Trends, Disruptive Innovation, and Decision Making: A look at foreign language classrooms, and much more
Education trends help leaders make decisions about best practices in delivering education. This post seeks to identify several key trends in education and in business that are driving change in US schools. It examines the changing nature of classroom instruction and teacher roles, and offers considerations to administrators about how students view their learning options, what motivates them and teachers, and types of technology integration that can help and hurt student outcomes. This paper also points out trend effects on second language learning classrooms with regard to those trends mentioned.
Technology Trends in Education
The learning landscape is shifting away from teacher-centered education to a hybrid of technology-rich classrooms and face-to-face instruction. The new, blended classroom model appeals to the learning preferences of students through the use of technology and is redefining the role of teachers (Horn, 2015). Decision makers recognize the need to rewrite policies as teaching trends influence the direction of K-12 education. (Johnson, 2015).
In 2011 leaders predicted by the year 2016 the role of teachers would look different. They projected dramatic increases in on-line education resources and their effect on how, where, and when students collaborate – all of which have come true (Johnson, 2011). Administrators must determine which new learning models, devices and curriculum best meet the needs of their students, faculty, and finances. Leaders must also watch how innovations negatively impact the market to avoid making bad investments. Buyers beware of computer programs like Flash, browser based software, and over weighted Learning Management Systems, for example, that are losing their positions in the market as HTML, cloud technologies, and mobile learning (mLearning) products grow (Timothy, 2016).
In 2011, trends indicated technology providers would see unprecedented competition as they worked to meet the changing expectations of schools (Johnson, 2011). Some of education’s biggest technology providers are actually causing these changes with their disruptive technologies – game changers that make teaching easier, more effective, and less expensive. Apple and Alphabet (the parent company of Google) currently rank 1 and 2 in market capitalization (Meeker, 2015) and battle for education market share. As predicted, technology innovation has become extremely competitive. Google recently surpassed Apple in market value according to Meeker’s 2015 Internet Trend Report; a position Apple held since 2011 (Meeker, 2011). In February 2016, Google took the market lead according to Morgan Stanley Capital reported by Quartz, an online business news feed (Backman, 2016).
Both companies and others have added to the blended learning environment in recent years. Apple’s iPad transformed classrooms by unseating textbooks and computers as the go-to device for learning. In December 2015, CNBC reported Google products made up over half of the devices found in classrooms, rising from 1% to 53% in less than three years (Taylor, 2016). Google’s recent release of Google Classroom (learning management software) in its education suite of products, along with its well established, “sharable” online collaboration software (all free) has connected students with the world of cloud based learning, another major trend in managing and delivering information in schools (Johnson, 2012).
In 2009, NMC Horizon Report K-12 Edition first predicted cloud computing would be well adopted by 2012, ranking it in the 3-5 years growth category. (Johnson, 2009). By 2011, reports indicated cloud computing for IT functions was a trend to watch, and on the rise (Johnson 2012), however, today, Horizon reports “according to the “Cloud 401 Report,” 35% of IT services today are delivered completely or partially by cloud, providing an infrastructure that supports collaborative activities” (Johnson, 2015 p. 12), This number is less than expected. IT cloud services in the business market are another story.
Although many predictions about disruptive technology have been accurate, others have fallen short. In spite of the growth of the gaming industry and research suggesting its worth in the classroom, gaming in education has not found a foot hold as anticipated (Johnson, 2010). For learning, students prefer a mixed amount of mobile technology and face-to-face instruction (Dahlstrom, 2014). The news is not new to administrators. As far back as 2009, students have reported the preference of face-to-face instruction and technology based learning in the classroom (Smith, 2009).
Another area of interest is credit recovery; online courses used to regain credits from missed or failed coursework. Although the trend for schools to provide this option has been well documented (Horn, 2015), research is now showing the results are less than stellar for some students. A large study in the Chicago schools recently reported their online credit recovery program is yielding poor results. Students reported “they liked math less and had lower confidence in math afterward”. The program showed a higher failure rate and scores of 10 points less on average than students in the same class taught face-to-face. Finally, the overall costs to the school district, which at first appeared to be less, ultimately cost more after paying teachers to proctor. On the positive side, groups where a mentor trained in the subject helped students while taking the course online scored higher, supporting the blended classroom model (Kamenetz, 2016).
