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It’s hard to read the tea leaves of education technology. You never really know what the classroom of the upcoming year will look like in terms of technology. Will iPads be all the rage? Will videoconferencing replace face-to-face office hours? Would a smartphone app be the new way to turn in homework? Who knows?
That’s when I tried a new way to figure out what’s coming down the pipeline of edtech: I took a hard look at what the big edtech companies are doing today to change the classroom of tomorrow. This all started when I was chatting with a few folks from Chegg who explained how they’re growing into an ‘academic hub’ rather than just the textbook renting service that got them started.
Quite simply, they (and other companies) needed to adapt to a changing technological environment. The iPad was unleashed, smartphones got more popular, wi-fi was everywhere… and Chegg was selling printed textbooks. Not quite as sexy. Still necessary, but not as sexy.
So what does this tell us about the overall future of education, you may ask? Seeing how large companies react to technology is a near-perfect analogy to how classrooms will react to technology. Sure, there are key differences like profit, age levels, and other details that make the two different.
But overall, it’s not a secret that you can predict the future of education technology by analyzing what tech companies are doing right now. So here’s my 3 biggest predictions for what’s coming to a classroom near you, based on how companies are acting right now:
The Move From Print To Digital
There’s a change happening right now. Everyone’s talking about it. But not everyone is on board. Such is the usual manner in which change occurs. In my opinion, it started before the introduction of the iPad.
It started in September 2007 with the initial release of the ePub format. This open and free e-book standard really woke up even the sleepiest of academic institutions. After about a year, many schools had at least experimented with the ePub format and were looking for ways to implement it.
Then came the tablet wars. It’s well known that the ePub format does not completely mesh with the iPad. Or at least it’s not what caused Apple to develop the tablet in the first place. But the iPad has played a key role in ePub whether Apple likes it or not.
The iPad shined a light on the digital print format like never before. And it’s never been the same since. Companies have sprouted up to support digital publishing, ePub conversion, and an array of other solutions.
So what does ePub and the iPad mean for education in the coming years? It means students will soon expect their books to be delivered in under a minute, not a few days via FedEx. It means teachers will be able to write their own textbooks with relative ease. It means the role of technology will continue to soar as adoption of digital publishing continues in tandem. In short, it means everything to the world of education.
Private Social Networks
Facebook is ginormous. It’s unwieldy and there are more and more rumblings about the things they’re doing to monetize. I can’t say I blame Facebook for going public, but I don’t plan on being surprised when they spend more time on advertising / monetizing new features than on customer satisfaction.
So what’s a school to do? Embrace the new Facebook For Schools perhaps? Start their own social network?
If you take a look at what companies like Path are doing, it’s becoming quite apparent that the future of social networking will be smaller, more intimate, and less overwhelming.
Companies like Edmodo are paving the way for this right now as they provide social networks for individual classrooms. This environment is more conducive to one-on-one learning, tutoring, and help in a controlled, safe environment.
More importantly, knowing that the company providing the social network isn’t merely interested in extracting as much money from you as possible… is a big win in my book.
The education technology market is becoming white-hot and extremely competitive. When companies try to outdo each other, classrooms win. From the cost of buying textbooks, purchasing school supplies, and new-found love of technology, it’s clear that companies are starting to set their sites on the education vertical.
Edudemic has been humming along since April 2010 and it’s been quite obvious over that period that companies are slowly starting to take a chance on education. By having more companies providing more options and products to teachers, the lower prices will become.
So whether you like it or not, companies are a big part of education and technology. In fact, they’re a great way to figure out what’s coming down the pipeline in terms of products, technology advancements, and the future of learning.