Four education technology trends to watch

Four education technology trends to watch

Gamification, the maker movement, augmented reality, and distance learning aren’t the first things that come to mind when you consider your local schools. Yet, these were among the hottest topics discussed at the Florida Educational Technology Conference (FETC) in Orlando on Wednesday.

Now in its 36th year, FETC brought together 9,000 educators and technologists to explore how best to incorporate high-tech instruction and testing into classes. While the focus here was on teaching kids, many of the technologies and techniques discussed can be applied to corporate learning and IT training as well.

The first big topic started years ago. Today, we call it “gamification” instead of the old “making learning fun.” Though the methods may have changed, the goal remains the same: To improve information retention and critical thinking by applying game design principles to curriculum development and teaching practice. There are a couple of new wrinkles in this old topic, though. The first is that gaming principles are being applied to testing as well as instruction. The second is that teachers and technologist aren’t apologizing for turning classrooms into gaming centers. They have research to back up gamification’s effectiveness, and the push is on to include it in more and more classrooms.

The maker culture was also on the list of hot topics at FETC. Now, this isn’t strictly a single technology — it’s an approach to technology. It’s an approach that more and more educators are seeing as a valuable way to bring STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) lessons into the classroom. The kind of projects that tend to be popular among makers — robotics, 3D printing, computer programming — have long been hits for boys. But a recent Intel-sponsored report points out that making can be critical for bringing more girls into STEM programs.

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