Blended Learning in Foreign Language Education
Education trends show that a blended learning environment enhances student learning because it provides flexibility and access to content on demand. (Thouesny, 2011). For students learning English as a second language, some report that the tools provide better learning experiences (Wasoh, 2016). Students surveyed at the college level ranked teachers higher if they were proficient using the technology in blended classes (Salaway, 2006). The debate for administrators is less about if blended learning is a good investment and more about how to create a viable, sustainable plan for delivering consistent content and teacher training while also motivating teachers to change their roles.
Administrators can look at emerging technology trends for factors that motivate teachers, such as the ability to collaborate with other teachers which extends their digital reach (Johnson, 2010). This, and other factors including, encouraging teachers to specialize, teaching in teams, credentialing for skills mastery, and granting teachers authority to manage the disruptive technologies they feel best suit their students are determined to motivate teachers in blended classrooms (Horn, 2015 p.179-181). This general approach is important to the success of teachers; however, additional considerations also matter for second language teachers.
Blending technology into classrooms may seem easy with the availability of cloud technology and mobile devices, but administrators need to closely examine the best fit in foreign language classes. Here, educators have long recognized that the stages of learning cannot be accelerated or skipped. Students learn language at their own pace (Willingham, 2009). This may limit which resources will produce the best outcomes at various stages of learning language. Although much research has been done about using technology in the classroom, very little in comparison is available about the efficacy of blended learning for second language instruction (Golonka, 2014).
Popular belief suggests students learn better with technology they believe matches their learning style. In the book Why Students Don’t Like School, Willingham, whose basis is the cognitive science of learning notes that the theory, (matching the preferred modality) “… doesn’t give the student any edge in learning” (Willingham, 2009. P. 156). However, it may improve their level of engagement, and how they enjoy learning (seeing it as easy or fun) as reported by language students using the online software Duolingo for foreign language learning (Meeker, 2014 p. 27). Willingham adds that technology does have other specific benefits for foreign language learners (2009).
Between 2011 and 2016, education advisors identified [technology that makes the teacher/student relationship more easily established] as number one in importance among trends (Johnson, 2015). Willingham points to two other important factors students say influence learning in the classroom; both of which are enhanced by blended learning: an emotional relationship between teacher and student, and the student’s perception of a teacher’s ability to remain organized (2009).
Administrators should consider how the trends, such as the growth in online learning and learning management systems, i.e. Google Classroom, which are typical at the collegiate level (Dahlstrom, 2012), can aide language teachers in staying organized, and personalizing instruction for necessary rote knowledge in language development. These trends suggest innovative tools can support the new role of language teachers as teaching coaches, while helping students enjoy the drudgery of learning a new language. More importantly, the right technology may preserve the students’ relationship with their teacher, possibly improving their perception of his or her kindness, which students rank as the mark of a good instructor (Willingham, 2009).
Schools are very unique. Implementation requires a commitment by the teacher, technology department, and school administrators. Disruptive technology alone is not enough to transform how students learn language. It must be coupled with forward thinking about how students can learn better. Based on trends and students’ natural learning processes, the ideal foreign language program in K-12 schools might include iPads and practice apps at the earliest grades, when children rely on adults the most, and transition to online courses delivered through mobile devices during high school, when they need adults the least. In either case, the teacher remains with the students but moves from the center of instruction as the teacher, to the sidelines, as the coach.
During the crucial, middle school years, foreign language classrooms introduce different disruptive technologies. What matters most is not what, but how these technologies change the students’ connection with the information they learn. Flipped lessons, online resources, and learning management systems all ease students toward independent learning and support their individual needs and preferences.
The influence from these trends is helping schools redesign their foreign language programs to improve both interest and outcomes. Prince of Peace Catholic School in Hoover Alabama is proposing splitting their middle school language arts program to offer both an online model and a blended classroom. The online model, attended by students on site at the same time as the traditional course, will include a teaching coach, and the traditional Spanish class will add flipped lessons and online practice apps. Students will also receive credit for personal learning contributions such as self-created vocabulary quizzes of terms not taught in class, and video diaries used for demonstrating practice.
Following trends in education can help administrators make good investments in technology and professional development for teachers. Growing evidence suggests the role of teachers is changing. Administrators should consider the new landscape as a step toward offering more personalized instruction that compliments students’ existing knowledge and use of technology.
As the role of teacher moves from teacher-centered to student-centered, administrators should choose technologies that can be sustained as market changes occur. These technologies should provide benefits known to motivate teachers and students, and include adequate training in their use. Particular attention should be given to hybrid teaching methods that combine face-to-face time and technology, in ways that enhance organization and adapt to students’ learning pace. Finally, although technology advances make some disruptive technology a good choice in education, administrators should choose carefully to ensure modalities do not interfere with the learning process.
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