA Today article Gamification in the Classroom: The Right or Wrong Way to Motivate Students?, critics note several potential areas of concern. For example, external reward systems can rapidly lose their appeal after the novelty wears off, and for students who simply aren’t competitive, games and team challenges may not be motivating at all. Cited by NEA Today, educators who have used game-based learning in the classroom shared these strategies for success:
Focus on the journey: According to New Jersey middle-school teacher Matthew Farber, “The better way to gamify is to put students in an inquiry-based or project-based learning experience. Or give them a task in a narrative frame.”
Find the internal motivator: Kathy Sierra, an author and game developer, asserted that we should avoid simply rewarding learning behaviors—while badges, points, and leaderboards can be included in the game, they shouldn’t be the central focus.
Engage with the material: Sierra encouraged educators to continue looking at the heart of the subject to excite students instead of depending on the mechanics of gaming—or, in her words, “Try to find what is inherently interesting in a subject and exploit that.” Ultimately, even though gamification adds a layer of excitement, we want to convey to our students that learning itself is exciting.
2. Device mesh
With more students using multiple devices between home and school, educators are looking for programs that allow “device mesh”—i.e., they will work on smartphones, tablets, and computers. This trend toward tools that work across platforms—often via cloud—was reflected in several products at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) 2018 conference, the most recent iteration of an annual conference that brings together the global education community and features exciting developments in educational technology. While there are many advancements happening in edtech every day, those featured at ISTE often illustrate the biggest and fastest-growing trends. A detailed look at the products presented at ISTE 2018 (for instance, the overview presented in this article from eSchool News) shows several new resources that incorporate students’ individual tablets and smartphones.
For educators who are just beginning to use tools that sync home and school devices, the idea of managing it all can feel overwhelming. Fortunately, device management builds on a very familiar skill set for educators: behavior management. As Common Sense Education noted in a recent article titled Tips and Tricks for Managing Devices in the Classroom, it’s all about creating rules and procedures to help the class run smoothly. Here are a couple of tips from the piece:
Create an acceptable use policy: When are students encouraged to use their devices, and when do cellphones, tablets, and computers need to be put aside? Writing an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) with clear guidelines and consequences clarifies expectations upfront.
Use visual cues: Display a poster at the front of the classroom that indicates when it is time for devices to be in use, when they should be off to the side, and when they should be turned off and charging. Similarly, taping a piece of colored paper to the corner of each student's desk creates a designated area for devices to “rest” when not in use.
3. Computational thinking, coding, and robotics
The “maker movement” has influenced more students to learn coding, as maker activities frequently involve computational thinking, programming, and robotics, and more of these educational technology tools are becoming available for even the youngest students. At ISTE 2018, several companies revealed new programs for teaching coding and programming robots, such as Jett from Robokind and CoderZ from Intelitek.
Introducing coding and programming into the classroom can be a difficult jump, especially for educators who are unfamiliar with the technology themselves. A recent article in EdTech Magazine shared these ideas for incorporating robotics and coding into the classroom:
Teach coding progressively: Introduce coding as you would any other language—by teaching the basics of letters and words first and adding more complex concepts in later grades. More specifically, begin by teaching the basics of block coding and then incorporate more sophisticated tasks. Working piece by piece and building on prior knowledge keeps students (and educators) from becoming overwhelmed.
Tie in computational thinking beyond the classroom: Don’t limit student engagement in programming to a STEM workshop or weekly time in a resource lab. Rather, find ways to work the technology into all aspects of the curriculum. For example, code robots to spell out English vocabulary words or to create block prints in art class.
Use student tech ambassadors: Even though many educators experienced the technology revolution as adults, our students are digital natives. Encourage students who already have an interest in robotics and coding to share what they know about this technology. They might just get their peers excited about the world of programming—and their teachers, too!
4. Accessible data mining
With the rise in edtech, educators have more ways than ever before to collect data on the learning process and predict their students’ future needs. Indeed, some new educator tools have emerged to help educators both collect and analyze student data, all in one integrated system. ITinspired included data mining in its list of edtech trends for 2019, and we couldn’t agree more.
Although these programs are designed to make life easier for educators, it still takes time to become familiar with new procedures. With this in mind, the ISTE offered this advice for educators navigating new data mining programs:
Two-pronged training: The ISTE noted that educators need technical proficiency as well as data proficiency. Even if educators know how to analyze and use raw data, they still need support to understand how to use new grading software or analysis programs.
Incorporate user-friendly guides: Use screenshots, resource guides, and tutorials to show educators exactly how to interpret the data and analysis offered by each program. Staff should have a ready reference for common questions, troubleshooting, and instructions for next steps.
Build in time to use and analyze data: According to the ISTE report, only 23 percent of educators have dedicated time in their workdays to view student data. Educators need time to work with the program and use it to its fullest potential, especially when learning a new data system.
Game-based learning; device mesh; computational thinking, coding, and robotics; and accessible data mining are just four of the trends that have emerged at the forefront for the 2018–2019 school year. Whether or not you’ll be using one of these trends in the classroom, keep your eye out for new and exciting developments throughout the school year. Education and technology are constantly evolving, and with planning and forethought, you’ll be prepared to incorporate the latest edtech trends into your classroom each and every year.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
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