Most Anticipated Back-to-School Technology Tools (2013)

Fun with pencils

For the fourth year in a row, I’ve asked educators to tell me which technology they’re most eager to bring with them into their classrooms this fall. Hardware or software. A new technology, or just something that’s new to their classroom. And here are the results:

2013’s Top 3 Tools

1. iPad
2. Google Apps for Education
3. Smartphones

Favorites from Previous Years

2012:
1. Instructure Canvas
2. Google+
3. iPad

2011:
1. Google+
2. Edmodo
3. iPad

2010:
1. iPad
2. Twitter
3. Google Apps for Education

Some Thoughts

While this is by no means a scientific survey (I simply made a Google Form and tweeted a link inviting educators to participate) and the sample size is pretty small (77 responses), the results, particularly year-to-year comparisons of the results, are still pretty interesting. At the risk of reading far too much into things, here are handful of observations about this year’s survey:

  • Many of the respondents noted that their schools had recently adopted BYOD initiatives, and I think that “smart phones” was one of the most popular responses probably reflects that.
  • There seemed to be an increased excitement for devices in general – tablets (iPads and otherwise), e-readers, Apple TVs, and so on. Over a third of the respondents listed a piece of hardware as their “most anticipated technology.” But overwhelmingly, it's tablets that educators are talking about.
  • Nobody mentioned laptops.
  • The “Maker Movement” continues to penetrate the classroom, with many teachers excited to bring tools like Arduinos, Makey Makeys, and Raspberry Pis back-to-school with them. On the Web literacy side of making, Mozilla’s “Popcorn Maker” also earned some shout-outs.
  • Although there wasn’t a clear preference in the tool they’d use to do so, several teachers said they were looking forward to using screencasting tools to record videos to help supplement students’ learning. (One educator said that screencasting would be done by students for peer-to-peer instruction too.) Second in popularity to the trend of BYOD, then: “the flipped classroom.”
  • Last year, I expressed my surprise that Instructure Canvas – an LMS! – was one of the most anticipated tools. Although it wasn’t one of the top 3 responses, this year it’s the open source LMS Moodle that seems to be the most popular among respondents.
  • Despite strong interest in Google+ in 2011 and 2012, no one mentioned Google’s social networking site this year. Nobody mentioned Edmodo either. While it’s pretty fashionable to mock Google+ as a “wasteland” (true or not), Edmodo now boasts that over 23 million teachers and students have signed up for its product. So the absence of both is curious. Does the survey hint at our reaching “peak social” with ed-tech tools? Has social networking become so commonplace that it’s not something many educators are excited about?
  • Despite no mentions of Google+, Google did make a strong showing once again this year with Google Apps for Education one of the top responses. Google Hangouts and Android tablets were also named. Nobody mentioned Chromebooks. And nobody mentioned Google Glass. (Phew.)
  • As in previous years, the responses to the survey were pretty diverse, and the vast majority of the “most anticipated tools” mentioned were just mentioned once. This certainly reflects the growing number of tools available for teaching and learning, but it also highlights the challenges that startups (in particular) face in gaining recognition and market share.
  • It’s really a toss-up between Google and Apple for the hearts and minds and pocketbooks of educators, it seems. Nobody mentioned Microsoft.
  • Nobody mentioned MOOCs.

Image credits: Flickr user Simon and The Noun Project



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