As we wrap yet another year of shipping industry-leading learning game titles, we thought it would be a good time to reflect and consider the coming year - after all, as I’ve said before, things change quickly in the technology industry, and educational technology is no exception. In 2018, we’ve seen our first major educational VR release, we’ve seen major publishers like Scholastic adopting game-based learning as a pedagogy, and we’ve seen some major players leave the space. Sheesh! Suffice to say, 2018 had quite an impact. With this as our backdrop, here are my predictions for educational technology in 2019.
The Continued Rise of Civics Education
As I write this, our government is currently shut down, which begs several questions, such as “How is the government actually supposed to work?”, “Does it work?”, “Why do we have a government at all?”, and so on. Fortunately for us confused citizens, iCivics.org is designed to address these very questions and more. The platform has enjoyed strong growth in the last few years, and with several new releases in 2019, they’re showing no signs of stopping. Between 2017 and 2018 their site traffic went up a whopping 19.2%, which is a lot when you consider they have over 70 million lifetime plays, millions of students, and hundreds of thousands of teachers registered. Their game plays themselves have gone up 9.2% in that same period, and perhaps most excitingly, new teacher accounts have grown 38% in last year alone. All of this points to a renewed interest in civics education, and gives one hope that there might be a brighter future beyond our current state of political division and procedural stalemate.
Social Media and News Media Literacy
Remember keyboard cat? I remember keyboard cat. It seems like a lot has changed about the internet since 2007, when performance artist Charlie Schmidt uploaded VHS footage of his cat Fatso playing an electronic keyboard. Fast forward to 2018 and the Charlie Schmidts of the world have been in many ways replaced and/or subverted by state actors looking to alter the fabric of the world order - yikes. But the internet hasn’t just gotten more complicated at a macro level - Bo Burnham’s critically-acclaimed Eighth Grade confronted the way that the pervasive reach of social media is affecting the individual lives of our young people as well. As we just start to reckon with the enormity of this seismic change in the way we communicate, express, and influence, educators know they need to step up to help their students grow and mature into thoughtful social media participants. Based on that, I’m predicting that a game like iCivics.org’s NewsFeed Defenders is merely the first of many examples of educational content that will grapple with this important and existential issue.
Is It Getting Hot in Here?
When it comes to climate change, things seem to really be heating up. Indeed, the three hottest years in the entire global record have occurred since 2015, so it’s probably a safe bet that we’ll see that trend continue. This is going to impact everything, obviously, and that includes schools. A recent report from EdSurge discusses the logistical impact these changes will have - populations will move around as places become less habitable, and our institutions will have to react. Fortunately, educators like the folks at nonprofit Techbridge Girls are thinking of creative ways to incorporate climate change education in their existing curriculum, in their case combining a program on STEM education for girls with a focus on how STEM careers are related to climate and societal needs like disaster relief. Looking through the lens of conservation, they even had one student in their program who reduced plastic waste at her school by creating utensil holders so her peers could bring their own utensils from home, instead of using plastic ones in the cafeteria. Her example shows that activating this kind of thinking in students isn’t just an investment in the future, but can have immediate benefits in terms of community stewardship.
Virtual Reality, but This Time, for Real (Probably)
Have we mentioned VR? I feel like we’ve mentioned VR. The plucky little medium that sorta-can and sorta-can’t, VR continues to forge a bold path into the future of media consumption, albeit in fits and starts. But hey. Listen. Folks like VentureBeat are saying that 2019 will be the “year virtual reality actually goes mainstream,” and I think that’s a pretty big deal. This is because of the hopes that the industry has pinned on the release of the upcoming Oculus Quest, the first untethered, 6DOF, self-contained headset to the hit the market. My colleague James LaPierre wrote at length about what the Oculus Quest means for education, and I encourage you to go bask in his insights. Suffice to say, Nielsen’s game industry stat house SuperData expects that Oculus Quest will be a “defining moment for the XR space,” and will outsell the Oculus Rift 3-to-1 in launch year comparisons, so this is one to watch for 2019.
So! Those are my predictions, based on where I sit in the industry and the trends I’ve seen impacting our strategies at Filament and the ed tech conversation at large. As always, I want to know what you think. Did I nail it? Or am I talking rubbish? Only the future knows for sure, but you are always welcome to throw your resounding agreements or spiteful rebuttals at me via Twitter and Facebook.