The Pivot to Digital Learning: 40 Predictions Revisited

Two years ago I made 40 predictions. I said, “The education sector has not historically been very dynamic, but this year (2010) things changed. Despite the recession, we have seen more start-ups and more cool applications than ever before.” In many areas we’ve seen accelerated progress in the last two years. In a few areas progress has been slower than I expected. Following is a review of how my one-, five-, and ten-year predictions are fairing.
1. NCLB should have been tweaked three times since introduction, but a year of political gridlock will result in further delays to the reauthorization of ESEA. In 2012 when Boehner needs to pass something, Kline will push through a bill gutting federal involvement in school accountability. In the meantime, Duncan’s team will attempt administrative unraveling to avoid the ridiculous number of schools on the needs-improvement list.
Wrong, no reauthorization–which is insane–but I guess 33 waivers qualifies as unraveling.
2. The Facebook-like ability to create groups, messages, and share content is fueling the rapid growth of social learning platforms, and 2011 will be the breakout year–hitting 5% market penetration–on a rapid growth curve.
Right, Edmodo hit eight million users last year school year and is at 14 million this year.
3. Lingering budget woes will cause several districts and charter networks, particularly in California, to flip to a blended model, with a shift to online or computer-based instruction for a portion of the day to boost learning and operating productivity.
Right, Alliance, Aspire, and KIPP Empower have innovative blends.
4. A state and a handful of urban districts will stop buying print textbooks in 2011 and will shift to customizable digital texts and open education resources (OER).
Right, Florida announced the shift to digital. Lots of districts stopped buying books (mostly because they were broke) and some made the shift to digital utilizing some OER.
5. Los Angeles Unified School District superintendent John Deasy will embrace a portfoliostrategy in Los Angeles, commit to more charters, close bad schools, and embrace school management partners. (And Chicago will hire an outsider, Mayor Gray will keep Henderson, Pittsburgh will pick another Broadie).
Wrong (mostly), not much portfolio strategy in LA and the outside came and went in Chicago.
6. The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and Web 2.0 platforms will boost 2011-2012 venture and philanthropic investment in digital content, yielding innovative, engaging, and adaptive content libraries and related mobile apps.
Right, and how–investment over the last two years has outpaced the Internet bubble a decade ago.
7. The Common Core and Race to the Top assessments will frame the decade the way NCLB did in the 2000s. (In 2015, they will only be in year two of implementation.)
Right, seems like all CCSS all the time and looks like assessments are on track.
8. Widget-rich social interfaces will dominate personal digital learning platforms (what replaces LMS).
Right, sort of, but slower to develop than expected. There are eight groups headed toward the big platform vision (updated LMS, social learning, online learning, SLC, RttT funded IIS, adaptive instruction, assessment, and data).
9. The instant feedback from content-embedded assessment, especially learning games, simulations, virtual environments, and MMOs (massively multiplayer online games), will be widely used in formal and informal learning and will build persistence and time on task.
Not yet but content-embedded assessment will be common in 2015. Sims and games will be common, MMOs and virtual environments less so.
10. Adaptive content will result in more time on task (in some cases, two times the productive learning time over the course of a year), and better targeted learning experiences will boost achievement, particularly among low-income and minority students.
Not yet, but products like and make me confident on this one.]
11. Comprehensive learner profiles will gather keystroke data from learning platforms, content-embedded applications, as well as after-school, summer school, tutoring, and test prep providers. Students and families will manage privacy using Facebook-like profiles.
Not yet. Just wrote a paper about this and seeing some enthusiasm but this is a 2020 idea.
12. Most learning platforms will feature a smart recommendation engine, like iTunes Genius, that will build recommended learning playlists for students.
Not yet. Grade level playlists are becoming common, some customizable, and recommendation engines will drive a few by 2015.
13. Learning at home (home education and virtual charters) will triple and then plateau at 10 percent penetration.
Not yet and we won’t hit anything close to 10 percent in 2015 but we will see more micro-schools and parent coops.
14. Baby iPod vocab apps will build infant/toddler vocabulary and school readiness.
Not yet and probably not. While half of the 30,000 iPad apps are early learning, I’m less confident that mobile apps will make a big difference in school readiness.
15. Low-cost plastic networked tablets will probably be the breakthrough learning technology for the developing world.
Not yet, but likely.
16. Innovative mobile learning blends from India will be adapted/adopted by several U.S. districts.
Not yet, but likely.
