So what's going to happen in education this year? Nobody knows. Everybody's guessing. I think technology picks at this stage are no more obvious than they were last year. It's the Wild West, and likely still will be when it's time to predict 2015. That said, I think there are two interesting groups making life transitions this year that might shift the edtech landscape more than any company.
- The first group of kids that were handed smartphones and tablets as toddlers are entering elementary school. They learned how to explore and play games on these devices before they could read. They have no memory of a time when we didn't have this stuff. It seems like everyone has one, or several, and that we always have. The notion that these devices are precious, or dangerous, or rare, or not part of everyday life is going to seem like a complete joke to them.
- The first group of kids that had their own cellphones is graduating teachers' college. I know there are outliers, but I'm talking the generation where, if you were in high school and you didn't have one, people looked at you funny. This generation has always been connected. They view digital access as a right, not a privilege. They are accustomed to abandoning all of their tech hardware every 2 years and starting fresh. They know that facts they learn have very short half-lives. They assume that the world will be unrecognizable in 10 years, and that's more of a positive than a negative.
So here's the prediction: Neither of these groups is going to have any patience for our slow adoption of technology in education. They won't care about uncertainty, or change fatigue, or institutional memory. They don't want the future - they want the present, and they will see our excuses about why classrooms are not fully connected, digital collaboration spaces as exactly that - excuses.
These are the generations that make the ball roll downhill. My generation has plenty of outliers - kids who grew up with Commodore 64's, CompuServe, and made crazy predictions about "Internets". But the majority of 30-somethings haven't registered a domain name, or written a line of code, or scratch-built a home network. I'm in one of the last generations where you can know nothing about technology and still be considered literate.
That's about to be over.
Every technology since the wheel has been met with the same response by the establishment: "This will destroy civilization". Then a generation is born for whom the technology has always existed. The moment that generation comes of age, the argument abruptly ends, never to be spoken of again. The worst thing about automobiles was that they were driving buggy-whip salesmen out of business. Remember that argument? Of course you don't. See some modern analogies to it? Only everywhere you look.
There are plenty of heated arguments we can have here in January 2014 about technology in education that seem perfectly reasonable. Thanks to these critical generations of teachers and students, I think many of them will have vanished within the year, never to be spoken of again.