By Nanda Krish, AV Network

2016 was a remarkable year for the edtech space—platforms and content pushed the bleeding edge of technology; analytics improved, allowing for more customized and personalized learning experiences; and student-driven learning opportunities took classrooms by storm. But for all of the gains made, 2017 is poised to be even more significant as data and technology platforms give developers additional ways to customize and optimize the learning experience. Here are the top five exciting edtech trends to look for in 2017:

5. Teacher-Directed Development

Modern technology simplifies tracking analytics, requesting feedback, and patching issues on the fly. In the edtech space, the ability to gather data quickly from the technology provides unique benefits to educators. Teachers are not mere passive consumers; they are the drivers of material. Because teachers bring content to students, they are best equipped to tell developers what works and what does not work in the classroom. By giving feedback from direct experience with a product or data gathered from analytics, teachers will be positioned to shape edtech content development.

In 2017, as edtech becomes even more integrated for teachers and administrators, the power will further shift into teachers’ hands. They will become the hand that steers what, how, and why learning materials are developed.

“Teacher-directed development is a trend we believe will extend beyond classroom products and content. Just as teachers know what works best for their own classrooms, they also know where they need to develop professionally, and the traditional one-size fits all model of professional development based on seat-time is no longer effective,” says Jason Lange, CEO & Co-founder of BloomBoard. “In 2017, teachers are poised to drive their own professional development via micro-credentials, a competency-based approach to growth that focuses on demonstrated mastery of critical skills.”

4. Accessibility

Accessibility is an evolving issue for technology and edtech in particular. If the technology is not accessible to all students, then it is not an effective learning tool. Some industries, such as video games, have made strides in this area while other industries remain woefully behind by offering solutions only in custom or specific situations.

However, because edtech impacts the success of future generations, the accessibility issue is one that the industry is taking seriously. In 2017, content and platform developers will push this even further, building for digital equity and students with special needs. This will come via two paths. First, new products and content will be built with a range of accessibility needs in mind. Second, existing products will be upgraded to meet or exceed the latest accessibility standards.

3. Mobile Learning & Collaboration

For many years, edtech focused entirely on a single workstation–users either installed software or used a web-enabled platform. However, the integration of mobile devices into everyday life has created a paradigm shift in the edtech sector. Through Bluetooth and local wi-fi connectivity, the content delivery method and the way content is experienced have shifted.

Mobile devices are becoming the central learning platform rather than functioning as supplemental tools for a workstation experience. By bringing edtech content into the mobile space, teachers and administrators will shift the way learning is accomplished. This shift enables more project-based learning through individual devices, all of these seamlessly integrated into the classroom. Connectivity is the next big step, as it enables multiple levels of collaboration–not just teacher-to-student but also student-to-student as peers collaborate on the same project.

2. Personalized Learning

Edtech developers have allowed for flexible content, or material that adapts to students’ needs based on real-time user feedback and data. This is a far cry from where computer-based learning was even a decade ago, when it was essentially a solitary and static experience in front of a workstation. In 2017, technology will advance the idea that students can set their own pace, letting them move quickly past familiar topics while digging deeper in problem areas.

This methodology benefits both the teacher and students by putting teachers in a role more akin to a coach, thus creating a customized path for the student’s individual needs. As analytics, metadata, and feedback become more integrated into curriculum, this “invisible” learning data becomes the latest step in technology personalizing the learning experience and creating individual paths to success.

1. Virtual and Augmented Reality

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) took center stage in the technology world in 2016, from the extremely successful Pokemon Go AR app to various VR devices, such as Google Cardboard. However, these platforms are not just for gaming and military applications. In 2016, the edtech sector began exploring the exciting possibilities presented by VR and AR, and this will only continue in 2017. The possibilities are endless here, from augmented classroom experiences to virtual reality recreations of historical events.

Looking Ahead

These five trends represent the most exciting paths on the edtech horizon in 2017. However, sometimes the biggest breakthroughs are the unexpected ones, so while we may be talking about VR or mobile integration now, all it takes is one spark of creativity to deliver an unexpected new technology. Keep an eye on these trends but stay tuned; you never know when technology is going to surprise you with something wonderful.

Nanda Krish is the CEO of Wisewire.

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