Entering a new decade: Looking back on 2019 and forward to... something!

So I have to admit, this blog post has been a long time coming. I want to be better at delivering regular content to this platform in the new year. This was meant to be a 2019 review... but the festive break certainly got the better of me. Personally, 2019 was all about re-discovering some apps that have been around for a while. FlipGrid was the big winner in my classroom, and I have made no secret of my new found love for the now Microsoft-owned platform on Twitter. I finally got my head round Co-Spaces and found ways to bring that into my classroom too...

We welcomed a new cohort of ADEs into the community and I bit the bullet and presented a showcase story at the Summer EMEIA Institute gathering in the Netherlands. What an awesome experience and the feedback has been phenomenal, encouraging me to launch my first significant ADE project. I met some brilliant new ADEs and a special shoutout goes to Jacob Woolcock (@JacobWoolcock) who is already doing incredible things - appearing on his new YouTube series ‘Smashing Apps’ was certainly a highlight of 2019 for me.

So what will 2020 bring... in fact what will the new decade look like? As a class teacher, I find it difficult to foresee the next big thing and to predict what this might be. But I thought I would sit down and make some humble observations about slightly bigger concepts and thoughts. After all, if I already knew what my big app find of 2020 was going to be... I’d already be using it!

Change is something that is constant and I imagine, what has always made teaching exciting and yes, unpredictable. When you are motivated to implement change through the use of technology, change is also what keeps you in a job! So I am always keen to stress the fact that what’s interesting about technological change is that, it seems to contstantly develop at an even more rapid pace and that this fact is never going to change.

As we find ourselves entering a new decade, I find it very difficult to predict the technological moves that will shape the landscape in schools and education over the coming year. I remember only a couple of years ago, stating that I couldn’t invisage anything that could be on its way that would make me think we would have to drastically change our minimum specifications for iPad deployment across our schools. I was happy that as long as all of our students could Airdrop content and share their learning using Screen Mirroring, their iPads could do everything I wanted them to. 2019 saw the proper arrival of AR in schools and the potential is now very clear and desirable... so what is the next big thing? What can we not envisage today that will become standard in our classrooms in 2020... I thought it would be interesting to have a think and try to make some predictions...

1. Number of devices... will either increase or decrease (I can’t decide which)

This might seem like a strange one to kick off with. I would love to streamline our ’stock’ and reduce the numbers of devices students and teachers are using, and in some ways I think that is likely to happen. I would be surprised if we have half as many desktop machines on our campus by the start of 2025 as we do now, in fact I would be disappointed if that was the case to be honest. Perhaps what I am getting at here more, is the connectivity between devices will increase. Teachers will become far more confident and familiar in their use of cloud storage (pupils are on the whole, already there), and as adults start to find a better understanding of how this works, they will start to see the potential uses of linked devices. The key focus area will be towards learning how to use tools that work across platforms.

2. Personalised learning will continue to grow

I really hope that teachers will become more familiar with how technology allows them to tailor their instructions and tasks with greater impact and ease, based on the assessment of each student’s needs and preferences. Tools such as Showbie continue to advance and are already allowing teachers to differentiate in different ways without spending half an hour at the photocopier every morning. But there is no doubt that we will continue to see an increasingly focused approach towards project-based learning, motivating students students by offering them opportunities to select what they learn and also how they wish to learn it.

3. AR and VR will start to become commonplace and less of a ‘fad’

I will be the first to admit it; I am a very late adopter of Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR). When I invited the Google Expeditions team into my school three years ago and they took my students swimming with sharks before lunch and on a space and walk afterwards, I wasn’t convinced. However, I have now been convinced, mainly due to the brilliant work being done by my good friend Simon Luxford-Moore (@MrLux4DMoore) who has been very generous with his time and advice in recent months. Towards the end of 2019, he showed me how he was using his ClassVR sets with Co-Spaces EDU and I am definitely going to try to embed this into my coding curriculum in 2020.

4. AI and Machine Learning

I recently sat in on a meeting where school leaders came together to try and forecast and consider strategies for the medium and long term in relation to technology use. Experts from various IT sectors were invited in and I was surprised at how much focus was being given to AI and Machine Learning. I knew that AI was already being used to improve elements of education, but I don’t think I had appreciated how close this was to having wide-spread impact.

Already we are seeing Machine Learning coming into elements of education apps, especially in relation to assessment and level setting for students. It is widely accepted that the penetration of Machine Learning will grow and this will eventually help improve education. I know that there are communities were AI is being used to monitor and affect student behaviour (monitoring focus for example) however I don’t believe we are close to this become widely used... I certainly hope it’s not!

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