Chris Dede: “Let’s Digitize What We Have Now”

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Chris Dede: “Let’s Digitize What We Have Now”

Harvard edtech professor names higher-quality digital materials as 2014 prediction

By Mary Jo Madda (Columnist)     Dec 10, 2013

Chris Dede: “Let’s Digitize What We Have Now”

This article is part of the guide: EdSurge 2014 Outlooks.

Chris Dede has been on all sides of the edtech spectrum. He was one of the key contributors on the 2010 National Education Technology Plan. He has served as the Timothy E. Wirth Professor in Learning Technologies at the Harvard Graduate School of Education since 2000. He’s published several books about implementing technology in schools, his most recent being Digital Teaching Platforms: Customizing Classroom Learning for Each Student.

But now, Dede has something else to add to the list of accolades.

EdSurge sat down with Dede in the first of our "EdSurge Outlooks" series, where thought leaders share what 2014 will mean for education, education technology and the future of learning. Having been at the nexus of policy and research since the mid-1970s, Dede offers his predictions into the areas that will grow and flourish in 2014--and those worth treading carefully.

1. Higher-quality digital materials

First, Dede predicts the emergence of digital materials that are of high quality--not just aggregated sources of content.

“Not all [sources] are great quality, as with Wikipedia. And sure, the open access to those materials has challenges associated with it--a whole bunch of materials is not a curriculum,” Dede admits. “But the fact that they’re available… that’s a positive thing.”

2. Innovative professional development

“We are gradually seeing more emphasis on PD. I think some of it is driven by Common Core rather than by technology,” Dede says, “but everyone is realizing that teachers will have to teach differently, and it won’t happen overnight.”

What may change for PD also applies to teacher education as well. Dede believes that if we don’t turn around our current approach to teacher education programs, we may lose the influx of a new workforce.

“Teacher education needs to change dramatically,” Dede warns. “This has been the slowest part of education to change,” yet it affects “all of the different aspects of the education world,” including the adoption of educational technology.

3. Immersive curriculum and augmented reality

The 2013 Horizon Report foresees the emergence of virtual worlds and augmented reality as a key area for growth, a prediction that Dede wholeheartedly agrees with. “Those areas are very, very promising. In 3-4 years, we’ll see sustainable amounts of curriculum that use immersive worlds and augmented reality.”

4. CAUTION! High-stakes assessment

“The highest barrier to education improvement is high-stakes assessment,” Dede warns.

While Dede urges the edtech and education worlds alike to consider the impact of high-stakes testing and the process of rolling out such exams, he also recognizes its symbolism in moving the education system forward.

“The extent to which we can move to next-generation assessments, how quickly those are adopted, will determine more quickly how much we’re staying in 20th century education system, or moving towards the 21st century.”

Whatever one may think of the various tablet, mobile technology, and STEM-focused movements of 2013, Dede believes that at the end of the day, we are moving in the right direction.

“I’ve never seen a time like this in all the decades I’ve worked in the field,” Dede began, admitting that while most of the changes in edtech have been driven by “financial constraints in school,” it’s nevertheless driving a lot of change that is positive. And while not all those changes have been met with excitement (LA Unified iPads, anyone?), the point is to continue moving forward.

“With student devices, we aren’t going backwards. It’s going to be very difficult to undo it,” Dede explains. “So we can build on it, rather than have it erode away. Openness to change is good.”

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