2019 Horizon Report: Connections and Reflections

Overview

The 2019 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report – Higher Education Edition (Horizon Report) was published on April 23, 2019. The Horizon Report, created by a 98 person panel, is useful as both a reference and guide for all people involved in the world of education. “With more than 17 years of research and publications, the Horizon Project can be regarded as education’s longest-running exploration of emerging technology trends that support teaching, learning, and creative inquiry” (p. 3).

It looks at key trends, significant challenges, and important developments. The Horizon Report focuses on the following questions:

Source: Educause
  • What is on the five-year horizon for higher education institutions?
  • Which trends and technology developments will drive educational change?
  • What are the critical challenges and how can we strategize solutions?

The 2019 report features a new section, Fail or Scale, not seen in years past. The report states: “In addition to forecasting the trends, challenges, and developments anticipated to impact higher education, this report includes a new section that reexamines previous panel forecasts” (p. 3). The purpose of this section is to reflect on what actually happened in the world of ed tech and assess the impact.

How does this report impact my work?

I am an elementary school STEM Coordinator in a K-5 school. I do not work in higher education. However, I am interested in the connection between higher education and K-12 learning, and I think that the different groups within the field of education could do a much better job understanding each other’s work. Regardless of age, our shared goal is to support the needs of learners, help them develop skills to be successful in all aspects of life, and to prepare students who can impact and change the world in positive ways. In his article What K-12 and Higher Education Can Learn From Each Other, Ethan S. Ake-Little (2018) writes, “While higher education needs to reinvest in a solid teaching foundation, K-12 educators would benefit from being more familiar with research from the field. K-12 instructors are often in the dark when it comes to the latest education research and pedagogical strategies.” Ake-Little (2018) goes on to discuss the importance of educators stepping outside of their comfort zones in order to create innovative solutions that benefit learners. With these ideas in mind, I chose a few points from the Horizon Report to explore.

The Evolving Roles of Faculty with
Ed Tech Strategies

One recurring theme in my recent ed tech-related readings is the need for professional development. The panelists emphasized the importance of supporting all staff members, not just those that are full time: “Panelists observed that in order for faculty to fully engage in educational technology, training [Professional development] is important, but often it’s only for full time faculty; if part-time/sessional instructors take part, it’s on their own time” (Horizon Report, 2019, p. 16). According to the Level Up Learning survey (2014), teachers note insufficient time, cost, and lack of tech resources as the greatest barriers teachers face in utilizing games in the classroom (p. 53).

While the concepts presented in Resonant Games: Design Principles for Learning Games that Connect Hearts, Minds, and the Everyday specifically address the need for ongoing professional development when incorporating game-based learning, the authors’ assertions can apply to all forms of educational technology integration:  

“Olympic athletes have coaches, trainers, dieticians, and managers, not to mention supportive friends, family, and fans…In many ways, teaching in general, and teaching with resonant games in particular, should be thought of similarly…Teaching with games is a skill that should be developed like any other, and in the education ecosystem, the necessary training and support often comes in the form of professional development.” (Klopfer et al, 2018, p. 126)

Source: Unsplash, Vytautas Dranginis

If educators at all levels are expected to facilitate the use of technology in their classrooms, they must be given the time, resources, and support in order to feel comfortable doing so.

Advancing Digital Equity

The Horizon Report defines digital equity as “comparable access to technology, particularly to broadband connectivity sufficient to access unbiased, uncensored content and to enable full participation on the World Wide Web” (p. 18) The panelists specifically focused on the lack of access to high-speed internet in rural areas: “Broadband access remains globally unequal across variables such as income, education, gender, age, ability status, and native language, as well as national, regional, and cultural dimensions” (p. 18).

To better support the needs of all students, the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) published their 2018 Digital Equity Toolkit. The toolkit’s suggestions for addressing “the homework gap,” include identifying community homework hotspots, promoting low-cost broadband offerings, deploying mobile hotspot programs, installing wifi on school buses, and building private LTE networks (p. 5 -12). The Digital Equity Toolkit (2018) also discusses the need for collaboration that involves assembling a team, developing a shared vision, assessing current resources, identifying needs, engaging the community, and developing and carrying out an action plan (p. 14 – 20).

With equitable access to technology, perhaps in the form of a 1:1 take home program with mobile hotspots, schools could better support students in game-based learning or content creation activities.

