Education Trends 2017

trends

The headline came up this week in my feed, "5 Education themes that impacted the industry in 2017." The caveat, perhaps, is that this story ran in the India Times, which made me curious how different those trends might be from the U.S.

They mention that trying to show ROI from earlier trends (flipped classrooms, multilingual learning, faculty professional development, gamification, personalized and adaptive learning, online secure infrastructure, knowledge networks and virtual simulated practice environments etc.) and being pushed to stay ahead of the technology curve might make adoption of newer trends more difficult. Education apps for content, distribution, and collaboration are also in the mix.

In India, the e-learning market hit almost 11 billion in USD in 2016. Here are the 5 trends seen there this year in brief (in this article's perspective).

Personalized learning - bundling content in a specific learning environment that meets the individual student's needs. Content is generally delivered through online and micro learning.

The Cloud - has become cheaper, faster and green.

Safeguarding Personal Identifiable Information (PII) - Our digital footprints - both intentional and unintentional ones - leave learners open to even more vulnerabilities than the average citizen, but losing data and reputation besides the financial damage and emotional distress and overall risk. 4

Gamification, Simulations and Digital Badging - this has been a "trend" for so many years without ever being fully realized that I wonder if it belongs on trend lists any more. Yes, phone apps use gamification as a technique to keep you hooked through notifications, points, and rewards, so that learners are already used to using to them - and probably expect them in many instances. I still don't see a widely accepted of awarding achievement or recognition. 

Leveraging Learning Analytics - AI plays a role in making it possible for a machine to learn over millions of interaction inputs and predict student errors, trends and projections.

Teaching With 40 Year Old Software

I read an article that mentioned that someone teaching game design was using the old game "The Oregon Trail" as a simple example of game design. I felt a little wave of nostalgia for that computer game that I used with middle school students in the late 1970s on Apple IIe computers.

What can we teach with 40-year-old software?

The game was developed in 1971 and produced by the Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium (MECC) in 1974. My school subscribed to MECC and received many software packages on the big 5.25 very floppy disks which we could duplicate.

The original game was designed to teach about the realities of 19th century pioneer life on the Oregon Trail. The single player is a wagon leader guiding a party of settlers from Independence, Missouri, to Oregon's Willamette Valley on the Oregon Trail via a covered wagon in 1848. 

But many teachers used it in other ways. In those early day, just teaching students to use the computer and navigate a game was a learning experience. I knew teacher who, like myself, used it was a way to teach cooperation by having players work in pairs or teams and justifiable arguing about choices was encouraged.

I used the game as an example when teaching literature as away to discuss the consequences of actions (draw branching diagram here).
 

Looking at the game again today via one of the several emulators available online (such as https://archive.org/details/msdos_Oregon_Trail_The_1990 and https://classicreload.com/oregon-trail.html), it seems about as primitive in its graphics as it did back in 1975 in my classroom. But it worked. My homeroom students enjoyed playing it just for gaming fun, and I was able to incorporate the decision-making aspects into lessons. I taught English, not social studies, and was less interested in the historical aspects of the game. I did use it briefly in an interdisciplinary manner with a social studies teacher, but having students do research into the real Oregon Trail and that period seemed to kill interest in the game itself. 

Apple IIe screenshotIt was one of the most successful games of all time and “The Oregon Trail” was inducted into World Video Game Hall of Fame in 2016. If you played it a few times, many of its screens are probably etched into your memory. I recall entering my real family members' names into the game the first time I played, and then sadly dysentery them "die" along the trail - probably from dysentery. It had game play moments (like hunting buffalo) and simple animation, but it was mostly text and so involved a lot of reading.

I would have my students work in small groups and map the game both on a real map of the trail, and then later on a decision tree style "map" of the game's options.

For me, the strength of the game in the classroom was in understanding how decisions could change the game's outcomes and their traveler's fates.

I recall that students would argue about the design. They didn't like the random things that would happen, such as a fire in the wagon destroying objects that were worth game points. But that also worked its way into my discussions with them of literature. Things happen in novels - and our lives - that seem random and out of our control, and they have consequences.

