Back in January 2012, tech expert Jody Forehand made predictions about school technology trends for the upcoming year. Now that we’re midway through the year, EducationWorld wanted to find out whether those predictions were on target or missed the mark.
Forehand serves as vice president of product planning for education tech firm Luidia. Luidia is known for developing the eBeam technology featured in many interactive whiteboard products. In addition to working with partners such as Sony and HP, Luidia also produces its own educational whiteboard product, the Engage.
Prediction: Tablet use will grow.
Last year, Forehand estimated that the number of tablet and mobile devices in classrooms would explode exponentially due to the foothold gained in 2011 through the number of grant and PILOT programs that allowed schools to adopt the new technology without much out-of-pocket expense.
“We are definitely continuing to see tablet use growing, and I don’t think that’s a shocker,” Forehand said. “We’re seeing all kinds of reports from entities that officially track industry numbers and anecdotally, we’re seeing it as well.”
Forehand said that the tablet boom in some ways mirrors the PC boom of the late 1980s and early 1990s. The major difference is that the tablet adoption rate is happening much faster than the PC boom several decades ago. Additionally, despite the best efforts of Google and Blackberry, Apple remains the preferred brand by a sizeable margin.
“We are just not seeing much in terms of traction among the Android units or Kindle,” Forehand said. “It will be interesting to see if that continues, especially given that more and more schools are adopting bring-your-own tech policies. I can say that iPads are overwhelmingly the most popular tablet among teens, so Apple has the edge in both school-owned and student-owned devices.”
Prediction: Open source tools will keep costs down.
Forehand said the move to open source software was predominantly found abroad, but she said she expected this trend to appear stateside in the near future.
“As I’ve been looking at market data, I can say that Moodle is continuing to get more registered users,” Forehand said. “However, in terms of widespread adoption, this seems to be a stronger trend outside the U.S.”
While open source happens to be a predominantly non-U.S. trend, Forehand said that stateside schools are eschewing that technology in favor of app-based solutions.
“I expected schools to maybe move to things like Open Office or something like that,” Forehand said. “They’re instead finding app-based solutions. These solutions have all the functionality of program suites like Office, but at a fraction of the cost.”
An example of the app-based solution is a school preferring to pay $9 for a copy of Pages in lieu of several hundred for a copy of Word. Pages is viewed as more polished than a totally open source program like Open Office, and that makes schools more willing to pay for it.
Prediction: Schools will still not know what to do with social media.
Forehand said that schools would eventually get to a place where social media has a role in the curriculum; however, that move is still a few years away.
Outside of a few early adopters and forward-thinking educators, social media is still very much an enigma to schools.
“In talking with folks, I’ve come across some really interesting things being done with social media in middle and high schools,” Forehand said. “There are some teachers who are giving the students projects where they create an identity for the project, kind of like an avatar, and they then create a Facebook account for that identity.”
Forehand said projects like this can be hard to get off the ground, as many school systems remain uneasy about allowing access to social media sites.
“You still have schools that are really trying to restrict use,” Forehand said. “There is a general trend that is growing, and that’s to look at social media in the same light as educators looked at the Internet when it first arrived. Social media is a part of our lives, yet schools are really struggling to figure out how to use it.”
Prediction: HD will explode in the classroom
Forehand predicted that plummeting prices would allow schools to invest in more HD displays and projectors.
“There I think I may have missed it,” Forehand admitted. “Even though prices have come down, there are severe budgetary issues at work here. We’re just not hearing that schools are buying into the whole HD phenomenon.”
Budget issues notwithstanding, issues from tech fragmentation to a flooded marketplace are also playing a role in schools’ reluctance to buy into HD.
“You walk into any of these stores like Best Buy, and it’s just TV after TV, and they’re all pretty much nicer than anything we have at home, and you get overwhelmed,” Forehand said. “To a lesser extent you have people not sure if they want LCD, LED, plasma or any of the other HD technologies currently available.”