17. Several pilots of merit badge systems of assessment that certify mastery of competency clusters will boost motivation, relevance, and application.
Not yet, but likely.
18. All U.S. students will have access to online courses for Advanced Placement, high-level STEM courses, and any foreign language (this should happen next year, but it will take us five years to get out of our own way).
Not yet but access will be moderately wide spread by 2015.
19. Lifestyle applications for personalized health, finance, augmented reality, and carbon footprint will be widely used in education.
Not yet and probably more 2020.
20. Distributed workforce solutions will be common in special education, STEM, AP and IB, and online learning (i.e., if you are good, you can live and teach anywhere).
Yes in speech therapy and growing in other specialties.
21. Data mining the flood of keystroke data will unlock a new field of motivation research,which will yield a set of perseverant behavior profiles–factors likely to cause students to persist through difficult work.
Not yet.
22. All of these five-year advances will be made possible by a dramatic increase in learningventure investment, including foundations joining the ranks of impact investors. Learning will no longer be a cottage industry.
Yes, big time.
23. Second-generation online learning will replace courseware with adaptive components in a digital content library (objects, lessons, units, and sequences).
Not yet but coming to a school near you. Buzz from Agilix, a project of Michigan’s EAA, is a good example. However, this is more likely to be apps on an iPad that what I had in mind.
24. Learning games, both individual and massively multiplayer online (MMO), will become part of every student’s extended day learning.
Not yet but likely for most.
25. Science will confirm the obvious about how many boys learn, and a couple of school developers will produce active learning models with playlists, projects, and expeditions.
Not yet but still may happen.
26. With nearly a decade of data, second-generation recommendation engines will drivetutoring applications more effective than one-on-one tutoring.
Will probably happen.
27. Most high school students will do most of their learning online and will attend a blended school.
Will probably be right and sooner than 2020.
28. More than one-third of all learning professionals will be in roles that do not exist today; more than 10 percent will be in organizations that do not exist today.
Still could happen but one third may be high and one tenth may be low.
29. The higher ed funding bubble will burst, and free and low-cost higher educationalternatives will displace a significant portion of third tier higher education.
Yes, MOOCs went mainstream in 2012.
30. Informal certification systems–portfolio and references–and a “show-me-what-you-have-done-lately” culture will displace some formal technical certification programs.
No question this will happen with the explosion of MOOCs in 2001.
31. The U.S. K-12 instructional materials and related technologies segment of the K-12market will double in size despite slow top-line growth.
Still think the text, testing, tutoring, and tech segment will double.
32. Many schools (maybe a fifth) will exhibit a new learner-teacher compact, featuring self-directed learning, peer tutoring, and brokered career/community connections.
Wow, this sounds groovy, probably not.
33. Blended high-tech/high-touch school models in every urban area will leverage community resources, including museums, theaters, and parks.
Not yet but high growth of flex models will make this at least partially true.
34. There will be more than $10 billion in annual school facilities sold for redevelopment as it becomes ridiculous to consider major remodels of antiquated buildings.
Not yet but may happen on a small scale.
35. As online options expand, a three-year high school experience including college credit will be common. Early college pathways to degrees/certifications in emerging industry clusters will be common.
Not yet but may happen on a small scale.
36. Several states will use performance contracting (what we call charters today) to authorize and manage the relationship with all schools and education providers.
Not yet, but should happen.
37. There will be several DIY High options–online high schools with an engaging and intuitive merit badge sequence that will allow students to take ownership of and direct their own learning. They will still benefit from adult assessment, guidance, and mentorship but in a more student-directed fashion.
Not yet, but flex model high schools are in high growth, see this story about Miami’s iPrep.
38. Business-sponsored courses will promote workforce development in emerging industry clusters.
Early indications include EverFi sponsored courses, IBM sponsored early college schools, and JFF community college projects.
39. Pharmacological learning enhancements will increasingly become an informal part of learning (i.e., Ritalin-boosted SAT scores) and will be more widely used in the future, but now I am way out of my depth.
Not yet and I have no idea.
40. Low-cost private schools will serve more than 100 million students in India, China, and Africa. Most will use low-cost mobile learning technology.
Not yet but still likely.
Two years later it looks like most of these predictions were right or are still on track (probably because they are obvious trends rather than predictions). The pivot to personal digital learning is changing the world–and you have a chance to be part of it.
This blog first appeared on EdWeek.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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