15 Education Trends to Watch for in 2016

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Photo by flickingerbrad CC-A 2.0

Education is one of the most important aspects of civilization, defining how we grow as individuals and as a group. Teachers, researchers, and parents are always trying to find the best tools and concepts to help young people learn quickly and well.

With that in mind, we’ve identified a collection of trends in education to watch in 2016.

1. Self-Directed Learning

A major trend at the moment is Self-Directed Learning. Self-Directed learning assumes that the student’s personal interests will drive the best educational experience. In one model discussed by an article in The Atlantic, high school students are meant to implementing guidance from advisers, professionals in related fields, parents, and peers to design their own curriculum.

There may be no tests or grades, but students must demonstrate “a minimum level of proficiency and competence when it comes to mastering the essential knowledge and skills they need to succeed in college, work, and life.”Among the requirements are to find a real-world mentor and spend time with them regularly. In addition, each student must enter the state science fair with a hypothesis and data, as well as participate in a group-wide project to foster community.

With its attention placed on the individual’s propensities, desires, and strengths, Self-Directed Learning is a trend to watch. The State of Vermont is leading the charge, with a three-year mandate in the works. [PDF]

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2. Open Education

Open education is the democratization of learning. The concept is that everyone should have access to educational and informational resources regardless of income or location. Opensource.com states it like this: “Proponents of open education believe everyone in the world should have access to high-quality educational experiences and resources, and they work to eliminate barriers to this goal.”[link]

There are a variety of groups championing Open Education. From MIT and their OpenCourseWare project to Khan Academy, Open Education is gaining traction and helping millions of people learn in a way they never would have otherwise.

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3. Internet Connectivity

The key aspect to Open Education is internet connectivity. Having the information available does little good without access to it. There is a big push to get connectivity to those people who still remain disconnected from the rest of the world.
Surprisingly, this is still an issue here in the United States. Recently, Mark Zuckerberg pledged $20 Million to the non-profit EducationSuperHighway, which brings broadband to schools in the United States.

In addition, there are plans to get the developing world online. Google’s Project Loon and Elon Musk’s plan to launch satellites for worldwide connectivity show the momentum behind this idea even now.

4. Early STEM Education

There is a growing movement to get younger children interested in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The idea is that the younger we can teach the technical fundamentals, the stronger the students’ abilities and knowledge will be when they get to high school and college.

There are kindergarteners learning computer science and DOW Chemicals is opening a STEM education center offering courses starting at the kindergarten level.

Some educators and experts state that some degree of knowledge in technical fields has become basic literacy. Keep an eye on these models to find out if they’re right.

5. Digital Literacy

In keeping with the computer science education mentioned above, Digital Literacy is a key tool in modern education, and growing in importance every day.

The New York State Department of Education says that Digital Literacy “…means having the knowledge and ability to use a range of technology tools for varied purposes. A digitally literate person can use technology strategically to find and evaluate information, connect and collaborate with others, produce and share original content, and use the Internet and technology tools to achieve many academic, professional, and personal goals.

More and more, technology permeates our live. Students will rely on their ability to process, understand, and implement ideas, information, and improved technology to learn and succeed.

6. The 4-Day School Week

The 4-day work week may be discussed regularly, but what about the 4-day school week?
There are advocated and detractors, but the 4-day school week is already here in some places. Arizona, for example, has had a number of districts cut down to four days per week. In this particular instance, it’s for cost-savings and budgetary reasons, but there are other, more positive reasons to do the same.
Some Colorado schools switched to four longer days rather than five due to budget cuts. This, however, seems to have prompted some positive grade increases in math. It can also decrease absenteeism of both students and teachers. It may also boost morale school-wide and lead to less disciplinary action.

7. Assistive Technologies

Assistive technologies a href=”http://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/assistive-technology-for-kids-with-learning-disabilities-an-overview/”>are tools that help students with learning or physical challenges achieve higher levels of learning. These technologies (high-tech and low-tech) help students focus on their strengths and apply them to the learning process.

Students with dyslexia, for example, may find help in audiobooks, text-to-speech readers, or even a new font.

With the explosion of tablets like the Surface, the iPad, and others, more and more software and peripherals are being developed so to help students to succeed rather than struggle.

8. Individual Education Experiences (Adaptive Learning)

Adaptive learning pairs computer software with student interaction to provide individualized presentation and learning of information.

It use software to analyze a student’s input and performance and tailors the presentation of the content to the student’s performance.

Carnegie Mellon, a leader in the field, has gathered a repository of data on how and why humans learn and is putting that to use in to create and promote Adaptive Learning software. Paired with traditional models and guidance, Adaptive Learning is set to make big wave.

9. Flipped Learning

Flipped Learning moves instructional content – text, videos, etc. – to the home for students to consume on their own time. It then brings traditional “homework”to the classroom for dynamic interaction and discussion of the material.

Though there are criticisms and drawbacks, the Flipped Classroom has shown to be effective in increasing test scores, reducing failure rates, and increasing college attendance.

10. Learning Analytics

Learning Analytics is the collection, measurement, and analysis of data about students/learners and the context in which they learn.

With data analysis having grown so ubiquitous, researchers and educators are turning to computer analysis to monitor learning and provide feedback into educational models. The data analysis can be used to identify students in need of extra support, improving curriculum, identifying at-risk students, or for students to reflect on their patterns of learning for greater academic achievement, and much more.

As more learning goes online and

Expect Learning Analytics to reach critical mass in 2016.

11. Project Based Learning (PBL)

The Buck Institute for Education defines Project Based Learning as: “a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an engaging and complex question, problem, or challenge.”

PBL encourages deep research, understanding, and discussion of important topics. The goal is to increase understanding, but even more to develop real-world skills for learning and gaining competencies needed to succeed in higher education and the world at large.

Studies show that PBL increases information retention and improves testing performance, problem-solving, collaboration skills, and students’ attitudes toward learning.

12. Brain Based Learning

Brain Based Learning is the “engagement of strategies based on how our brain works.”

By taking into account how the brain functions, educators can apply various methods to improve learning. For example, they can modulate how fast information is delivered to improve understanding, repeat information in specific time intervals to improve retention, play soft music to reduce stress, or engage students in physical activities to increase mental performance. [Read more]

Educational Neuroscience is a young area of study, but Harvard offers Graduate and Doctoral degrees in the field.

13. Social and Emotional Learning (SEL)

Social and emotional learning is a process with which to teach both children and adults to manage emotions, form and maintain positive relationships, set and achieve goals, and make responsible choices.

The idea is to help students to learn “soft skills”to promote academic achievement as well as reducing risky behavior to prevent negative outcomes such as dropping out or incarceration.

SEL has been shown to increase academic performance and to have a positive impact on how students felt about themselves, others, and school. It’s a growing and important issue, and will continue to see adoption in 2016.

14. 3D Printing

It’s important for education to stay abreast on new technologies when possible, as nascent innovations today may be necessary and ubiquitous when a student enters college or the workforce. Oakwood School in California is taking the lead with an immersive 3D printing curriculum – they see the need to stay relevant as the technology is set to explode.

15. Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality utilizes software on a smartphone, tablet, or other camera-enabled device to display additional information about its environment.

Augmented Reality can be implemented for spontaneous, active, and interactive learning experiences that couldn’t be achieved with traditional methods. The perceived serendipity of discovery would engage students and increase attention and positive attitudes toward learning.

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