What will the coming year bring in educational innovation? Will trends like gamification, neuroeducation, and iPads get even bigger or fade away entirely?
To get an outside opinion of what’s on the horizon, I called up Dr. Jeff Borden, Vice President of Instruction & Academic Strategy and Director for the Center for Online Learning at Pearson. The largest education publisher in the world runs this as a research center, similar to Microsoft Research, says Dr. Borden: “All that we do is look for academic problems and solutions, we make recommendations, we try to get research published in journals, and I also go around the world speaking.” Dr. Borden is also working on a book on the intersection of neuroscience, cognitive science, and learning.
Here are his top predictions for trends coming in the new year:
1) Gamification: A major upswing in creation of, use of, and integration of games into curricula at all levels in 2014. What makes games wonderful, says Borden, is that they’re safe zones for failure, “While playing, students are failing 80% of the time and enjoying it.”
For Borden the game trend isn’t as much about short casual games to teach simple spelling or math, like the ones that dominate the Apple “Education” apps store. It’s about a few different types of “serious games”:
a) Massive, online, alternate-reality, roleplaying games of the type popularized by Jane McGonigal, where participants around the world take on topics like hunger, poverty, climate change, or global peace.
“My center is running a research experiment that simulates a Contagion-style global pandemic. We create a network of experts, professors, and teachers who will provide the clues, backdrop, framework and game elements over Skype and a learning LMS.” The game is being played in different ways, with different goals, by students in journalism, biology, and other disciplines.
b) “Off the shelf, plug and play” games like Glasslab’s SimCity EDU that can drop into the curriculum in a variety of ways.
c) Games with real-world outcomes like the protein folding game Foldit.
Borden recommends the 2012 book The Gamification of Learning and Instruction, by Karl Kapp, for more on this trend.
While I’ve written that many attempted applications of neuroscience to the classroom are premature or ill-supported by evidence, Borden is bullish on the trend. In a sign of the growing interest, he is seeing education organizations hiring people who are conversant with the science. “Just look at some of the things that science knows that have not made their way into education,” he says, citing an experiment that showed that if you expose students to a certain scent while teaching a particular topic, then present that scent again while they sleep, test scores jumped by 11 percent.” Another example, he says, is the growing research on spaced repetition, or the art of re-presenting people with information at the moment that they would potentially forget. Headmagnet.com is a smartphone flashcard app created by a group of neuroscientists that measures your individual “forget curve,” the rate at which you assimilate new information and then stuff it down the memory hole. “It allows you to take items you tell are important, and they will pop it up on your screen device at the appropriate time. It gives you essentially the ability to learn in a way that is personalized–everybody’s forget curve is completely different.”
Borden says to check out Dr. John Medina’s books for more on the connections between neuroscience and learning.
3. Speech to Text:
Will Siri be increasingly welcome in the classroom?
“The students will embrace it first,” Borden says, as part of the growing use of tablets. It’ll be a handy (and fun) way of interacting with apps that simulate dissection, say, or exploring the solar system.
4. Learning Spaces:
This, says Dr. Borden, is NOT a great trend. “I think we’ll see a lot of money dumped into learning design,” he says. “But having carbon fiber desks or lots of natural light or glass so it looks like the deck of the Starship Enterprise doesn’t change learning if the practitioners don’t know how to use it. It doesn’t mean students will collaborate, or have deeper memory penetration. What helps students are the methods used in those spots.”
Tune in next week for the forecast of four more trends in the year to come!
What have I missed? Shout it out in the comments!