The other software that I used back then which was more sophisticated (though not graphically) was made by Tom Snyder Productions. I met Snyder at an educational conference and we talked about his Decisions, Decisions series. The series focused on the best aspects of what I was using in "Oregon Trail." The series included products on politics and the environment and came with printed material to supplement the games, so "research" was easy and necessary to play well.

I had no luck finding online what happened to Snyder and his company. It seems to have been consumed by Scholastic, though the link I found was a dead end.  I did find something on Amazon, but it doesn't seem that the series was continued or updated recently. It could easily be an online or mobile game. 

Can we use old software to teach new skills? Absolutely. Though these software packages seem crude by today's standards, they are also "classic" curiosities. I haven't taught secondary school students since 2000, so my sense of what is acceptable is lost. Certainly some of these games, or similar decision-tree kinds of games are a very viable classroom tool at all grade levels K-20. Maybe someone has already updated them or created new versions. If not, there is an opportunity.

     

Net Neutrality and Education

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently voted to repeal the net neutrality framework put in place by the Obama administration. This opens the path for restructuring internet traffic. There are many in education that this will have negative implications on both K-12 and higher education. The five-member, Republican-majority board voted along party lines (3-2) to pass the “Restoring Internet Freedom Order.” Efforts by activists, educators, consumers and U.S. lawmakers to stop or reschedule the vote until the commission had heard more public concerns on the matter were ignored.

At edscoop.com, they write that Net neutrality changes are expected to have big implications for education.

Excerpt: 

There’s a major concern that commercial, revenue-generating internet traffic will take precedence. The quality and consistency of access to research, libraries, educational institutions and learning materials could be degraded as those resources are moved to the slow lane to make room for commercial and entertainment traffic that can pay for speed.

 After Dec. 14, higher education will face a new online world — one in which the almighty dollar, not equity, will reign,” wrote Joseph South, the chief learning officer at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), and Eden Dahlstrom, the executive director of the New Media Consortium, in a commentary featured in The Chronicle of Higher Education earlier this month."

 

Bleeding Edgy Deep Learning

Deep learning is a hot topic right now, but it is not lightweight or something I would imagine learners who are not in the computer science world to take very seriously. But I stumbled upon this video introduction that certainly goes for an edgier presentation of this serious subject and obviously is trying to appeal to a non-traditional audience.

That audience would be part of what I refer to as both Education 2.0 and also that segment of learners who are The Disconnected.  I see these disconnected learners as a wider age group than "Millennials." They are the potential students in our undergraduate and graduate programs, but also older people already in the workplace looking to move or advance their careers. The younger ones have never been connected to traditional forms of media consumption and services and have no plan to ever be connected to them. And that is also how they feel about education. You learn where and when you can learn with little concern for credits and degrees.

The video I found (below) is an "Intro to Deep Learning" billed as being "for anyone who wants to become a deep learning engineer." It is supposed to take you from "the very basics of deep learning to the bleeding edge over the course of 4 months." That is quite a trip. 

The sample video is on how to predict an animal’s body weight given it’s brain weight using linear regression via 10 lines of Python.

Though the YouTube content (created by and starring Siraj Raval) is totally free, he also has a partnership with Udacity in order to offer a new Deep Learning Nanodegree Foundation program. Udacity will also be providing guaranteed admission to their Artificial Intelligence and Self-Driving Car Nanodegree programs to all graduates. 


Is this a good marketing effort bu Udacity? Will it reach new and disconnected learners? Will they simply use the videos and resources to learn or make that connection to some kind of degree/certification that might tell an employer that they know something about deep learning? I don't have the deep learning program that can predict that. I'm not sure it exists. Yet.

RESOURCES

This is the code via GitHub for "How to Make a Prediction - Intro to Deep Learning #1' by Siraj Raval on YouTube

This lesson uses simple linear regression. "Simple" is a relative term here, as many people would not find it simple, as in "easy." It is a statistical method that allows us to summarize and study relationships between two continuous (quantitative) variables. This lesson via Penn State introduces the concept and basic procedures of simple linear regression.

You might also want to look at this tutorial on the topic via machinelearningmastery.com.