Ed Market Challenges: The 2016 Horizon Report

Dissecting the 2016 Horizon Report† helps not only with an understanding of the ebb and flow of the educational marketplace, but more importantly, it supplies some insight into some of the chief challenges facing your educational customers, world-wide. (This fall the New Media Consortium (NMC), together with the Consortium for School Networking (COSN), released their annual K12 Horizon Report. For background information, see my previous article on the predictive trends observed in the 2016 Horizon Report.)

The following chart helps lay out the big ideas in this report.

Horizon 2016 Chart

Although the 2016 K12 Horizon report largely speaks for itself, in this piece I will offer a bit of translation for and connection to leaders in the large and mobile display industry. One section of this report deals with some of the leading challenges or roadblocks now facing educators, as they grapple with emerging technology. These challenges are divided into three categories: solvable challenges, difficult challenges, and wicked challenges. In fact, these challenges are seen as actually impeding the spread of technology in schools. Showing your customers how your products can lessen the pain of these challenges can go a long way towards securing your share of the educational technology market.

In full disclosure, I must mention that I served as one of the 50+ panellists who developed this report over many months. Serving as an expert panellist for the both last year’s report and the newest 2016 Horizon K12 report, I think I can add beneficial nuance to the findings, from an inside perspective.

Solvable Challenges

  • Authentic Learning Experiences
  • Rethinking the Roles of Teachers

“Authentic learning experiences, those that bring students in touch with the real world problems and work situations, are still not pervasive in schools” the Horizon report asserts. Although this challenge has moved from the difficult to the solvable column since last year, the expert panellists still lament that so many learning experiences are purely academic, removed from any reasonable applicability to life. (When learning takes on the appearance of a real workplace challenge, we call it an ‘authentic’ learning experience.) What pathway does this suggest for the display industry? It suggests that your sales literature, your booth presence, and your messaging must convey the same message—that authentic learning—not mindless memorization or recall—is made possible through your creative devices.

Of course this also speaks to the notion of rethinking the roles of teachers. Worldwide, the Horizon Report panellists see the slow but steady progress of teachers moving from transmitters of information to facilitators of learning.

Difficult Challenges

  • Advancing Digital Equity
  • Scaling Teaching Innovations

According to the Horizon Report, “digital equity refers to an even access to high-speed broadband, a rampant social justice issue…” My sense is that companies that have this notion of digital equity top of mind, with supportive strategies to make such bandwidth doable and reachable, will earn an edge in the education marketplace.

The Horizon Report also warns: “Schools are [still] not that adept at moving teaching innovations into mainstream practice.” How do we take effective display technologies and scale them from one school to many? How do we get from single showcase environments to broad adoption in education? It’s a critical question. For companies interested in scaling their educational solutions beyond the one-off sale, this appears an endless challenge. Slow traction for sales is the norm. So what can be done about that? In an interesting revelation, the Horizon Report correctly identifies a high-potential target: charter schools. Charter schools have the agility to implement successful new pedagogical approaches [and technologies]. The problem the Report fails to mention is that charter schools are also one-off sales opportunities, lacking promise of scalability. (A sale to a charter school is difficult to leverage into a sale for a public school, due to unfortunate institutional and internecine jealousy.)

The Horizon Report does, however, offer a tip-top suggestion for better scaling of technology: the successful pilot. The Report notes that “case studies from Brazil, Uganda, and India suggest that “successful amplification happens when pilots are properly incubated and then spread to reach more youth.” But conducting successful pilots and case studies is easier said than done. That’s a topic I have tackled often. For practical suggestions on better ‘incubation’ of pilot projects, see these past articles:

Why Case Studies Fail in the Education Market
A 3D Success Story: The Wilson County Schools
When Teachers Give Products Failing Marks

Wicked Challenges

  • Achievement Gap
  • Personalizing Learning

The Horizon Report explains: “The achievement gap refers to an observed disparity in academic performance between student groups especially as defined by social economic status, race, ethnicity, or gender.” Reducing disparate performance between student groups remains a ‘wicked’ challenge, according to panelists. Again, my sense is that companies that address achievement gap issues, with supportive strategies and messaging, will earn a desirable edge in the school marketplace.

Although education leaders have not yet reached consensus on what “personalized learning” means, the Horizon report offers this clarification: ”Personalized learning can best be understood as an umbrella term for methods that enable students to reach content mastery at an individualized pace.” Regardless, the Report suggests, “personalized learning fosters a student centered environment.” During exhibit hall walkthroughs at educational conferences, I regularly notice that almost every booth is focused on pouring information into the minds of empty-vessel students, using displays, computers, projectors, or the technology du jour. This, by the way, is the opposite of personalized. It’s one-size-fits-all. I refer to this as a “pathway to extinction.” When next-gen educators see this, they are flooded with an unwanted emotion—alarm. Again, what visual messages are conveyed in your sales literature or booth presentations? Can you tap into the “personalized learning” meme instead?

In my next installment, I am going to continue unpacking the 2016 Horizon Report by addressing some surprising ed-tech developments in schools–Len Scrogan

†Adams Becker, S., Freeman, A., Giesinger Hall, C., Cummins, M., and Yuhnke, B. (2016). NMC/CoSN Horizon Report: 2016 K-12
Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium. Cover Photography BigStock Photography