May 16, 2016

zSpace: Going Outside the Lanes

The New Media Consortium (NMC), together with the Consortium for School Networking (COSN), recently released their annual K12 Horizon Report, an international report which is useful for educators contemplating how much they have accomplished or where to go next with their technology initiatives. According to the NMC, “The NMC Horizon Report series charts the five-year horizon for the impact of emerging technologies in school communities across the globe.” And this report has been around a long time. “With more than 13 years of research and publications, it can be regarded as the world’s longest running exploration of emerging technology trends and uptake in education.” The full report can be accessed here.

Although the K12 Horizon report largely speaks for itself, in this post I will offer a bit of translation, along with a new twist for thinking about this venerable report. With full disclosure, I served as one of the 50+ panelists who developed this report over many months. Serving as an expert panelist for the Horizon K12 report, I can add beneficial nuance to the findings, from an inside perspective.

Important developments in technology for K12 schools world-wide

The first pages of the Horizon Report observe some of the most important developments making an auspicious appearance in K12 schools, with promising implications for the near, short and far term. (I highlighted some of these developments in bold typeface so I can address them later. See panel 1.)

Observable trends in technology for K12 schools world-wide
Another section of the Horizon Report focuses on keenly observable trends in K12 schools, again with promising implications for the near, short and far term ‘landing’ of those trends. (Again, some are highlighted in bold typeface for later discussion. See panel 2.)

Technology Challenges Facing Schools

In its final pages, the 2015 Horizon report devotes considerable ink to identifying some of the stubborn obstacles currently facing K12 technology efforts. These obstacles are divided into three categories: solvable (those we understand and know how to solve); difficult (those we understand, but any solution remains complex); and wicked (those that are exceedingly difficult to define, let alone solve. See panel 3.)

When reviewing the K12 Horizon Report, it is always heartening to see a trend or development come across the radar that validates one of your existing technology initiatives. Such is the case with 3D and virtual reality. It is also insightful to see a yet untraveled pathway beckoning us, crying out for our future technology investment. But do you ever feel like the technology journey is so daunting? That the sheer number of technology choices or lanes is overwhelming? I certainly feel that way at times! Still, there is hope. You see, sometimes a single technology can have a broader impact, cover a richer swathe of learning experiences, than we think. In this way, an innovative technology can pack a bigger instructional punch than we originally imagine.

Here’s just one example. One technology drawing consistent crowds at educational conferences for the last three years is the zSpace STEM LabzSpace is a Silicon Valley company offering what I call “a near-holographic hardware platform,” one which really turns heads. Last year, the zSpace STEM Lab earned best of show award at the huge ISTE ed-tech conference in Philadelphia. (It will certainly again be featured at the ISTE 2016 conference here in Denver.) The zSpace STEM Lab is a unique visualization technology, but more importantly, it demonstrates how a single technology can exemplify many of the possibilities found in the Horizon Report. In next week’s post we’ll take a closer look at how a 3D product like the zSpace STEM Lab can cover a lot of bases. Stay tuned…

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