Center for Digital Education & Converge: research in education technology for K-12 and higher education

The Top 6 Emerging Technologies in K-12 Education

on May 17, 2011

On Tuesday, the New Media Consortium announced six emerging technologies that will impact K-12 education.

Over the next five years, "The NMC Horizon Report: 2011 K-12 Edition" suggests that the education community will embrace cloud computing, mobiles, game-based learning, open content, learning analytics and personal learning environments.

Compared to last year, cloud computing still remains in the adoption time of one year or less. Mobiles have moved up to an adoption time of one year or less from two to three years. And educational gaming changed its name to game-based learning, but is in the same spot two to three years out.

Notably, the two technologies cited in last year's report with an adoption time of four to five years don't appear in the 2011 report. While augmented reality and thin screens and flexible interfaces are still important, one new technology and one old technology have emerged that are more important, explained report author Larry Johnson in a CoSN webinar. 

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

One year or less

Cloud computing

Over the past number of years, decreases in funding have played a role in boosting technologies like cloud computing to a higher adoption rate. When schools had money, they preferred to keep security control over their email. But now that they have less money, they're moving to services like Google Apps.

"In one sense, the financial pressure is leading to some creative solutions that wouldn't have been on the table in the past," Johnson said.


Oregon Brings Google Apps to Public Schools


The same goes for mobile computing. As more districts look into bring your own technology programs, the adoption of mobiles has increased faster.

While a digital divide does still exist, it's no longer so much a line between students who don't have technology at all and students who have technology. For the most part, students on one side have new devices, and students on the other side have hand-me-downs.

This more widespread access to mobile devices has opened up options for districts to leverage student technology.

"It's also so much a part of the developed world that we're at a point when we can seriously consider it," Johnson said.


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Two to three years

Game-based learning

This trend has changed names to reflect an increased focus on learning rather than gaming. The military has shifted many types of training into simulations and games, and as a society, we're gaming a tremendous amount.

At the University of Chicago, an online environment called Our Playground allows students to design their own data collection projects. They collect data through their mobile devices.

Through Quest Atlantis, kids explore a virtual world and learn about science as they go on different quests.


Elementary School Students Level Up with Math Games

Game Design Courses Prepare Students for Careers

World of Warcraft Invades Language Arts Class


Open content

As more content becomes available, shouldn't we share it instead of replicating the wheel all the time? That's the thinking that has driven open content in the last number of years. Johnson mentioned Curriki as a good source for open content and the Open High School in Utah as an example of an online charter school built around open content.

Four to five years

Learning analytics

The push for individualized learning has helped drive more real-time analysis of how students are doing. According to the report, the goal of learning analytics is to "enable teachers and schools to tailor educational opportunitites to each student's level of need and ability."


Granville County Schools Creates a Technology Culture

Personal learning environments

This technology is often incorporated into learning management systems, but can be separate as well. Personal learning environments allow students to direct their own learning by themselves or in groups. They generally involve a number of tools that learners choose to use as they learn. 

At Creekview High School in Canton, Georgia, sophomores learn how to configure Netvibes as a tool in their personal learning environment, according to the report.

Your turn

Should other technologies have made the final cut? Have you used any of these six technologies on the horizon in your school or district? Let us know about your experiences and thoughts in the comments.

The NMC Horizon Report: 2011 K-12 Edition

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on May 24, 2011
Any educator who is interested in learning more about WoW in School - or Games in Education is welcome to join the Cognitive Dissonance Guild on the Sisters of Elune server (Alliance) in World of Warcraft. Contact Maratsade, Sheehredd, Mairet, or Rheder in game. May Elune light your way, Peggy Sheehy
on May 24, 2011
Congratulations to the New Media Consortium for another excellent Horizon Report (and thanks to Converge Mag for a great synopsis). Given the increasingly important role that technology plays in education, the HP Office of Global Social Innovation is proud to support such important research as this. Jim Vanides, Program Manager HP Office of Global Social Innovation
on May 25, 2011
Hi Tanya - thanks for these comments - I am personally surprised the NMC editors see Personal Learning Environments so far down the read. I have blogged about this in my last two posts on The NMC report is great - the practical examples from teacher and student practice are so important!
on May 26, 2011
Hi This is for Peggy Sheehy. I am interested in your work and will visit WoW. I have explored your second life world and am interested in that also.
on May 31, 2011
No problem, Donal. It will be interesting to see how slow or fast these technologies are adopted compared to the timelines in the Horizon Report.