Driving Innovation: Ed Market Accelerators

The 2019 K12 Driving Innovation: Accelerators report, after multiple rounds of Delphi-like voting by expert panelists, has a lot to say about trendsetting ed-tech developments, developments which serve speed up the rate of technology innovation in the educational marketplace. In this second in my series of three articles we will focus on five accelerators that, according to the Driving K12 Innovation expert panel, will spur ed-tech adoption to higher levels.

DRiving Cover accelerateAccording to the report, accelerators are “megatrends that drive the needs and skills expected of students and educators.” The report adds: “Some disruptive shifts are moving rapidly (even suddenly), while others are happening so gradually that their effects may not be felt for years.” The full accelerators report can be accessed here.

Although the Driving Innovation: Accelerators report largely speaks for itself, in this piece I will offer a bit of translation and connection. With full disclosure, I must mention that I served as one of the 111 world-wide panelists who developed this report over many months. The expert panelists included “included leading members of CoSN’s Emerging Technologies Committee, as well as leaders from key U.S. and international education organizations and ministries of education.” Serving as a panelist for the report for the last six years (Driving K–12 Innovation is the successor to the New Media Consortium’s Horizon K–12 reports, a decade-long series that ended in 2017), I can add beneficial nuance to the findings, from an inside perspective. Let’s take a quick look at five recognized innovation accelerators:

CheetahAccelerator 1: Building the human capacity of leaders
Education leaders are often not very ‘tech savvy”, so helping these leaders navigate the waters of technology innovation can catalyze success and scaling in their schools and districts. Specifically, building up their planning and implementation ‘chops’, goes a long way in turbocharging technology in schools. Leaders do matter in education.

CheetahAccelerator 2: Design thinking
Design thinking has stepped on the stage in a big way at recent ed-tech conferences. Design thinking can be seen as a framework for an iterative process of problem identification, gathering inputs, generating potential solutions, prototyping, testing solutions, and then refining the solution. In some circles, this way of thinking is called “the design process.” Design thinking is viewed as an innovation ‘accelerator’ in education, because it allows students to advance to deeper exploration and design, moving away from simple knowledge retention and regurgitation of facts. Think of it this way: it activates the need for richer, deeper, more visual forms of technology in today’s classrooms.

CheetahAccelerator 3: Personalization
The newest take on ‘individualized” learning in schools, ‘personalized’ learning allows for students to pursue their own pace, pathways and choices in their educational journey. The report summarizes: “Just as the consumer sector has exploded with new ways to customize user experiences, products and recommendations, schools are finding ways to provide individualized learning pathways and promote student voice, choice and autonomy.” Personalization is viewed as a key ‘accelerator’ of innovation because students often must work independently (requiring a lot of technology) and not be so tightly bound to the customary “teacher-on-the-stage” environment. Thus, personalization reorients and vitalizes the learning experience, making innovative technology use more possible and desirable.

CheetahAccelerator 4: Data-driven practices
The 2019 Driving K12 Innovation report asserts “schools are increasingly leveraging data about the student experience, measuring engagement and skills acquisition to inform decisions about curriculum, hiring, technology investments and more.“ As an accelerator, chasing data supercharges the importance of technology from the superintendent’s office down to the teacher’s desk. Specifically, the move towards greater data visualization also jumpstarts the sales of display technologies in educational settings.

CheetahAccelerator 5: Learners as creators
The final accelerator that consistently catalyzes technology innovation in schools involves the students-as-creators phenomenon. The last few years have witnessed a steady and slow movement towards the ‘prosumer’ in education, the growing validity of and demand for student to create their own content, not merely to be filled with content. For example, at the recent ISTE 2019 ed-tech conference held in Philadelphia more than more than 32 of the 66 VR sessions scheduled focused on student-created VR and not on commercially developed VR offerings. When students take the reins, so to speak, technology efforts in schools are energized and transformed—bypassing even Luddite teachers and visionless administrators.

Each of these ‘accelerators’ enables teaching/learning innovation to advance at a much faster rate. It’s also interesting to note that most of these accelerators, as stated in the report, “put students at the center of learning.” My hope is that, by dissecting this report, it helps not only with an understanding of the memes now shaping the educational marketplace, it will also supply some of the key nomenclature that will help your message resonate with educational customers. I also am suggesting each of these accelerators can also be viewed as an opportunity to leverage your products or services in view of the newest priorities of educators. – Len Scrogan