The annual Horizon Report, while not a “prediction tool”, but more a barometer of where educational technology trends lie in business, education and government, is eagerly anticipated each year. The Report for K12 was released very recently and its alignment to the American School of Bombay is worthy of note. While the Report sees a trend of adoption of under a year or less, ASB has already moved forward on all four of the trends chosen by the analysts of the Report.
True to my “easterly” disposition, I will present a big picture view of ASB’s alignment with the Horizon Report.
Time-to-Adoption: One Year or Less
BYOD: The technology team carefully investigated and prepared for a move to a BYOD program for at least a year before introducing the program to the school. Because of the state of readiness, teachers were invited in to the program even earlier than originally anticipated. The program was introduced at a small scale for the first year and will scale up to include all teachers and students from grades 4 to 12 in August.
Cloud Computing: ASB began making a move to the cloud about 5 years ago in anticipation of the popularity and necessity of basing services and storage on the Internet rather than on local servers. Because of this, we are way ahead of the trend and have already fully adopted and embraced cloud computing in our practices. It is an accepted part of our culture and its integration can be seen most obviously in our daily use of Google apps.
Mobile Learning: This past year, the Research and Development team at ASB initiated a prototype of mobile devices in the classroom at all three levels. A larger prototype is being introduced in August with many more teachers and assistants being supported through funding for devices and apps and with professional development to support them. The area of PD will certainly be a challenge as this is still new territory in terms of existing research and pedagogy. At this time, a team of three educators is developing an online course which will be offered through ASB’s Online Academy which could be one avenue of support for teachers using mobile technologies in the classroom to support learning.
Online Learning: ASB introduced its Online Academy about two years ago. Initially, it was meant to support parents and teachers in their understanding of the technologies and digital citizenship and ethics, but was quickly opened up to those outside the school due to demand. The original vision did not include ASB’s students, but over time, it became apparent that existing online courses did not always satisfy ASB’s students’ needs, so several courses for ASB students are currently under development. Additionally, high school students were offered a variety of online courses as electives for the first time this year and will expand with more beginning in August.
I would like to offer a few observations about ASB’s success in anticipating these trends:
–> ASB is small enough as a school entity to remain agile for the implementation of change.
–> The creation of a Research and Development team of volunteer ASB educators, and more recently, parents, has served to provide a space for experimentation and growth. Prototypes are encouraged and then analyzed for success. Because the team is made up of teachers and parents, buy-in is is built-in for new approaches and initiatives.
–> ASB leaders recognize the importance of careful study and preparation before making a “big move”, such as the move to cloud computing and the BYOD program.
Let’s take a look at some of the other trends that are highlighted in the Report that are already being investigated or supported at ASB.
Learning Analytics: ASB has invested heavily in this area by offering significant training to staff recently about data analysis and by participating in several types of third party testing and examinations.
Open Content: The ASB Online Academy offered its first open course in January, a course about online and cybersecurity, and is exploring the facilitation of more open courses or even scaling them to a ‘MOOC”, massive, open, online course, which may be the first to be offered by an independent school.
Personalized Learning: ASB has been way ahead of the two to three year schedule suggested by the Horizon Report. The construction projects of both campuses last year were inspired with the desire to create learning environments that would foster personalized learning. Additional staff have been hired to increase the teacher-student ratio. A large bouquet of online courses have been offered to high school students so that they could have more choice in their learning opportunities. A move to changing the school calendar has opened the door to the possibility of several “inter-sessions” being offered through the school year which provides even more learning opportunities for multi-age, inter-disciplinary courses for students at all divisions.
3D Printing: The school has purchased several 3D printers and is supporting the training of a group of staff members to participate in Maker and Design Thinking Workshops.
Driving change forward in so many directions at once is difficult in any environment and can take a toll on staff. Turnover of staff from this year to next is quite high; this could be a drawback or it could be an opportunity – professional development and training must be handled shrewdly so that the school leadership achieves buy-in and investment by new and returning staff. Successes must be celebrated and an environment of exploration and inquiry must be fostered. Tolerance of “failure” in such an environment of dynamic change and experimentation is important. Leadership will need to inspire vision, hope and value for the staff.
These are exciting times to be an educator! I look forward to negotiating the future of learning along with my colleagues at ASB.