Ed Market Trends: The 2017 K-12 Horizon Report

Report Title PicWhat are the cloud-gathering trends in educational tech? What is expected to surge and scale in schools? Which innovations are trending down in the near term? Are there any surprises? Any ho-hums? The 2017 K12 Horizon Report, after multiple rounds of Delphi voting by expert panelists, has a lot to say about what’s mushrooming in the educational marketplace.

This fall the New Media Consortium (NMC), along with the Consortium for School Networking (COSN), released their annual K12 Horizon Report. According to the NMC, the Horizon Report “charts the five-year impact of innovative practices and technologies for K–12 education (primary and secondary education) across the globe.” And this report has been around a long time. “With more than 15 years of research and publications, it can be regarded as the world’s longest running exploration of emerging technology trends and uptake in education.” The full report can be accessed here.

Dissecting this report helps not only with an understanding of the ebb and flow of the educational marketplace, but more importantly, it supplies some of the key nomenclature that will help your message resonate with educational customers, world-wide.

Although the 2017 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. With full disclosure I must mention that I served as one of the 50+ panelists who developed this report over many months. Serving as an expert panelist for the report for the last three years, I think I can add beneficial nuance to the findings, from an inside perspective.

In this second article in my series we will focus on six trends that, according to members of the expert panel, are accelerating or de-accelerating the adoption of technology in schools. This movement tracks and predicts purchasing priorities in K-12 education over the short-, mid-, and long-term horizon. Let’s take a quick look at these six trends and wrap up with some blockbuster conclusions.

Time to Adoption Horizon: Short Term

  • Coding as a Literacy
  • Rise of STEAM Learning

“Coding” is the new and popular term for one of the oldest phenomena of the technology revolution in schools: programming. In some corners of the world, it has also earned the moniker “computational thinking”. Although coding is often thought to be the sole domain of the high school and higher-end student, companies like Shanghai-based LeapLearner are dedicated to usher in the power of coding (and its ability to support critical thinking, problem solving, math and computation) to children as young as five years old (and their often-surprised parents). Similarly, the Horizon Report notes that the National Council on Curriculum and Assessment in Ireland “is designing a new math curriculum that will teach coding in primary schools.” The 2017 K12 Horizon Report makes a strong case for greater inclusion of coding in school curricula across all grade levels.

STEM is a familiar acronym that stands for [applied] science, technology, engineering, and math; but when we add the arts, design, and humanities to the mix, as does the Horizon Report, we get a new blend that we now call STEAM, a softer, more appealing, and more aesthetic version, if you will.

Time to Adoption Horizon: Mid-Term

  • A Growing Focus on Measuring Learning
  • Redesigning Learning Spaces

The Horizon Report anticipates that educators will ramp up the purchasing and use of assessment tools used to measure “academic readiness, school progress, skill acquisition, and student achievement. Of particular importance is the notion of technologies used “to monitor student achievement in real time.” This last observation suggests that the explosion of personal devices in schools will continue, since real-time monitoring of student achievement requires the device in each students hand.
The move toward “redesigning learning spaces” is a trend that display manufacturers, content developers, integrators, and sales groups will want to watch closely if they indeed want to remain relevant in the education market. The question to ask is: “how will your technologies change if they are deployed in new paradigms?” The report warns:

“Active learning spaces have the characteristics of being mobile, flexible, varied, and connected — [while valuing] tables, stations, and hubs over rigid structures… innovative thinking in architecture and space planning is influencing the sustainable design and construction of new school [spaces] …with an eye to conserving energy. “

Most importantly, the report chronicles a major shift in schools that cannot be ignored: transforming the classroom from being teacher-centered to learner-centered.

Time to Adoption Horizon: Long Term

  • Advancing Cultures of Innovation
  • Deeper Learning Approaches

Schools are changing. Waves of innovation are eroding our legacy educational systems. New mindsets are on their way, mindsets such as: learner-centric schooling; authentic learning environments such as “entrepreneurship, collaboration, project-based learning, and creativity” which will mimic the way the real world works; and a renewed readiness to pioneer new approaches and systems. The question remains for the display industry: “Is your product positioned to earn the trust of schools wanting to make these shifts?”

The Horizon Report also predicts the growth of “Deeper Learning” approaches, which are defined in the report “as the mastery of content that engages students in critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, and self-directed learning.” The Deeper Learning movement echoes not only the shift from passive to active learning and the appreciation for higher order thinking skills, it also calls for pursuing the “enabling role of technologies” to get the job done. All good, if your company is able to speak the language of educators and “walk the talk.”

Reading between the Lines

Running through the body of this report are some extraordinarily insightful threads. I would be remiss not to spotlight them here. First, this report unfurls some predictive flags for purchasing priorities by the education market. Since most do not have unlimited funding, schools are always forced to make satisficing choices among competing options. And in schools, timing is everything. Can the display industry hone in on these priorities with the right messaging? Can they move quickly enough? We’ll see.

Second, the Horizon Report clearly hedges on the shorter-term trends. The Report warns that “the shorter-term trends could become common-place or fade away.” This could occur if these short-term trends achieve sufficient market penetration, near-legacy status, or if their star simply fades too quickly like a “flash in the pan”.

Last, the mid-term and long-term predictions from this report are noteworthy for one main reason: these Delphi-identified movements are indeed worldwide. Looking at the dozens of living/breathing examples referenced in the report, it is clear they cannot be ignored in any locale. Citing examples from Columbia to Ireland, from Texas to Egypt, and from Africa to the Middle East– the Horizon Report paints a convincing portrait of coming education market priorities.–Len Scrogan