Oct.22, 2013

A new report from the NMC Horizon Project has identified 12 emerging technologies that will have a significant impact on STEM+ education over the next one to five years.

The Technology Outlook for STEM+ Education 2013-2018 recognizes learning analytics, mobile learning, online learning, and virtual and remote laboratories as technologies expected to enter mainstream use in the near-term horizon of one year or less. 3D printing, games and gamification, immersive learning environments, and wearable technology are seen in the mid-term horizon of two to three years. Finally, flexible displays, the Internet of Things, machine learning, and virtual assistants emerged in the far-term horizon of four to five years.

The 28-page report was released as a collaborative effort between

  • the Austin, TX-based New Media Consortium (NMC);
  • Madrid-based Centro Superior para la Enseñanza Virtual (CSEV);
  • the Departamento de Ingeniería Eléctrica, Electrónica y de Control at the Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED), an international distance education university based in Spain;
  • and IEEE, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Education Society.

This report will inform education leaders about significant developments in technologies and give them a guide for strategic technology planning across STEM+ (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education.

"The report makes it very clear that online learning has proliferated across all STEM+ fields," said Daniel Torres, CEO of CSEV and co-principal investigator for the project. "Other emerging technologies that appear in the report, such as virtual and remote laboratories and immersive learning environments, are accelerating this progression."

The Project recognizes that four technologies would enter mainstream use in the next year:

Learning analytics: educational application of "big data," which has been crucial to gaining insights about student interaction with
online texts and courseware and to providing personalized instruction;

Mobile learning: facilitating education through mobile devices by adding apps into curricula and modifying websites, educational materials, resources, and tools so they are optimized for mobile devices.

Online learning: the learning can be structured as in traditional courses or entirely self-paced. Online learning is undergoing massive "experimentation" and universities and schools are exploring solutions to assessment and learning at scale that are completely fresh and new.

Virtual and remote laboratories: web applications that make the equipment and elements of a physical science laboratory easily available to learners from any location, via the web.

The report declared over the next two to three years, four additional technologies will come to the forefront: 3D printing, games and gamification, immersive learning environments and wearable technology.

"3D printing allows for more authentic exploration of objects that may not be readily available to education institutions, including animal anatomies and toxic materials. The exploration of 3D printing, from design to production, as well as demonstrations and participatory access, can open up new possibilities for learning activities." writes the report. "Typically, students are not allowed to handle fragile objects like fossils and artifacts; 3D printing shows promise as a rapid prototyping and production tool, providing users with the ability to touch, hold, and even take home an accurate model."

And within four to five years, four technologies will emerge, they are: flexible displays, the Internet of Things, machine learning and virtual assistants.

The report identified the "maker" movement as one of the key drivers of technology adoptions in STEM+ education.

"From rapid prototyping with 3D printers to building simple circuits and robots, "Making" is now more affordable and accessible than ever. Creativity, design, and engineering are making their way to the forefront of educational considerations as tools such as 3D printers, robotics, and 3D modeling applications become available to more people. This disruptive trend has largely been fueled by the Maker movement, which consists of artists, technology enthusiasts, and others who share a passion for creating. Making addresses the sorts of STEM skills that many educators and policymakers consider most important to productivity in the 21st century. " writes the report.

The report is freely available for download at NMC site.



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