Important Developments in Education Technology

The NMC Horizon Report: 2015 K-12 Edition report, based on the opinions of 56 experts, identified six important developments in technology that will support innovation and change in education within the next five years.

Developments in Technology

Near-Term – Time-to-Adoption Horizon: One Year or Less


BYOD refers to the practice of students/faculty bringing their own mobile devices with them to the learning environment. BYOD Adoption is growing rapidly as was evidenced in a 2014 Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) survey that found that 81% of respondents either had a BYOD policy in place or were planning to deploy one.


Makerspaces are workshops where tech enthusiasts meet, share, and explore electronic hardware, manufacturing and mechanical tools, and programming techniques and tricks. They are increasingly being looked to as a method for engaging learners in creative, higher-order problem-solving through hands-on design, construction, and iteration. School leaders are considering the addition of makerspaces into the formal learning environment to encourage students and teachers to act on their ideas and explore design thinking from start to finish.

Mid-Term – Time-to-Adoption Horizon: Two to Three Years

3D Printing

3D printing refers to technologies that construct physical objects from three-dimensional (3D) digital content such as 3D modeling software, computer-aided design (CAD) tools, computer-aided tomography (CAT), and X-ray crystallography. 3D printing for education is that it enables more authentic exploration of objects and concepts that may not be readily available to schools. 3D printing has already begun being used in some schools , but for it to gain additional traction in schools adequate training is needed to ensure teachers and students have the digital competency needed to turn their ideas into reality.


Adaptive Learning Technologies

Adaptive learning technologies refer to software and online platforms that adjust to individual students’ needs as they learn. Many school leaders envision these adaptive platforms as new, patient tutors that can provide personalized instruction on a large scale. There are two levels to adaptive learning technologies — the first platform reacts to individual user data and adapts instructional material accordingly, while the second leverages aggregated data across a large sample of users for insights into the design and adaptation of curricula.

Far-Term – Time-to-Adoption Horizon: Four to Five Years

Digital Badges

Digital badges are being implemented to help track, capture, and visualize learning in a way that incentivizes students. More schools are looking to digital badges as an alternative method of validating formal and informal achievements, not just for students, but for teachers, too. While badges are not yet pervasive in education, they are being used by educators that are seeking comprehensive approaches to demonstrate a student’s learning path.


Wearable Technology

Wearable technology refers to computer-based devices that can be worn by users. Today’s wearables not only track where a person goes, what they do, and how much time they spend doing it, but now what their aspirations are and when those can be accomplished. As wearable technologies become more sophisticated, teachers are finding unique ways to integrate them into classrooms.

Additional education technology developments likely to impact education include:

Consumer Technologies

> 3D Video

> Drones

> Electronic Publishing

> Quantified Self

> Robotics

> Tablet Computing

> Telepresence


Digital Strategies

> Flipped Classroom

> Location Intelligence

> Preservation/Conservation Technologies


Internet Technologies

> Cloud Computing

> Networked Objects

> Semantic Applications

> Syndication Tools


Learning Technologies

> Learning Analytics

> Mobile Learning

> Online Learning

> Open Licensing

> Virtual and Remote Laboratories

Social Media Technologies

> Crowdsourcing

> Online Identity

> Social Networks


Visualization Technologies

> Augmented Reality

> Information Visualization

> Visual Data Analysis

> Volumetric and Holographic Displays


Enabling Technologies

> Affective Computing

> Electrovibration

> Flexible Displays

> Machine Learning

> Mesh Networks

> Mobile Broadband

> Natural User Interfaces

> Near Field Communication

> Next-Generation Batteries

> Open Hardware

> Robotics

> Speech-to-Speech Translation

> Virtual Assistants

> Wireless Power

While some of these tech developments can already be considered mainstream, many more are just beginning to gain traction and acceptance in education. It will be important to monitor these developments, as they will likely help alter the education landscape as we know it.

Download the full NMC Horizon Report

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