10 Educational Trends to Watch in 2016

Each year I put together a list of 10 educational trends that we can expect to gain even more traction in the upcoming year. 2016 will be no different. This year I find many familiar trends, some that first made my list five to ten years ago, but now they are gaining momentum and are likely to garner more startup and grant funding, not to mention finding their way in some of the more innovative schools and classrooms around the world. With that said, I confess that some of my predictions from last year were somewhat premature. Several of them are making their way to the list again. I was just a little bit too far ahead of the curve. Let’s see how I do in 2016. Without those clarifications and caveats, here are my 10 educational trends to watch in 2015.

Educational Trend #1 – Assessment Beyond Testing

With President Obama himself speaking out about our need to get over the testing craze, we now have a growing conversation on the power and possibility of assessment. Look for greater attention to formative assessment innovations, those checks and feedback loops that actually help people learn and monitor their progress.

Educational Trend #2 – The Melding of Formative & Summative Assessment

This will not be the defining year for the melding of formative and summative assessment, but there will be significant growth in this area. At minimum, more people will come to understand what I mean by a statement like, “the melding of formative and summative assessment.” They will begin to see how and why this is possible, and what affordances it might bring about. As people discover the power of assessment innovations plus learning analytics and  trend #3 (games and learning), we start to discover that traditional and standardized testing may eventually not be necessary at some point. We will be able to garner such a rich and accurate profile of each learner through this ongoing formative assessment and collection of learner data, that we just don’t need those old-fashioned tests. This will not happen in 2016, but you will see new and louder voices pointing us to such a future…along with some possible startups and products that help is better imagine the possibilities.

Educational Trend #3 – Games & Learning

I’m talking about the full gamut here: educational simulations, gamification principles, game-based learning software, game design in the classroom and more. This has been gaining traction for well over a decade and now we are seeing a new round of startups and thought-leaders in the area who are doing something with it. It includes everything from the low-tech to the uber high-tech and it will be a standard part of the typical classroom in the future. For 2016 though, just look for growing interest and some shining models of what will be.

Educational Trend #4 – Virtual Reality

We are probably 2-5 years out of this one really gaining ground, but with a couple of solid virtual reality products hitting or extending in the market in 2016, we are sure to see early adopters and innovators starting to explore and try out some educational applications. In time, this has incredible potential to turn previously abstract lessons into immersive and concrete learning experiences. Put this with games-based learning and assessment innovations and we have a glimpse into schools of the future, not to mention workforce development and training beyond formal schooling.

Educational Trend #5 – Alternative Education

Alternative education is, interestingly, finding its way closer to the mainstream. Watch the rapid expansion and duplication of any number of alternative schooling models. I’ve written about Acton Academy which has new schools starting each year. There are a half dozen others expanding as well. By the end of 2016, expect a dozen more such models replicating themselves. Eventually, anyone living near a city of 200,000+ will have at least a couple alternative education options available to them.

Educational Trend #6 – Self-Directed Learning & Learning Outside the Walls of School

I put it on my list in 2015 and I place it in 2016 as well. Even the 2016 National Educational Technology Plan recognizes the importance of learning independent of formal schooling and curriculum. Watch new grants, competitions, and experiments further push this closer to mainstream conversations in education. School can be impactful, but all those learning opportunities outside of school are putting some at a clear advantage.

Educational Trend #7 – Strength-based Education

2016 will have plenty of debates and conversations rooted in a deficiency model of education (fixing kids), but the strength-based education research and movement continues to grow. More people see its possibilities and benefits, nd families consistently want that for their kids, not to mention adults who are trying to figure out how to maximize their impact while earning a living wage.

Educational Trend #8 – Online Identity Management + Show Your Work

If you want to see the future of the employment search, networking and talent management; look no further than LinkedIn. What they are doing is paving the way for a future where it is not just about your credentials but it is about your networks and ability to how what you have accomplished and what you can accomplish. Austin Kleon’s book, Show Your Work, was spot on, and we are going to see a wealth of more people begin to recognize and invest in learning how to do this for themselves in 2016. This is the concept of a portfolio blended with social networking and big data, and it is going to be big. While not all that will happen in 2016, more people will start to see where all this is going, and that will be the beginning of the “show your work” revolution for employment.

Educational Trend #9 – The Edupreneur

Related to #8, the educator with an entrepreneurial spirit is finding his and her way in this new connected world. She is self-publishing, building a list of clients and a speaking agenda, creating valued resources, and more. Expect to see a growing market of such edupreneurs in 2016, showing up in social media and beyond.

Educational Trend #10 – Social Video

This might seem anti-climactic, but Google Hangouts, Skype and all the others are going to a new level in 2016. I’ve pointed to Blab as a model, but we are seeing a new phase of video interaction online, a sort of Google Hangouts meets Twitter and the 1990s chat rooms. Look for this to have a growing group of fans and experiments in the education crowd in 2016.

There you have it. Those are my 10 educational trends for 2016. There are plenty of others to watch as well, but these are a good starting point. As with my past lists, keep in mind that I’m not claiming these will all be mainstream in the current year, but this will be a defining year for their growth, expansion and impact.

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About Bernard Bull

Dr. Bernard Bull is the author of Missional Moonshots, Assistant Vice President of Academics, Associate Professor of education, and a frequent keynote speaker and consultant on topics related to educational innovation and entrepreneurship, futures in education, and the intersection of education and digital culture.

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