Rethinking the Practice of Teaching

As the role of teacher changes from keeper of knowledge to facilitator of learning, there is a great need for a teaching and learning overhaul. This immense, yet necessary task involves redesigning courses, incorporating digital tools, ongoing self-evaluation, and ensuring that students are at the center of the learning (p. 19) Relating back to the need for ongoing educational technology professional development, educators also need support in improving their professional practice: “Without sufficient access to sustained support and the tools and resources essential in the design of a student-centered environment, instructors are challenged to create these experiences on their own” (p. 19)

The staff at my school recently received an email from our principal discussing the upcoming hiring season. She listed a few candidate profile characteristics that our district looks for when hiring for all positions:

  • Design Thinking
  • Choice-driven work products
  • Students as producers
  • Highly collaborative with others (administration, parents, staff, students, community)
  • Achieving high levels of success
  • Understands that technology gives students choice and personalizes their learning
  • Demonstrates an openness to ongoing PD and technological changes
  • Balances human interaction with tech-driven instruction
  • Ensuring equity
  • Expanding the teaching toolbox with innovative approaches to reach all students

If organizations expect these skills in new employees, they must also expect them in current employees. In order to hold employees accountable for reaching high expectations, the organization must communicate clear guidelines, offer opportunities for growth, and facilitate collaboration among staff members.

Fail or Scale: Gaming and Gamification

As I read the Horizon Report, I was most challenged by the Gaming and Gamification: High Hopes and Campus Realities portion of the Fail or Scale reflection. I was surprised to read the negative review of gaming and gamification:

“For three years, the Horizon Report forecast that games and gamification would become a significant force in educational technology. From 2012 to 2014, the reports positioned this development in the “Two to Three Year” time-to-adoption horizon… “However, games and gamification fell off of Horizon from 2015 on. The topic never appeared again, not even as a trend seen as likely to manifest in a more distant future. Because games and gamification didn’t appear as a short-term trend in subsequent reports, nor was the topic discussed as a given, we can deduce that the Horizon collective opinion found gaming to have fallen by the wayside.” (p.38?)

Despite the growth of the gaming industry and the excitement around the work of James Paul Gee, the trend did not advance in higher education. Panel members attribute this to a variety of factors, including the 2008 financial crisis, lower academic computing budgets, the small aim of educational games, and instructors lack of knowledge. The report goes on to state that “games seem to have become a niche rich-media tool, used in a handful of classes in a small number of departments. Having students learn computer science principles through Minecraft is pedagogically fascinating, for example, but constitutes a very slight impact on an entire academic institution.” (p. 38)

Source: Flickr, Brad Flickinger

Game-based learning may not be widely accepted in higher education, but it is still a promising tool in K-12 learning. According to Level Up Learning (2014), “nearly three-quarters (74%) of K-8 teachers report using digital games for instruction. Four out of five of these teachers say their students play at least monthly, and 55% say they do so at least weekly” (p. 5). The focus is mainly on educational games, but only a few teachers are incorporating immersive educational games. In addition to providing training for teachers, Level Up Learning (2014) suggests the need for an industry-wide framework for describing and evaluating educational games, raising an awareness of the integrated and essential roles of games in learning, creating an innovative integration model for classroom gameplay, and continuing to research and share results widely (p. 57 – 59).

Reflections

As a graduate student, I am grateful for the opportunity to research and synthesize my learning during such an exciting time in education, especially in the realm of educational technology. While reading about the 2019 Horizon Report, I also discovered CoSN’s Driving K-12 Innovation Report. To continue developing my understanding of gameful learning, and education technology in general, I plan to explore this report in order to further connect to the Horizon Report. I am learning that although adult learning, higher education, and K-12 learning are all very different, they share similarities. Each area of learning has the opportunity to learn from each other and make adaptations that best meet the needs of learners at all levels.  

References

Ake-Little, E. S. (2019, February 20). What k-12 and higher education can Learn from each
other. Edweek. Retrieved April 25, 2019, from  https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles
/2018/09/19/what-k-12-and-higher-education-can-learn.html

Consortium for School Networking. (2019). Driving k-12 innovation. Retrieved April 25, 2019,
from https://www.cosn.org/k12innovation

Consortium for School Networking. (2018). 2018 digital equity toolkit. Retrieved April 25, 2019,
From https://cosn.org/sites/default/files/2018%20Digital%20Equity%20Toolkit%20
FINAL_0.pdf

Educause. (2019, April 23). 2019 horizon report. Retrieved April 24, 2019, from https://library.educause.edu/-/media/files/library/2019/4/2019horizonreport.pdf?la=en&ha
sh=C8E8D444AF372E705FA1BF9D4FF0DD4CC6F0FDD1

Klopfer, E., Haas, J., Osterweil, S., & Rosenheck, L. (2018). Resonant games: Design principles
for learning games that connect hearts, minds, and the everyday.
Cambridge, MA: The
MIT Press.

Takeuchi, L. M., & Vaala, S. (2014). Level up learning: A national survey on teaching with digital
games. New York: The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop.

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