What’s Bubbling Up in the Ed Market?

What are the late-breaking developments in educational tech? Which innovations are trending in the near term? What is expected to surge and scale in schools? And which innovations promise to swell over the long haul? Are there any surprises? Any ho-hums? The 2017 K12 Horizon Report, after multiple rounds of voting by expert panelists, has a lot to say about what’s stewing in Report Title Pic(Cover Photo: Courtesy of Norton Gusky)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 first article of the series we will focus on six observable developments in technology that members of the expert panel agree are “poised to have a large impact on technology planning and decision-making in education around the globe.” These are developments that will likely become mainstream, will drive educational change and are thus positioned to “impact teaching, learning, and creative inquiry in K–12 education.” So, without further ado, here’s what’s starting to coalesce in Ed Tech:

Time to Adoption Horizon: One Year or Less

  • Makerspaces
  • Robotics

Makerspaces are “physical environments that offer tools and opportunities for hands-on learning and creation.” Makerspaces, with their design-build philosophy designed to increase exposure to STEM subjects, are spawning in schools and conference sessions everywhere. For the display industry, the makerspace emphasis on coding, design and CAD promises a solid trajectory for opportunity.

Robotics has been a cloaked undercurrent in schools for more than thirty years. Tucked away in unseen lessons, after-school clubs, and inter-school competitions, robotics is witnessing a renaissance in schools. Often, robotics is clustered with its close instructional cousins: STEM disciplines, programming (coding), and makerspaces.

Time to Adoption Horizon: Two to Three Years

  • Analytics Technologies
  • Virtual Reality

Cover 500w Learning AnalyticsAnalytics suggests the “diverse array of tools and applications that turn data into actionable information”. Although extremely unpopular with teachers, analytics are viewed as critically important to institutional leadership. According to the report, “understanding how to use new data tools and developing analytic skills are essential to advance the use of big data in educational settings”. I would add that fostering acceptance, promoting a positive school ‘culture’ for the use of data, is even more vital. Data analytics in schools are a different beast. Here’s a summary of data mining and data analytics as they apply to learning institutions. Also, here’s a nice publication that helps identify how organizations actually make data-driven decisions.

You expected virtual reality to make an appearance here, didn’t you? But hold on. The report at first seems bullish on VR, but then returns to a tempered perspective with this telling paragraph:

“Despite widespread interest and the growing availability of educational content, it will take a few years before VR becomes vital to schools around the world. A survey of educational institutions…found that although over half of respondents are investigating VR, only a quarter are currently using it in the classroom, while only 3% are teaching students to create VR content”.

Ouch! The report’s standpoint on virtual reality is like speaking from both sides of the mouth. Are we at a tipping point or will VR go the way of 3D in schools? Will a spoonful of sugar really make this medicine go down?

Time to Adoption Horizon: Four to Five Years

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • The Internet of Things

The growth of artificial intelligence in schools has been elusive. Although I have been deploying AI engines in writing analysis and adaptive learning software since the 1980’s, AI’s apparent influence has not gathered much steam in schools thus far. But based on some technologies recently introduced into academic settings, I believe its greatest potential in the short run will involve AI-enabled intelligent assistants and voice assistants. For a quick review of this topic, see this article, referenced in the Horizon Report, that explains the possible future of AI in education.

With the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT), everyday objects are rapidly become internet enabled and new markets are being created to follow suit. One arena that has definitely been influenced is the drive to increase school safety. The report adeptly provides this example as to how IoT is playing a yeoman’s role in education facilities:

“Sandcreek Middle School in Idaho has installed software and acoustic sensors that can detect gunshots, locate the building floor in which an incident is unfolding, and automatically send a building floor plan to first responders”.

Still, protecting these devices from external threats and securing student privacy will remain as restraining forces to be reckoned with, logically holding back this market from any hyper-ventilating “gold rush” sentiments.


Although it is nearly impossible to forecast the future, the methods used by the Horizon Report— a modified Delphi analysis refined over 15 years, a process employing a sizeable panel of international experts—strongly suggests that these six developments are currently top of mind for educators across the world. – Len Scrogan