THE BLOG
01/03/2014 08:59 am ET Updated Mar 05, 2014

BYOD, Customized Learning and Virtual Academics: K-12 Trends for 2014 -- Part II

In my first article about k-12 education trends I wrote about what lies ahead for K-12 schools in 2014 when it comes to life skills programs, expansion of cloud technology, and a greater emphasis on individual school branding. In all three cases, the trends have been part of classrooms for some time but are sure to see rapid growth in the coming year.

I want to continue that conversation today with three more trends I think we will see emerging, or expanding, in the U.S. K-12 classrooms of 2014:

BYOD: This movement which embraces mobile technology through the devices that students already own has already gained momentum in many districts across the country, but expect it to move rapidly towards mass adoption within this calendar year. Places like Chesapeake Public Schools are already allowed to use privately owned electronic devices to access the wireless network on the school system's filtered Internet. In Chesapeake, as in the other public and private schools where BYOD policies exist, students must sign a responsibility form that says they will only use the mobile device for academic enrichment while on school property.

Students who bring their own devices into the classroom eliminate the initial costs and are also already comfortable with the technology. The downside of course is that not all students can readily afford such technology but look for schools to develop technology financial assistance programs for families to help offset the full cost and maintenance of school-owned devices.

Customized learning experiences: Self-initiated and self-directed learning experiences are based upon individual needs, preferences and abilities of students who are then the masters of their own success. The traditional way to look at learning is through teachers creating and assigning all work for students in a one-size-fits-all approach. By contrast, customized learning that students help direct focuses on feedback techniques that provide strategies for improvement during the process, instead of waiting until much further down the road to see if the methods are working. Customized, or personalized, learning is often met with hostility, especially as teachers must relinquish some classroom control for this trend to really work.

On the flip side, customized learning has the ability to incorporate a variety of resources, such as virtual learning, to aid in the learning process while making it a way for teachers to moderate one-on-one learning experiences in practical ways. I think that the idea of handing control to students is hypothetically frightening to some educators and administrators but once they've actually tried it on a small scale, personalized learning actually looks more attractive from an adult's perspective.

Online learning: Virtual learning is certainly not new to the K-12 scene, but its increasing popularity can't be ignored. It used to be that online learning was associated only with distance learning, or students who went through the academic process off of school grounds. Today, online learning is more segmented and often just one part of a more traditional learning experience. Virtual learning is no longer all or nothing; it has become mainstream and will continue to transform in-classroom learning in the coming year.

Virtual learning also makes it possible parents, teachers and students have access to information they may need no matter where they are physically located. This, in essence, expands the classroom and gives students more time and space to complete and comprehend their lessons. There are many spinoffs of online learning, like the increasing availability of Massive Open Online Courses, which make virtual academics a returning trend for K-12 learning in 2014.

Has your school embraced any of today's trends fully?