K-12 education has come a long way since the days of cursive lessons, Oregon Trail and clapping erasers behind the building at recess. A recent influx of technology has resulted in a number of unprecedented changes in our classrooms, and those wheels of change are still spinning rapidly.
The rate at which our technological, cultural and creative landscapes evolve has many teachers wondering how they can cater their classrooms to the student of 2016.
"Our current system — developed during the Industrial Revolution — is not well suited for 21st Century learners," says Andrea Lyman, educator and co-founder of Lyrics2Lit.com. "Although much of the content we teach has not changed, the tools available are rapidly developing. The delivery of instruction must change."
In an effort to help you prepare your classroom for the New Year, we canvassed a panel of education experts to learn their predictions for 2016 K-12 teaching trends. Here's what we found.
It has long been reported that America's public school system is in the midst of a huge cultural shift. For the first time, the number of Latino, African-American and Asian students in public K-12 classrooms has surpassed that of non-Hispanic Caucasian students. Minority students now comprise approximately 50.3 percent of those studying in K-12 classrooms.
2016 classrooms will see greater focus on global competence skills in young students, suggests Tatum Omari, director of curriculum for Education.com. For example, teachers have begun incorporating lesson plans on various festivals that exist around the world, climate change and child soldiers. This is all in addition to efforts to increase culturally responsive pedagogy today's classrooms.
And this is a trend that's here to stay, ramping up heavily in 2016.
"[This] involves a focus on socio-emotional learning and awareness around issues of diversity, [as well as] how our increasingly diverse surroundings make it absolutely necessary to develop skills that allow one to be a culturally competent citizen," Omari says.
Long gone are the days when the most sophisticated piece of technology in the classroom was an overhead projector! K-12 classrooms in most school districts today routinely incorporate digital white boards, laptops and tablet computers. Some schools even operate under a BYOD (bring your own device) system. But that's just the beginning.
"Technology integration starting young is definitely going to pick up," Omari suggests.
She says one of the biggest challenges facing today's teachers is how to integrate technology and computer science in a way that is developmentally appropriate for younger grades yet doesn't involve a child being attached to a screen all day.
This expanded use of technology won't simply be focused on the use of devices in the classroom.
"Schools and school districts will continue to wrestle with the cloud and the implications that cloud computing has, especially for privacy," says Brad Ovenell-Carter, teacher and director of the Centre for Innovation at Mulgrave School in Vancouver, British Columbia. "We're past the point of whether or not the cloud is a good place to be — it is — and we're all trying to answer the question, 'Now what?' "
Studies show that personalized learning for K-12 students is incredibly important. Because children learn different subjects at their own pace, teachers assume the responsibility of meeting each student's educational needs. The increase in technology and personal devices in the classroom will make this shift easier, as teachers can tailor digital learning environments to meet students' needs.
"In 2016 we'll see greater focus on customized education and personalized learning programs," suggests Deborah Drago-Leaf, academic content and services manager for Xerox Corporation's Ignite Educator Support System. "[As] a natural outgrowth of data-driven education, personalized learning incorporates students' measured progress and needs, along with their strengths and interests in a manner that allows teachers to understand students at a greater depth."
This model of tapping into the specific needs of each student can translate into interest-driven curricula, an increase in literacy training and opens the door to a variety of personalized educational opportunities. Needs-based learning is transforming the way K-12 schools approach their teaching models.
The concept of multimedia teaching isn't a new one. Students have long been immersed in classrooms in which teachers use books, PowerPoints and other web tools in their teaching strategies. But today's young students are already digital natives — so how can you keep students engaged in a digital world?
"It's hard to get students to 'unplug' or put their devices aside. If you can't beat them, meet them in the middle," Lyman suggests. Using devices, music and media literacy to teach is a compromise that benefits everyone.
"Students get quickly hooked into a lesson when it begins with a short YouTube clip or song they like. Pop culture linked to the content being taught is very powerful," she says. When students feel the presentation of content is relevant to their lives and the world they know, their response can be remarkable.
Some tactical examples of this include high school teachers incorporating the podcast "Serial" into their criminal justice curricula; creating parodies of popular songs to coincide with their lesson plans; instructing students to analyze trending topics from social media platforms; and including popular memes in digital presentations.
The role of teachers includes a responsibility to tune into the trends that are surfacing in the world of K-12 education. This includes learning how to handle technology in the classroom, capturing the diminishing attention spans of students and even redesigning the classroom environment to encourage interaction and collaboration. These efforts all boil down to one key motivation: Guide students in their journey toward an effective and practical education.
Now that you're in tune with the trends our education experts see in the 2016 forecast, you can get a head start in implementing these practices in your own classrooms! If you're hungry to add an extra boost to your education repertoire, check out these 5 online teaching certifications designed to help you make an impact on 21st Century learners.