The four K–12 education tech trends emerging in 2017.

Meghan Bogardus Cortez outlined her top four K-12 education trends for 2017. Meghan is an associate editor with EdTech: Focus on K–12. She enjoys following all the ways technology is constantly changing our world.

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K–12 Google Chromebook sales surpassing 51 percent. President Obama declaring that computer science is for all. An explosion of augmented reality and virtual reality. In 2016, teachers, administrators and students truly were on the front lines of incredible tech innovation.

The good news is that all of this new technology didn’t deter educators from dabbling and experimenting with it. For example, last year teachers said they were more comfortable using technology than ever before. Twenty-four percent of teachers surveyed by Education Week even said they considered themselves to be “risk takers” in terms of tech use.

Here are four education technology issues that took center stage in 2016 and are sure to be trending in 2017:

1. Creating Future-Ready Networks for Future-Ready Students

Preparing students for the tech-based workforce proved to be an ongoing impetus for the future of K–12 education. However, this requires an influx of technology, such as the massive one-to-one Chromebook deployment for example.

A robust infrastructure — including strong wireless networks — is a requirement for supporting and sustaining any updates to education technology. Building a strong, scalable network is the first step to establishing a future-ready school. But schools should always be ready to change both their thinking and their networks for whatever the future brings.

Conversations schools are having now can not only impact the ‘now,’ but also are part of the future.

Another component of getting students ready for the future is making sure they are using tech as they might in the real world. GK thinks this is a huge reason to create a ubiquitous network. However, this can also be done with a shifting of the curriculum.

With Common Core Standards requiring that students employ technology and use devices with tremendous computing power, K–12 schools are getting even closer to recreating the working environments of the real world.

2. Embracing Computer Science Education for All Students

President Obama began 2016 by declaring computer science education to be a huge priority for U.S. schools looking to prepare students for the digital economy.

“In the coming years, we should build on that progress, by … offering every student the hands-on computer science and math classes that make them job-ready on day one,” the president said in his 2016 State of the Union address.

This program began as a means to address the lack of diversity in many tech fields.

Less than 10 percent of computer scientists are African-American or Hispanic, and only 18 percent of women major in computer science at colleges and universities, the National Science Foundation reveals.

Some educators have embraced computational thinking — thinking like a computer and using concepts of computer science to solve problems — with and without technology in order to demystify the topic for the youngest of students. Tech tools like the Minecraft: Education Edition have also given students the benefit of learning engineering skills through play.

The concept of computational thinking was also embraced by The College Board when they created AP Computer Science Principles, a high school course designed make the topic accessible for more students than ever before. The course, which launched last fall, experienced the largest AP course launch ever, with over 25,000 students participating.

3. The Power of Personalized Learning Through Tech

Technology has also allowed more teachers to provide a personalized learning experience for their students, something that New Media Consortium identified as a growing factor in embracing ed tech.

GK’s Jigsaw virtual learning platform is similar the the one used at Arlington Public Schools in suburban Washington, D.C., The platform offers the ability to collect data and get live feedback from students and teachers has fueled more engagement because students are able to choose how they learn.

The platform is the perfect tool to allow each student to take charge of his or her learning experience. Additionally, more accountability has provided better learning outcomes. Technology allows teachers to be in multiple places at a time.

4. The Virtual Future of Immersive Education

Thanks to the explosion in popularity of Pokémon Go last summer, augmented reality and virtual reality have been huge buzzwords in the education world this year.

A survey found that an overwhelming 85 percent of teachers think VR is beneficial for their classrooms, but only 2 percent are currently using it. Inroads are being made as more tools come out — and make VR application a real possibility. GK is creating its first VR music book and curriculum this year.

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US schools should take a lesson from Asia.

I just read about the results of a 2015 global education survey that shows U.S. high school students come in a dispiriting 26th out of 65 places worldwide in combined scores for math, science and reading tests.
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This latest league table, ranking more than a third of the world’s nations, shows once again the poor performance of the United States, slipping behind successful European countries and being overtaken by Vietnam. It also highlights the decline of Sweden, with the OECD warning last week that it had serious problems in its education system.

The OECD’s Program for International Assessment (PISA) suggests that while America lags, Asia soars: Out of the top 10, eight are in the Asia-Pacific region — led by Shanghai and Hong Kong in China, Singapore, South Korea and Japan.

The rise of education in Asia is no accident. It reflects deliberate policies and long-term investments that recognize the centrality of quality education to a nation’s economic growth.

After living in Singapore and witnessing their growth and progress first hand I was especially taken by the former Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong’s quote after the 2011 survey, “A nation’s wealth in the 21st century will depend on the capacity of its people to learn.” I think we should follow their lead.

I have listed a few of their key “best practices” from the most recent report that we here in the US are still only debating but should certainly adopt;

1) Rigorous standards and coherent curricula. I also saw this first hand in Japan, Asian nations establish high academic standards and a demanding school curriculum that clearly defines the content to be taught and is sequenced to build on a student’s abilities step by step. High-quality teachers and principals.

2) Teachers are routinely recruited from among the top high-school graduates and, unlike in the U.S., principals generally do not apply to become school leaders as much as they are selected and prepared to do so. There are comprehensive systems for selecting, training, compensating and developing teachers and principals — delivering tremendous skill right to the classroom.
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3) Emphasis on math and science. Math and science training begins early in primary school and rigorous courses such as biology, chemistry and physics, as well as algebra and geometry are part of a core curriculum for secondary school. Specialist teachers are often employed in elementary schools unlike “generalists” usually found in U.S. schools.

4) Time and Effort. With longer school years and sometimes longer school days, Asian students often have the equivalent of several more years of schooling by the time they finish high school than the typical American student. Asian students are also expected to work hard in school, reflecting a societal belief that developing one’s skills and knowledge reflects effort more than innate ability.

The time has come for America to learn from Asia and the world. Our ability to compete and lead in a global economy may well depend on it.