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Education is always changing that is the only certainty. According to Noam Chomsky speaking in this video on the Purpose of Education (based on his presentation at the Learning Without Frontiers conference): "the purpose of education is to help people learn for themselves"..." do you train for passing tests, or do you train for creative inquiry?"

It is a wise and philosophical assessment of the state of education today. He advocates for "a lively cultural educational system, which is geared towards encouraging creative exploration, independence of thought, willingness to cross frontiers, to challenge accepted beliefs…. If you don’t have that, you’re not going to get the technology that could lead to economic gains.” See if you agree with his views. Is technology for learning really like a hammer?

What do we mean by trends?

Teachers, to be effective, need to stay informed about the trends, in both pedagogy and technology, and be confident about trying new approaches. A good place to start exploring current trends is by viewing the presentation: Navigating Digital landscapes by Grainne Conole, who visited Otago Polytechnic in October 2013.

Technologies such as mobile devices, ePortfolios, and social media (Web 2.0 tools and approaches) (e.g., blogs, twitter, wikis and media sharing sites) are now relatively familiar, and are being used more and more. The Horizon report (2013) underpins this topic so please use this resource as the starting point for your explorations. There is a long and a short version (Short List PDF).

For this topic you are asked to design a learning activity using a ‘trend’ technology. Since this is a huge area, some resources are suggested, but you need only focus on one specific area in your explorations. For example, mobile devices, or ePortfolios or social media. The technology you choose may be something from the Horizon report, or the other types mentioned here.

Learning Objectives

  • Become familiar with both pedagogical and technological trends in education.
  • Explore resources about ePortfolios, mobile learning and social media.
  • Select a trend technology and/or educational approach to use in a learning activity.
  • Design and present this learning activity in your ePortfolio/blog indicating how it supports flexible learning.

Horizon Report Trends

The Horizon report has been published for 10 years. It is a collaborative research effort by an advisory board comprised of an international body of experts in education, technology, and other fields. There role is to discuss significant trends and challenges, identifying six emerging technologies or practices that are likely to enter mainstream use in education over the next five years. For example, two significant challenges that impact on students' learning are insufficient training is provided to develop "digital media literacy as a key skill in every discipline and profession" (p.9), and "Most academics are not using new technologies for learning and teaching, nor for organizing their own research" (p. 10).

In The Horizon report (2012), education was predicted to become increasingly more flexible and collaborative, cloud-based (on the Internet) and information-rich, thus challenging educators. Education paradigms were seen as shifting to include online learning, hybrid learning and collaborative models with a new emphasis in the classroom on more challenge-based and active learning. The trend technologies included mobile apps, tablet computing, game-based learning, learning analytics, gesture-based computing, and the Internet of things.

Now in the latest version of the Horizon report (2013) a few things have changed. Open education resources and practices are more common with MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) dominating the higher education scene, tablets have taken over from ipads and mobile apps are more prolific. Over the next five years, we can expect to see more common use of the following approaches.

  • In one year or less: mobile apps and tablet computing.
  • In two to three years: games and gamification and learning analytics.
  • In four to five years: 3D printing and wearable technology.

To find out what all these terms mean you will need to do some research in the report and on the Internet.

Pedagogical Trends

Innovations in pedagogy (andragogy is the correct term for adult learning) are moving towards learner-centred models. Some of these trends are outlined in the Horizon report, and others are covered in a report prepared by the Open University Innovating Pedagogy. For example, "Seamless Learning" - "when a person experiences a continuity of learning across a combination of locations, times, technologies or social settings" (Sharples et al., 2012, p. 4). Originally, this was associated with mobile learning, and is now extended to "learning projects that can be accessed on multiple devices, flow across boundaries between formal and informal settings, and continue over life transitions such as school to university [or polytechnic] and workplace" (Sharples et al., 2012, p. 4).

Personalized learning is also a developing area, and students are mentored rather than taught and encouraged to engage in inquiry and set learning goals as part of learning agreements. Social networked learning has been around since the 19th Century and is now associated with interacting using the Internet. This form of learning mainly occurs informally and there are now dozens of social networking websites where people interact with each other.

Another innovation involves the recognition of prior learning, and this is now commonplace in most institutions in New Zealand enabling students to gain qualifications without coming to class. At CapableNZ (Otago Polytechnic), for example, a facilitated process is used to help candidates to develop a portfolio of evidence based on their work experience and any previous study they have done.

According to the Innovating Pedagogy report, trends such as curating learners in the use of media and openness have implications for educators. If teachers are to support learners in the new educational paradigms such as online, open, hybrid and collaborative learning, they need confidence in using a variety of teaching methods and technologies. They also need to change the way they regard informal learning, and in some cases this form of learning is being recognised and rewarded through the use of open badge systems, e.g., Mozilla badges.

STEM Education

Trends in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education are predicted in the report: Technology Outlook for STEM+ Education 2013 - 2018. The comparison across three reports (including the Horizon report) is shown in Table 1. Learning analytics, mobile learning, online learning and virtual and remote laboratories are predicted as most important emerging technologies for this area of education within the next year. Technologies such as 3D printing, games and gamification, immersive learning environments and wearable technologies predicted for the next two to three years.

Both cloud computing and social networking are considered to be mainstream technologies for this sector already so are not mentioned in the current report. Curiously, the STEM sector seems to be behind in mobile learning which is just now in 2013 predicted as a trend, even though it has been considered by the New Media Consortium to be a global trend in higher education since 2008.

Interestingly, online learning, although not new, is considered a trend because the design in the STEM sector is undergoing change as a result of massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs): "Online learning, in some form, is positioned for imminent adoption in the coming year, mostly based on the rise of massive open online courses" (NMC, 2013, p. 2). According to the report: "The STEM+ field is largely driving the proliferation of online learning, with computer science and other STEM - related courses dominating catalog listings across several of the top online learning providers" (NMC, 2013, p. 2).

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Activity Five: Trends for learning.

  • View the presentation: Navigating Digital landscapes by Grainne Conole (2013).
  • Familiarise yourself with the executive summaries of the 2013 Horizon report, and the 2012 Innovating pedagogy report.
  • View the presentation ePortfolios - getting to the nuts and bolts. (Please note: audio now accompanies this version.) The resources mentioned on the presentation can be found on the References page.
  • View the presentation about mobile learning by Dr Thom Cochrane. Other resources about mobile learning can be found on Thom Cochrane's web page.
  • Choose one trend technology and pedagogy and design a learning activity based on this.
  • Describe or demonstrate the learning activity to the class via your blog.
    • Make sure that you indicate how the technology used in the activity is likely to encourage flexible learning.


Must have resources

Ludgate, H. (2013). NMC Horizon Report: 2013 Higher Education Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium. Retrieved from

  • Sharples, M., McAndrew, P., Weller, M., Ferguson, R., FitzGerald, E., Hirst, T., Mor, Y., Gaved, M. & Whitelock, D. (2012). Innovating Pedagogy 2012: Open University Innovation Report 1. Milton Keynes: The Open University. Retrieved from

Additional resources


Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Cummins, M., Estrada, V., Freeman, A., & Ludgate, H. (2013). NMC Horizon Report: 2013 Higher Education Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium. Retrieved from