3 Inevitable Changes Coming To A Classroom Near You

The following post is brought to you by the fine folks over at Chegg. Chegg is the academic hub that helps students save time, save money and get smarter! Want to learn more? Check out the below article and visit Chegg by clicking here.

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.

Cheaper Everything

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.


  1. @Tiny_Dantz

    July 17, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    Jeff, Any thoughts on the future of web video in classrooms? Are many classrooms still blocking YouTube? That’s where so much of the good content is but conventional wisdom is that “most” or “many” classrooms can’t see it. Is this still true, or changing? Is the YouTube for Schools Initiative working? The YouTube alternatives like School Tube or Teacher Tube are good enough for teachers sharing with their own students, but what about accessing content from professionals. The various NSDL offerings have some great content, but you find far on almost any topic on YouTube.

    We at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology post many educational videos at //www.youtube.com/user/LabofOrnithology and we are wondering how many classrooms can’t see them. Also, we are proposing new formal education projects for which we have even more concern about YouTube.

  2. Wendy Levine

    July 17, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    Great article! Worth noting that textbook prices are not competitive when there is an adoption process in place. Here in California, for example, textbook programs adopted by the state tend to charge school districts the same price based on what funds the state is providing for textbook purchases. For example, if the state were to give each district $100 per student for Language Arts materials, that’s what all of the publishers will charge. The schools don’t get to keep “extra” textbook funds for use in other areas, so there’s no reason for them go with the cheapest textbook program.

  3. Christin Crow

    July 17, 2012 at 5:50 pm

    I am a high school teacher who was part of the book selection committee that purchased books this past month.

    The article mentioned cheaper. This is not what we found. When we compared the cost of on-line books to the print versions the print versions were cheaper. Every single company that we looked at bundled their online books for 6 or 7 years. The cost of this was virtually the same as the cost of a print book. Next add in the cost of purchasing a classroom set, so that students can have access to books in the classroom. For a larger school this might be a 1:6 or even 1:7 cost, but for smaller schools this is a 1:3 or 1:2 ratio.

    Purchasing on-line books might be a wonderful idea if you know for sure that in six years your school is going to have the money to buy a complete new set, however it is a BAD idea if your school is hurting for money. The reality in our area is that most text books must last a long as possible. The books used in the three different history classes, I teach were printed in 1994, 1999, and 2002. The only reason we are purchasing books this year is because there was a huge change in the standards.

    We seriously looked at the e-book,s but there is no way that we felt safe purchasing them. In seven years, I will still have a print book for my each of my students to use. If we had went with the on-line version, six years from now when they turned off the access codes, what would we be using???? There is no guarantee that six years from now there will be more money to rebuy the online package and even if there were, there is other books in the school that will need to be replaced. I would safely estimate that right now the newest books in our school are 2003.