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This Business of Predicting: EdTech in 2019

crystal ballAs the year comes to an end, you see many end-of-year summary articles and also a glut of predictions for the upcoming year. I'm not in the business of predicting what will happen in education and technology, but I do read those predictions - with several grains of salt. 

“A good science fiction story should be able to predict not the automobile but the traffic jam.” wrote sci-fi author Frederik Pohl.

Many of the education and technology predictions I see predict things rather than the impact those things will have. Here are some that I am seeing repeated, so that you don't have to read them all, but can still have an informed conversation at the holiday party at work or that first department meeting in January.

If you look at what the folks at higheredexperts.com are planning for 2019 just in the area of higher ed analytics.

Is "augmented analytics" coming to your school? This uses machine learning (a form of artificial intelligence) to augment how we develop, consume and share data. 

And IT analyst firm Gartner is known for their top trends reports. For 2019, one that made the list is "immersive user experience." This concept concerns what happens when human capabilities mix with augmented and virtual realities. Looking at the impact of how that changes the ways we perceive the real and digital world is what interests me.

We are still at the early stages of using this outside schools (which are almost always behind the world in general). You can point to devices like the Amazon Alexa being used in homes to turn on music, lights, appliances or tell us a joke, This is entry-level usage. But vocal interaction is an important change. A few years ago it was touch screen interactions. A few decades before it was the mouse and before that the keyboard. A Gartner video points at companies using remote assistance for applications such as an engineer working with someone in a remote factory to get a piece of equipment back online.

Will faculty be able to do augmented analytics using an immersive user experience? Imagine you can talk to the LMS you use to teach your course and you can ask, using a natural language interface, and ask " Which students in this new semester are most likely to have problems with writing assignments?" The system scans the appropriate data sets, examines different what-if scenarios and generates insights. Yes, predictive analytics is already here, but it will be changing.

But are IT trends also educational technology trends? There is some crossover.

Perhaps, a more important trend to watch for as educators for next year is changing our thinking from individual devices (and the already too many user interfaces we encounter) to a multimodal and multichannel experience.

Multimodal connects us to many of the edge devices around them. It is your phone, your car, your appliances, your watch, the thermostat, your video doorbell, the gate in a parking lot and devices you encounter at work or in stores.

Multichannel mixes your human senses with computer senses. This is when both are monitoring things in your environment that you already recognize, like heat and humidity, but also things we don't sense like Bluetooth, RF or radar. This ambient experience means the environment will become the computer.

One broad category is "autonomous things" some of are around us and using AI. There are autonomous vehicles. You hear a lot about autonomous cars and truck, but you may be more likely to encounter an autonomous drones. Will learning become autonomous? That won't be happening in 2019.

AI-driven development is its own trend. Automated testing tools and model generation is here and AI-driven automated code generation is coming.

Of course, there is more - from things I have never heard of (digital twins) to things that I keep hearing are coming (edge computing) and things that have come and seem to already have mixed reviews (blockchain).

EducationDive.com has its own four edtech predictions for colleges: 

Digital credentials gain credibility - I hope that's true, but I don't see that happening in 2019.  

Data governance grows  - that should be true if their survey has accurately found that 35% of responding institutions said they don't even have a data governance policy - a common set of rules for collecting, accessing and managing data.

Finding the ROI for AI and VR may be what is necessary to overcome the cost barrier to full-scale implementation of virtual and augmented reality. AI has made more inroads in education than VR. An example is Georgia State University's Pounce chatbot.

Their fourth prediction is institutions learning how to use the blockchain. The potential is definitely there, but implementation is challenging. 

Predictions. I wrote elsewhere about Isaac Newton's 1704 prediction of the end of the world. He's not the first or last to predict the end. Most have been proven wrong. Newton - certainly a well respected scientist - set the end at or after 2060 - but not before that. So we have at least 41 years to go.

Using some strange mathematical calculations and the Bible's Book of Revelation, this mathematician, astronomer, physicist came to believe that his really important work would be deciphering ancient scriptures. 

I'm predicting that Newton was wrong on this prediction. He shouldn't feel to bad though because I guesstimate that the majority of predictions are wrong. But just in case you believe Isaac, you can visualize the end in this document from 1486.

