Education trends to watch for in 2010

As I reflect on 2009…what did and did not come to full fruition since I wrote this post last year…and what lies ahead for the year 2010, many different trends and topics come to mind. I’ll try to distill my list down to a handful of key themes and thoughts I’ve developed from being on the road this year talking to school leaders, teachers and students….areas where I am encouraged we will see big impact.

Over the last 12 months, the economy has created a new paradigm for the way in which we think not only about technology, but resourcing in general. Schools will continue to feel pressure from the down economy worldwide to drive the connection between school and work in terms of making sure students are prepared for the workplace and that new job opportunities are being created. There is belief the economic stimulus efforts will fuel innovation in the industry, and many countries are betting on education to drive change and hope for the future.

And despite this challenge and need to reduce budgets and lower expenses…the expectations of faculty, staff and students continues to rise in terms of wanting IT to deliver now…and the ability to use technology to serve this demand is increasing. Certainly, cloud computing and virtualization options provide huge opportunities to extend and enable technology much more broadly, and I think we’ll see software plus services become more prevalent and real in the coming year.

The significance of using analytics to drive decisions will mount. It’s crucial to identify where impact is happening and how can we deliver personalized learning through assessments and customized content, as well as using education analytics to drive decision making across institutions in a broad way. I think we will see a shift from the search for display to the search for answers with regards to data.

I am excited about the possibilities of getting more people access to PCs on a variety of devices…from netbooks and other low-cost devices…to finding a way to allow access to the devices both at school and in the home. I think there will be increased flexibility and innovation with regards to funding and acquisition strategies.  I definitely see governments moving away from traditional school purchase plans to much more broad tax structures, as well as support of Telco models to create acquisition strategies or access without having to go through the school.  And the ways in which we will interact with a PC via non-traditional form factors such as touch, speech and pen-based computing will become more of the norm.

Blended learning is a buzzword now, but I think over the next year you'll see increased experimentation with these models where you have students inside a traditional school taking online classes, and vice versa…online students getting much more support and instruction via traditional teachers or traditional learning models.  I think there will be increased usage of content customization tools to personalize and augment content to support specific learning needs.

The concept of lifelong learners is creating vast opportunities to expand the way in which we think about delivering content...increased utilization of the mobile infrastructure is one area. There are more and more mobile devices and smarter mobile devices in the hands of students, educators and learners of all types.  For the most part they've had very little connection to the traditional learning environment or content delivery environment.  With the proliferation of devices, I think we’ll see more and more online reading taking place on traditional mobile devices, as well as new education applications.  In the short term, I think a lot of it will be reference based, like online dictionaries, online translators, etc., via phones, but increasingly it will be more content based.

Lots of potential…however, I think for the most part 2010 will bring a much more pragmatic application of the technology infrastructure that exists and much more accountability with regards to the results.  I think the economic strain is going to create a situation where schools are going to have to do more with less in a real way.  They're going to have to derive more impact under the technology investment they've already made.  They're going to have to do a better job of managing educators' time to be more effective with learning outcomes, and they're going to have to deliver more value with regards to the quality of the education in terms of impact on job opportunities and workforce readiness.

I’m still optimistic about the headway we can make in 2010 in realizing true transformation in education. What do you think will make the most impact?