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Five Hot Trends in EdTech

Be in the know about EdTech trends, whether you attended ISTE 2016 or not

Miss out on the ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) conference last month? Check out these hot trends in EdTech. Be in the know, whether you attended the conference or not!

The Global Classroom

Connecting classrooms around the world with technology is becoming commonplace—and integral to building the 21st century skills necessary for today’s students to compete in tomorrow’s increasingly complex and connected world. “Advances in technology in the classroom allow students to engage in learning and connect with classrooms of the world in new and powerful ways,” says Jennifer Williams, co-founder and lead program developer for Calliope Global, which works with schools and organizations worldwide to promote global education programs. “Global education is shaping pedagogical practice and redefining the way we teach and the way students learn.”

Read about a STEM global education project that brought together students from Florida (Grades 4–6) and students from Madrid, Spain (Grades 7–9) in a year-long project that started and ended with international travel. “It was exciting to see the transformational effects of developing and implementing a comprehensive STEM global project,” Williams says.

Formative Assessment

Increasingly, experts, researchers, and even new legislation support the use of ongoing, rigorous formative assessment to engage students and provide insights into student thinking so teachers know how to adjust lessons based on learner thinking and performance, and to teach to mathematics standards. Research shows that improved formative assessment practices in classrooms typically yield gains in student achievement roughly equivalent to one to two grade levels in learning.

For more hot EdTech apps that utilize formative assessment, check out 18 digital tools for assessment in the classroom.

Virtual Reality

Many of high-tech’s heavy hitters are investing big bucks in virtual reality (VR) technology for the classroom. Google, Samsung, and Facebook-backed Oculus are just a few of the companies set to roll out new VR EdTech products in 2016—and get teachers psyched with previews at ISTE!

Good Cardboard’s Expeditions Pioneer Program (previewed at ISTE 2015) is one of the hottest VR offerings that breaks the boundaries of what students can experience within the walls of a classroom. During the 2015–2016 school year, Google is launching a pilot program in select schools, offering teachers a kit with everything they need to take their class on a virtual fieldtrip to anywhere that has been photographed with a 360-degree camera. (Initial offerings include the Museum of Natural History, the Palace of Versailles, a coral reef, an ancient Mayan ruin, and the surface of Mars.)

This virtual fieldtrip package features a low-cost (about $15) VR viewer that turns smartphones into virtual reality headsets. It also utilizes a tablet for the teacher to guide the tour and a router that allows Expeditions to run without an Internet connection.


STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) subjects are getting a booster shot of creativity from visual arts, music, and performing arts. The idea is to integrate diverse subjects and different forms of creativity to unleash the full power of every student’s imagination.

The STEAM movement was launched by Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), and is being widely adopted by schools nationwide. The objectives of the STEAM movement are to:

  • transform research policy to place Art + Design at the center of STEM
  • encourage integration of Art + Design in K–20 education
  • influence employers to hire artists and designers to drive innovation

Gaming and Gamification

Teachers have been using games to engage student for years, particularly math games. But during the past five years, gamification—the process of adding gaming elements to the curriculum to motivate students to succeed—has become increasingly complex, and creative. Programming tools like Code Studio, Scratch, and Tynker enhance logic skills and allow students to build their own games. Some teachers are doing away with grades on quizzes and instead awarding badges, or using gaming tournaments to test students’ knowledge instead of traditional tests.

Online games have a variety of learning benefits, including engaging students in self-directed and independent learning, real-time reporting on student progress against standards for administrators, and providing a way to differentiate instruction with larger class sizes. All of these benefits are critical in addressing the challenge of delivering equal access to quality core subject matter at a time when learning gaps and class sizes are growing.

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