The Big Education and Technology Stories of 2013

Red Apple gets his code on via the interweb.

Red Apple gets his code on via the interweb in 2013.

In the State of the Union earlier this year, President Obama focused on reshaping education in the United States. He made the case for getting today’s students ready for today’s “high-tech” economy. President Obama was talking about the importance of math and the sciences, but he highlighted the role of technology in our everyday lives, and how it needs to be a part of our classrooms as we prepare the next generation for the twenty-first century.

The bottom line is that technology is here to stay. Whether you embrace it or chain yourself to a tree with your stack of ungraded papers, the world of educational technology is rapidly growing and changing. Here are three big education stories of 2013, why you should care, and what to expect next.

Tablets or Holy technology!
What happened: The tablet (along with devices in general) is making its way into the classroom.

Why we care: We talked about this a lot during my first four months here because of my stubborn belief that it’s the teacher, not technology that makes learning worthwhile. Technology is a tool, but unlike the pencil or the ruler, there’s a lot that goes along with introducing the tablet, and the options are usually customizable. In January, we’ll take a look at who the big players are, compare Chromebooks to iPads, and discuss the types of questions you should ask when introducing tablets to your classroom.

In addition to the functionality of the hardware, technology makes a cultural impact as it’s introduced into our schools. First of all, it’s expensive. As we saw in LA, not everyone is thrilled about throwing money at all these iPads when wifi infrastructure is not solid, and teachers aren’t on board. With tablet use in the classroom increasing, educators must also consider things like digital citizenship and trusting students to use the web responsibly. Still, the transition of tablets for school rather than just using them for entertainment is something that the lucky schools and districts get to deal with. Technology is expensive and not all schools can afford it.

What we expect: More flipped classrooms. Schools to find funding, to develop more robust infrastructure that supports wifi for the entire school. Educators to find ways to make technology an effective tool. And damage control for people using it wrong.

Coding or Everyone learns to speak computer
What happened: Coding was definitely a “thing” this year. I’m sure everyone’s heard about the Hour of Code in which there were sessions across the US that gave people the opportunity to learn how to code. “Don’t just buy a new video game — make one,” said President Obama in a video supporting the Hour of Code. Coding and computer literacy is at the forefront of twenty-first century demands—right in line with what the president wanted for this country’s education.

Why we care: Coding is not just some foreign language reserved for computer geeks anymore. “Coding is a life skill,” Parul explained to me. “Everyone on our team should know how.” About a month after I joined the Gradeable team, Parul directed me to dash and strongly encouraged me to re-learn code. I tried to leave code behind a long time ago in a dingy electrical engineering lab in Southern Massachusetts. Even though I never pursued engineering, coding was a skill that I needed for every job since: administration at a liquor store, content production for a news website. It was a required course for my master of arts degree in publishing. It’s important because computers are becoming more and more essential, and coding is computing language.

What we expect: More coding fluency. More hours of code. More people understanding the limitations and possibilities of technology. More places to learn coding online for free, just like these:

 Common Core State Standards or Stepping up the US education game
What happened: The Common Core State Standards are a set of expectations for K-12 students that outlines what they should know at the end of each grade. The standards, designed by educators and backed by law-makers, have been adopted by 45 states plus DC. The point is to get American students ready to compete in the real world as independent, critical thinkers. Memorizers were so last century.

Why we care: Our country’s education system is doing something pretty cool and it’s exciting to witness the movement as it unfolds. It’s the first time the US shared a single education standard to measure achievement. Students in Colorado are held to the same standard as the students in Pennsylvania. To teach these students why they are learning something, instead of just how to get the most points, teachers are rewriting lesson plans, assessments, and evaluations. Teachers are now held to a higher order of teaching and ways of tracking their results.

What we expect: More educational technology to enhance the Common Core implementation and assessment. People to break the molds and impress us with their innovation and creativity. People continuing to gather at town hall with torches and pitch forks. The adoption of PARCC, the CCSS-aligned test that’s slated to gauge college readiness. And finally more stories like these:

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