Real time mobile connectivity has created monumental changes in how we use technology to communicate. “Smart devices” are changing all aspects of our daily lives in part because of the intelligence built into the systems. You can ask a question of your phone and get an answer. You don’t even have to ask to see where you are with GPS. Devices and applications work on your behalf, tracking your time, logging your activity, graphing your progress – whether it’s your workout routine, your diet, or your coursework. What’s the next big thing in educational technology? I am betting on predictive analytics and graphene.
Going forward we will see tremendous improvements in how individual student data is collected and used in K-12 education. Unfortunately, current barriers related to accessibility, timeliness and granularity of student information limit educators’ ability to use the “numbers” to pinpoint academic challenges and identify targeted solutions in real time. One of the most exciting developments in education is the ongoing refinement of predictive analytical tools that can be used to make sophisticated decisions about learning gaps, instructional strategies and prescriptive learning assets.
I believe predictive analytics will be a core element of public education in the near future. According to Wikipedia, predictive analytics is based on statistical techniques that analyze current and historical facts to predict the future. In business, predictive models exploit patterns found in historical and transactional data to identify risks and opportunities. Models capture relationships among many factors to allow assessment of risk or potential associated with a particular set of conditions, guiding decision -making. One of the most well-known applications is credit scoring which is used throughout financial services. Scoring models process a customer’s credit history, loan application, customer data, etc., in order to rank-order individuals by their likelihood of making future credit payments on time.
The biggest game changer in educational technology may come from one of the nation’s largest online retailers, Amazon. One can argue that Amazon has become the best at using data to make decisions to better serve their customers. Last year, I spoke with executives from Amazon, and they confirmed their interest in using intelligent data tools to disrupt K-12 education the same way they have changed the traditional retail market.
Amazon is currently working on a plan that will ship products to customers before they purchase them because of their anticipatory analytics based on customers’ previous shopping habits. Can you imagine getting a pair of shoes, new golf clubs or a book delivered to your home that you like and want to purchase but did not order? This concept takes predictive analytics to another level.
Public education will be transformed if we can harness the power of these kinds of tools to make intelligent decisions about teaching and learning at the individual student level. We don’t need more data in public education, we need more efficient access to meaningful information that can guide decision-making in real time to help each student reach their potential. Sophisticated analytics can help schools:
- Pinpoint individual learning gaps
- Measure academic progress of groups and subgroups
- Assess the impact of instructional strategies
- Predict student performance
- Personalize learning for each student
- Identify students at-risk and recommend remediation strategies
The advantages of predictive analytics in education are yet to be fully realized, but hold significant promise in changing the landscape for students, parents and educators.
Do you remember the popular 1967 film The Graduate? Actor Dustin Hoffman played a recent college student who was uncertain about his future. In this 20th century classic film, one of the characters gives Hoffman advice on the future with one word: “Plastics.” Today, the buzz is on a new material that will transform our world in ways we can’t fully predict. With a weight, strength, and density possibly imagined by science fiction writers decades ago, graphene may influence the makeup of a generation of devices and how those devices communicate with the user and each other. In 2010, physicists Andre Geim and Konstantin Novosleov received the Nobel Prize for their experiments with graphene. Researchers, physicists, and engineers continue to investigate the capacity of this material that is an atom thick but stronger than steel and can conduct electricity and heat. Sensors are being developed out of graphene, as are nano-antennas, nano-transmitters, and nano-receivers; and experiments integrating graphene electronics with biological systems are taking place.
Graphene is likely to be part of increasing the speed of electronic communications, decreasing the energy required to power devices, and developing new means of sharing information. Can you imagine wearable computers or molecular-sized devices in your body that monitor your health and communicate updates to your family doctor on an ongoing basis? Sounds scary and exciting at the same time.
Each innovation raises our expectations about what technology can do for us. From floppy disks to the cloud, desktop computers to tablets, silicon to graphene, trends continue to point to more affordable and powerful tools that are sure to change how we live work and learn. Today’s technologies have expanded our capacity to engage students in learning in a way John Dewey could never have imagined. What are your bets for the future and how do you think these developments will shape the future of education? I would love to hear your thoughts.