• 3D Printing, Gamification To Impact STEM Education Within 3 Years

    A new report from the Horizon Project has identified the 12 technologies will have a significant impact on STEM+ education over the next five years.

    The use of big data, instruction through mobile devices, online learning (including MOOCs), and virtual and remote laboratories that emulate real ones are the technologies that will have the greatest impact on "STEM+" education over the next year. These are the findings of a group of global experts who weighed in on emerging technologies that will most influence education over the next five years. STEM+ covers the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) as well as additional skills for applying knowledge of those subjects in the real world.

    A report compiled by a consortium of organizations identified 12 technologies that will dominate conversations in education through 2018, as well as the top trends and challenges that will affect these shifts as they unfold.

    The 28-page "Technology Outlook for STEM+ Education 2013-2018: An NMC Horizon Project Sector Analysis" was released as a collaborative effort among four organizations: the Austin, TX-based New Media Consortium (NMC); Madrid-based Centro Superior para la Enseñanza Virtual (CSEV); the Departamento de Ingeniería Eléctrica, Electrónica y de Control at the Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED), an international distance education university based in Spain; and IEEE, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Education Society.

    As with previous NMC Horizon Projects, this one called on "acknowledged experts" — 39 of them to be precise — to review and comment on dozens of articles, reports, essays, RSS feeds, and other materials pertaining to emerging technology. Then the participants used a wiki to address research questions. That input drove a consensus-building process where selections were then prioritized through an iterative ranking system to derive the final results.

    The Project declared that four technologies would enter mainstream use in the next year:

    • Learning analytics, the use of data to improve student retention and provide more personalized instruction;
    • Mobile learning, facilitating education through mobile devices;
    • Online learning, which is undergoing massive "experimentation" to uncover "solutions [for] assessment and learning at scale that are completely fresh and new"; and
    • Virtual and remote laboratories, Web applications that emulate the operation of real labs to allow students to "practice" experiments without the use of physical components.

    Over the next two to three years, four additional technologies will come to the forefront:

    • 3D printing, for modeling and prototyping;
    • Games and gamification, to motivate and train students;
    • Immersive learning environments, to mimic realistic situations in training students and providing new ways for them to practice their skills; and
    • Wearable technology, such as Google Glass, to generate new kinds of data that can be integrated into learning experiences.

    Within four to five years, the following technologies will emerge:

    • Flexible displays, such as screens that are pliable and can be folded or wrapped around curved surfaces;
    • The Internet of Things, in which objects can communicate information about themselves through a network;
    • Machine learning, computers that can "act and react without being explicitly programmed to do so"; and
    • Virtual assistants, new ways of interacting with computing devices.