We Still Don't Want No Stinkin' Badges

I use that famous line from "Treasure of the Sierra Madre" but I'm talking about badges used for learning. The film says "need" but I say that in matters of learning we don't seem to "want" any badges.

I have been writing about badges for years on this blog 

It seemed like badges used for showing learning progress was going to be a big thing. That was especially true with online learning and then when MOOCs exploded onto the scene around 2011. But badges still hve not made significant inroads in education.

They didn't make any impact in credit-bearing courses, but they should have had more impact with lifelong learning, MOOCs, alternative education and non-credit learning opportunities.

I would compare there lack of acceptance to some reasons why MOOCs never really changed higher education. Badges and MOOCs are really great for non-credit learning, but when the movement to garner college credit from their use started there was no acceptance from higher education. They saw both as threats.

Similarly, some thought badges would allow learners to get "credit" for their learning with employers, either to advance or get a job. But employers also did not take to them. I don't think they felt threatened. It was more that they weren't convinced that the learning was legitimatized. I suppose that idea of validating the learning was also a factor for colleges, though the threat of lost tuition was much greater.

So, the problem is still the same as it was years ago: We need a way to design badgesso that at completion aschool or employer will be confident that the learner has actually mastered the skill for that badge. 

I wrote earlier about a project by the Education Design Lab that tried to involve employers who committed to consider badges in their hiring of recent college graduates. But I don't see much evidence on their site of progress. 

Mozilla's Open Badges standard is still around and their Backpack has tried to unite badge platforms around the world.

I looked online to see if there was any big news in badges recently, but I didn't find anything that changes my perspective. If you have any good news, send me an email.

https://elearningindustry.com/guide-to-open-badges-beginners

https://www.gettingsmart.com/2018/03/a-simple-free-powerful-badging-system/ 

Education Trends Are Technology Trends

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I title this article "Education Trends Are Technology Trends" but I'm not sure I really agree with that statement. It does seem that way though if you look at the many articles about education trends and developments that appear at he end and beginning of years.

Reading one article by Bernard Bull about things to watch in this new year, he lists ten curricular trends to watch. But what I first noticed was how many involve technology.

Some from his list are obviously rooted in digital technologies:
AR and VR Education Software Tied to Curricular Standards
Citizenship and Digital Citizenship Curricula
Cartoon-ish and Simplistic Game-Based Learning Tied to State Testing
Increasingly Sophisticated Game-Based Curricula Across Disciplines
Reductionist Data Analysis Driving Curricular Decisions
Curricula Focused upon Non-Cognitive Skill Development
Self-Directed Learning Management Tools

I have been reading for years about how gamification and then it combined with applications of AR and VR would change education, but I still don't see it happening to any great extent. I wouldn't ignore it, but I don't believe 2018 will be dramatically different than 2017 in these areas.

But some items on his list that seem less tech-based, such as "Integration of Curricular and Co-Curricular Learning," still use tech. In writing about community-based programs, after-school programs, informal learning, self-directed projects, personal reading and experimentation, personal learning networks, and in-school and out-of-school extracurricular activities/hobbies/sports, Bull brings in things like digital badges. And the competency-based education movement, workforce development, corporate training, and continuing education are all areas that rely a great deal on digital applications.

Obviously, big data and learning analytics have made inroads into education, more at the administrative level I would say than in with individual teachers. This will expand this year. I agree with Bull that unfortunately we will pull more and more data, but still have "data-illiterate people trying to make sense of new data sources, dashboards, and incremental reports." This in the short-term will not be as useful as it could be.

Perhaps I am just old school, but I am still more interested in things like experiential education curricula and student-centered and self-directed learning projects that may not require any additional technology. What they may require is better partnerships with places that can offer students experiential education.

If you can look beyond test scores and ways to document progress based on state and national standards - and that is not easy for someone in a classroom, especially in K-12 - then self-directed learning can grow. I'm not sure that "Self-Directed Learning Management Tools" will be the reason it succeeds.

You could flip this post's title and ask if technology trends are education trends. If the new things for TV and media consumption is on-demand and streaming, will that move into education? It already has moved in. 

