5 hot edtech predictions for 2018

Sophie Bailey

Sophie is the founder of The Edtech Podcast, the mission of which is to improve the dialogue between ‘ed’ and ‘tech’ for better innovation, through storytelling. The podcast is downloaded 1500+ times a week, from up to 109 countries. Sophie, a mentor and advisor within the edtech community, and runs events that bring together all sides. In 2018, she launches The Edtech Podcast Festival 2018. Subscribe to The Edtech Podcast via iTunes, Android players, or listen via the website.

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Image credit: Pexels. Image credit: Pexels.

With resource constraints, schools in the UK will be primarily focusing on their school improvement plans and staff retention. However, there are some edtech trends slightly over the horizon which we will start to see come into play beyond the immediate and day-to-day:

1. Artificial Intelligence in educational tools

Artificial intelligence is everywhere you look. If you believe the dataists out there, the meaning of life is increased information flow (jeez, yawn). If artificial intelligence is better at chomping through information and making sense of it quickly, shouldn't we humans just stand aside? Interestingly though, teachers are one of the job roles predicted to remain in demand up until 2030 because of the one-to-one nature of assisting learners. However, we should expect to see more AI-powered services and products in 2018, as the holy grail of personalised learning and continuous assessment is chased down (and invested in). Think cognitive assistants, and language learning tools. Helping us to navigate the AI minefield in education, look out for the No Bullsh*t Guide to AI in Education, which is due to be released imminently (I have it on good authority from the authors, who are humans and not algorithms).

See also: CENTURY Tech, Magpie Education and LiuliShuo.

2. Future of work & changing post-Secondary

The traditional university model is under pressure. The workplace is changing incredibly rapidly, and the pace of skills development is evading the traditional degree. Aside from all the Toby Young controversy, the introduction of the Office for Students reflects a changing University landscape. The Teaching and Excellence Framework reframes University value from a student’s perspective, away from the usual lens of research excellence.

The static academic CV is now being trumped by AI-powered recruitment companies like Pymetrics. Networked certification and credentialing using blockchain technology, like Blockcerts, is also fast disintermediating the university-as-sole-gatekeeper-to-success model.

The appetite for continual upskilling is seeing the growth of additional players, eg 42 Courses on harnessing insights from within corporate organisation, WhiteHat and YourFeed on apprenticeships and showcasing young talent, and Makematic and Spongy Elephant on short-form CPD opportunities for teachers.

The DfE’s own Flexible Working Summit is a reflection of the changing future of work and skills needs. PISA's introduced category of "global competency" may see a continual focus on collaboration skills within schools. Expect more research and assessment products and services which help isolate the quality and impact of an individual in such group work scenarios.

Regional schools commissioner for Lancashire and West Yorkshire, Vicky Beer (left) and general secretary of ASCL, Geoff Barton (right) at the Flexible Working Summit.

3. Data, Data, Data

There will be a tension between a huge appetite for more data to feed machine-learning edu-services to improve their sophistication vs. a new caution around data. Who owns it? Who consented to its being taken? Who wrote the algorithm and what bias do they and "it" have? And what responsibility do schools, universities and edtech companies have to look after student data with more caution than ever with the introduction of GDPR in 2018?

4. Voice technology and language learning

Voice technology is becoming rapidly more sophisticated. This is impacting on teaching and learning, but language learning especially. Products like Waverly Labs' Pilot and Google's Pixel Buds can, in theory, use neural machine translation to more effectively translate languages in real-time (direct into your ear). This has interesting implications for language learners, teachers and existing language / ELT products. Will existing "analogue" language learning classes and apps diminish if a more convenient, accessible option is available?

Expect to see rapid integration of neural machine translation into the incumbent traditional language learning publishers, but also into new players like the $1bn market-cap VIPKID, in order to protect their offerings. If voice becomes truly embedded, it has implications on accessibility - for example, offering some dyslexic learners far greater opportunities for “success” than our type and written-dominated systems currently allow for - as well as providing educators a more efficient method of continual feedback.

Google's Pixel Buds (top left), Waverly Labs (top right) and VIPKID (bottom)

5. International

Expect to see edtech become an increasingly international endeavour, with investment flowing in China and wider Asia contrasting to fewer, but larger, investment deals in the UK and US (compounded by smaller domestic education budgets). Incubators and accelerators will bring products to market from right across the globe, making competition stiffer. Education associations will become more noticeably international in their outlook beyond existing UK or European bases.

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