6 Emerging Technologies From the 2012 K-12 Horizon Report

Mobile devices and apps continue to climb the list as game-based learning stays in the same spot for three years.

by / May 16, 2012 0

Update: The report published June 11.

Mobile devices, tablets and apps could become mainstream with education in a year or less, according to the "2012 Horizon Report: K-12 Edition."

While the report from the New Media Consortium won't be released until June, the Consortium for School Networking hosted a webinar on Tuesday, May 15, to preview the results.

The 46 members of the Horizon K-12 Advisory Board narrowed a long list of emerging technologies down to six that the New Media Consortium highlighted in the "2012 Horizon Report K-12 Edition."

"All of these technologies are progressing forward, and we ask our experts to identify just the six that they think are going to be the most interesting over time," said Larry Johnson, CEO of the New Media Consortium and founder of the Horizon Project.

About a third of the committee members are new every year, so depending on who's participating, the top six technologies can come and go. The committee considers technologies to be mainstream when around 20 percent of schools use them.

For the past two years, cloud computing has topped the list. But this year, it's been adopted widely enough that it's not highlighted in the report. Email, collaboration in Google Apps and data storage has caused cloud computing to move to the mainstream, Johnson said.

Also of note, game-based learning has stayed in the same time-to-adoption category for the past three years. And augmented reality reappeared in the top six after barely not making it last year.

Increasingly students, employees and the world expect to see schools embrace technology. For example, students want to bring their own mobile devices to school.

"The Internet is really provoking us to rethink what our roles are as educators," Johnson said.


Three Year Horizon Report Comparison
Time to adoption
2012 Topics 2011 Topics 2010 Topics
One year or less Mobile devices & apps Cloud computing Cloud computing
One year or less Tablet computing Mobiles Social computing
Two to three years Game-based learning Game-based learning Educational gaming
Two to three years Personal learning environments Open content Mobiles
Four to five years Augmented reality Learning analytics Augmented reality
Four to five years Natural user interfaces Personal learning environments Thin screens and flexible interfaces

One year or less

In the next year or so, the Horizon Report suggests that mobile devices and apps as well as tablet computing will enter the mainstream in K-12 education.

Mobile devices & apps

While cloud computing was not highlighted in the report this year, it goes hand in glove with mobile devices.

"Most of the data storage that you're going to use on a mobile device is likely to be in the cloud simply because the devices themselves don't come with a large hard drive like a laptop," Johnson said.

The report highlights three schools that have changed their policies so students can use mobile devices: Forsyth County Schools in Georgia, New Milford High School in New Jersey and Osseo Area Schools in Minnesota.

Both Forsyth and Osseo started "bring your own device" initiatives during the past few years. New Milford High School students answer questions on Poll Everywhere from their smartphones.


Converge coverage:

Mobile Devices Prompt Districts to Consider Security Measures

How to Manage Mobile Devices Without Pulling Your Hair Out

12 Keys to Finding Quality Education Apps

Wolf Creek Public Schools Embraces BYOD, Puts Pedagogy First

Tablet computing

This year, the Horizon Report split out tablet computing from mobile devices. Since the iPad came on the scene three years ago, school districts across the United States have tried them in small settings and expanded them out to whole schools.

They've especially helped students with special needs. For example, autistic students at Belle View Elementary School in Virginia communicate better with their teachers when they use a tablet.

Converge coverage:

How to Choose the Right Tablet for Your School

Two to three years

Game-based learning

For the past three years, game-based learning has fallen into this time-to-adoption horizon of two to three years.

"There are some very important reasons I think that people still find it interesting, but it's still, tantalizingly, two to three years off in the distance," Johnson said. "We just don't have the kind of tools to make games."

As more schools adopt mobile devices and tablets, the most popular games are taking the form of an app, according to the report. And massively multiplayer online games such as Minecraft and World of Warcraft have also gained popularity.

Converge coverage:

World of Warcraft Invades Language Arts Class


Personal learning environments

Until this year, personal learning environments were more of a concept than reality, Johnson said. One group saw it as an uber learning management system that collected all the activity students did and included it in an enterprise-style environment. The other group closely aligned personal learning environments with e-portfolios.

"Both of those miss the mark I think because they're focused on outcomes," Johnson said.

According to the report, personal learning environments "support self-directed and group-based learning, designed around each user’s goals, with great capacity for flexibility and customization. The term has been evolving for some time, but has crystallized around the personal collections of tools and resources a person assembles to support their own learning — both formal and informal.

For example, they can store content they like and share it with others in the cloud. With their mobile device or tablet, they pass on content they create and find content that other people create.

At Springside Chestnut Hill Academy in Pennsylvania, fifth-grade students create Wiki pages and add multimedia resources to them.

Four to five years

Augmented reality

The consumer space is ahead of education when it comes to augmented reality, a technology that connects real-life settings with virtual information. Think Google's Project Glass.

"The technology is still a ways out for K-12, mostly because the bulk of the work that's going on is still in higher ed," Johnson said. "But nonetheless, it's exciting."

In one curriculum for K-12, a document camera combines with animal and vocabulary cards to show animations to young students.

Converge coverage:

3-D Animated Animals Help Kindergartners Read

Natural user interfaces

Body movements and swipes of the fingers are increasingly being incorporated into mobile devices and gaming technology. Educators constantly say on Twitter that their young children figure out intuitively how to use their tablets.

But not many K-12 schools are using gesture-based software or devices for "specific learning examples." As seen in the tablet section, special needs students have seen success with using gestures.

Your turn

Last year, a commenter on the 2011 K-12 report story expressed his surprise at seeing personal learning environments in the last time-to-adoption horizon. Now it's moved up to the two-to-three-year horizon.

Should it stay there? Should other technology be highlighted in this report rather than these chosen six? Let us know in the comments!

Tanya Roscorla Former Managing Editor

Tanya Roscorla covered ed tech from 2009-2017.