But who is driving the changes - technology or education? I would say it is technology, though it should be education. 

If I had to make one prediction for education in 2018, it would be: More of the Same.

And the next generation of learning management systems will be...

LMS

Earlier, I wrote about Google Classroom developing as a nontraditional learning management system (LMS). Now, I want to consider what the next-gen LMS might include.

One thing I have read is that rather than being just an eLearning portal, this next-gen LMS must be an "engagement engine." That is a buzzworthy term because not only in education but in the social media marketing world "engagement" is considered to be very importent. 

In the U.S., we don't hear much about LMS products from other part of the world. Growth Engineering is a UK  Learning Technologies company, and they see their mission as making learning fun with gamification and engaging content. Their LMS (Academy) and their authoring tool (Genie) are both new to me. They appear to me to be intended for corporate training rather than school use, but I suspect the next-gen LMS will be able to operate in both domains.

Juliette Denny, of Growth Engineering when writing on elearningindustry.com, notes 9 Characteristics Of The NextGen LMS. I could come up with other characteristics and I'm sure a group of faculty or instructional designers could come up with others. With a focus on corporate training, her list probably won't agree with one from academia but, again, I think that next-gen LMS will work in both places.

I agree with her that the earlier Learning Management Systems were very much portals and content depositories for learning units. In the late 1990s, we sometimes called them a CMS which could mean course management system or content management system and institutions used them both ways.

I worked for a few years designing corporate training and clients definitely want a way to manage content - documentation, help files etc. - as well as a way to track employee uses of that content. The ability to monitor employee progress and mastery of training was the next thing that was a concern. This is not unlike academic use of an LMS.

The LMS of 2017 is much more sophisticated than the ones I used at the end of the 20th century. They are easier to do authoring. They are not beautiful, but they are less ugly. They take into account user experience much more and their use is much more intuitive.

In corporate use (and perhaps in some free and non-credit use) "informal learning" is a definite consideration. One key element of that is a system's ability to track and predict in order to direct the learner toward the next piece of content. This individualized learning path is something being developed more recently but will certainly be built into the next-gen LMS.

Connected to this informal learning is social learning. The current LMS you use probably has ways to interact with social networks. It might even have its own social tools. Most of these do not have the appeal of the most popular networks (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram et al). The next-gen LMS will include the qualities of a social network and will "help organizations capture and retain intellectual capital."

Some social features appear in LMS, but many companies use separate application (such as Sharepoint) for social collaboration, and in schools outside social network still rule. Combining the two successfully means learners have a reason to return to the LMS and complete more training or coursework. We are not there yet.

The next-gen LMS will be mobile. I still have not seen a really well done mobile version of an enterprise LMS, though vendors will tout that their LMS is "optimized for mobile use."

What about this engagement engine concept? As the aforementioned article points out for the corporate world, "It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that employee engagement is a big problem. Training aside, poor engagement is responsible for low productivity, high employee turnover and lifeless company cultures. The sad thing is that these consequences exacerbate the issue of engagement, locking organizations in a downward spiral." In education, these translate to poor grades, dropped courses and lower enrollments.

Things you will see being developed more now are improved vectors for feedback and communication from facilitator to learner and from learner to learner. Learners want to know how they are progressing and want to be "rewarded" for progress. Whether those rewards will be most engaging as grades/salary, status/advancement, badges, rankings or some other system is yet to be decided. 

Gamification is currently one of the ways to let learners see progress and become engaged. But "gamification" still carries with it the incorrectly applied impression (especially in higher education) of playing games and "making learning fun." Learning, at its best, is fun, but don't tell professors that is the goal for them to strive for.

I realized early on in doing corporate training design work that tracking employees’ "key performance indicators" was surprisingly much more important to companies than it was to educators. Our corporate courses were actually more concerned with formative assessments (frequent checks for learning), than our academic courses that more commonly used summative assessments (quizzes and tests).

That future ideal LMS will include "performance management suites that tie together objectives, competencies, reviews and training in one streamlined process."

Are these unrealistic goals for a future LMS. No. In fact, I know that all of these items are being studied and tested by developers. It is just a question of how long it will take for them to be ready in one LMS.