5 Important Things from 2014 Educational Summits

Blended learning. Digital literacy. Mobile learning. Game-based learning. When these top educational trends came onto the scene, they sparked a learning revolution. That revolution continued into 2014, but if there was one theme to come out of the top educational summits this year, it was this: smarter use. We take a look at exactly what that means below.

1. Build Support Networks

For many teachers, the “all-technology all-the-time” trend is exciting and empowering. For others — especially teachers who weren’t trained from the get-go with these technologies — it’s overwhelming. Even tech enthusiasts can find themselves struggling when there isn’t coordination across multiple tech initiatives.

The solution? According to many speakers at the, International Society for Technology in Education 2014 conference, it’s time to view technological initiatives as a collective effort. That means gathering teacher and student opinions before launching a new effort to ensure maximum buy-in. It also means deploying excellent IT staff across the district not just to install and distribute technology but also to check-in frequently with teaching staff and offer training sessions. Encouraging teacher-to-teacher mentoring is also essential. Leaders should do a good job of listening and offering support, while teachers should have the initiative to do their own research and to find creative use for the new tools offered.

In short: technology in the classroom should be neither top down or entirely dependent on the effort of teachers who already have a lot on their plate. It should be a collective effort, with easy access to support.

2. Understanding the Data

“Data” continues to be the educational buzzword du jour. Districts across the country are testing more than ever and data is accumulating at a rapid rate. This year, summit presenters increasingly focused on what to do with that data. At the Los Angeles Tech for Schools Summit, Riverside School District presented their Data Dash dashboard, which collects student test results, attendance data, assignments and grade for students, teachers, and parents to track collectively. Santa Ana Unified School District also presented a predictive data system implemented in 2010 that identifies warning signs and suggests interventions for struggling students.

Screenshot from EdSurge LA Tech for Schools Summit

This was also a theme that arose at ISTE, with the company MindShine’s web-based student risk assessment for K-12 schools specifically highlighted as a comprehensive solution for tracking student academic, behavioral, and extracurricular performance.

At SXSWEdu, an interesting trend was noted in an Inside Higher Ed and Gallup survey: college academics have a greater belief in the potential of adaptive learning to positively impact higher education (66%) than MOOCs (42%). This spoke to the underlying theme at this year’s conference: education needs to move towards personalization and competency-based measures of success. Collecting precise data on a student’s competencies is key to developing game plans for multi-pronged personalized learning solutions.

3. Greater Accessibility

No student should be left behind because they can’t afford an iPad or an internet connection at home, and many speakers at the 2014 education summits focused on the urgency of increasing access to students across socioeconomic lines. This was discussed in both K-12 and higher education conferences, with special emphasis at the latter placed on the need for continued access post-graduation. If MOOCs lost out in terms of personalization, they gained traction here as an excellent means of distribution.

4. Strategic Gamification

Gamification has been a big trend in education for years, even before the word “gamification” was a buzzword. At SXSWEdu, it would have been difficult to name a panel in which gamification didn’t arise. Many curriculums and courses were debuted, with a greater focus on developing highly specific skills or on responding to specific books. As discussed above, there was a greater emphasis on making use of the data gathered in these games, and in taking strategic advantage of the social opportunities games present in the wider classroom.

5. Globalization

Across the conferences the emphasis on global education continued to grow. For example, at EduCause, there was an increased presence of educators from Brazilian, Russian and Japanese institutions, and this was the case at most of the year’s conferences. This can be linked to a pressing need internationally to increase graduation rates and the increased accessibility to world class lecturers via MOOCs.

Education Trends and You

As the education revolution continues, the innovations keep coming. But perhaps more importantly, the longer educators have had to process just what can be done with these innovations, the smarter we get about using them. How have you implemented the latest trends in your classroom? Let us know in the comments below or through Twitter @Edudemic!



  1. maureenoconnellscholastic

    October 17, 2014 at 1:52 am

    When is the next summit going to take place? I was wondering if I could get a stall in the education summit for my company, it would be of great help.