It’s that time again, when we’ve settled into the new academic year and take a look ahead to plan, in more detail, what and how our lessons and curriculum will roll out over the semesters. Keeping an eye on emerging trends in technology will give your planning some context and perhaps inspire you to try one or two new things in the new year.
3 e-learning megatrends
These are not just trends; these are megatrends. They create a whirlwind around them and attract everyone. Educators everywhere may try to ignore them or just avoid them as much as possible, but it’s only a matter of time until the education landscape will be reshaped by these trends. Resistance will be futile.
Chatbots (or conversational agents) are neat pieces of software that are used by large retailers and online service companies to resolve a number of queries through messaging with customers — without them ever interacting with a live human being. The bots get smarter as they deal with the query, quickly learning to anticipate and better resolve the issue at hand.
In an e-learning context chatbots are deployed as teacher assistants mopping up frequently asked questions from students, responding to common questions and queries, and freeing the teacher to focus on the design of lessons, progress tracking and assessments. Chatbots can also be programmed to proactively engage with students — prodding for homework submissions, or reminding of tasks and assignments.
It’s important to realize that chatbots are different from automated texts or reminders, as they have a human, conversational style that stimulates maximum engagement from students.
Some teaching benefits of chatbots:
- Personalization. As a conversation with a chatbot proceeds, it learns your needs and communication style and adapts accordingly. This means that every student will have a slightly different conversation with their chatbot, personalizing their learning experience.
- Inbox zero. Chatbots allow teachers to automate vast tracts of repetitive tasks such as responding to common queries, redirecting learners towards resources and reminding of tasks and assignments.
- Progress tracking. Chatbot reports and usage statistics enable teachers to get a bird’s eye view of the conversations students are having, the nature of their responses and their progress in terms of their overall uptake and progress with the given assignment or task.
Imagine, as a teacher, your school functioned more like a Google campus. How great would it be to have collaborative spaces, where you could discuss and design your own PD journey with other similarly minded teachers, with similar professional development needs. Or being empowered to work on “passion projects” enabled and supported by administrators where your professional growth is based on your own interests.
Imagine you could work towards micro-credentials (as opposed to full certificates and degrees) in narrow, and specific skill-areas? Trends in educational PD include microcredentialing — where teachers are able to scaffold their professional development alongside their own professional interests. This type of PD integrates really well with practical application in class, and builds towards another emerging, yet still distant trend that sees Personal Learning Portfolios replacing certificates and degrees.
PD engagements with other teachers will become less formal, more focussed on shared experience and will in themselves be flipped, in a clunkily named trend: un-conferencing. Look out for a growing number of opportunities to make your professional development this year more personalised, more fun, more practical and more connected.
Different from Virtual Reality in that it does not create a computer generated reality through which users can navigate, Augmented Reality layers digital artifacts and experiences upon existing material. Snapchat’s photo enhancements such as the ubiquitous crown of flowers is a simple example.
So, for instance, instead of creating an entire 3D walkthrough rendering of the Louvre, teachers instead can use existing images and video, lensed through apps such as Quiver to create animated content, layered text and audio to enhance the learning experience.
It must be noted though that apps and technologies such a Google Cardboard already provide incredible VR resources for immersive learning in places like the Louvre.
In contrast to VR, AR is far less expensive and easier to implement, it is also a great way to add interactivity to existing material.
AR is also brilliant at getting your students out into the real world. Remember the PokemonGO mania last year? You can recreate that excitement with various AR apps such as Metyaverse where QR codes, or other triggers, are placed in physical locations, and then triggered when students arrive at that point and engage the app. Imagine projects around your town’s history as students gather and tag information in the real world as they discover it.
Augmented Reality truly does blend the best of real-world discovery with the technological enhancement, and is far simpler than it seems. This is a major trend that promises teachers and students a whole new world of interactivity.
I started out this blog with the goal of covering three major trends, but this has been so much fun that I have decided to tag on another four in next week’s blog. So keep an eye on the K-20 Blog ;)