(Cross-posted on the Google for Work Blog.)

Editor's note: Leading up to ISTE, one of the largest education technology conferences in the world, we asked educators and administrators to reflect on the past school year and look ahead to 2015-16. Today we hear from John Krouskoff, manager of emerging technologies at the Lower Hudson Regional Information Center. If you’re coming to Philadelphia for ISTE, stop by and see us in the Expo Hall at #1808. You can check out any of over 50 short sessions that will share more ways to engage and inspire students. Read on for John’s take on the future of trends in education and technology.
John Krouskoff, Manager of Emerging Technologies, Lower Hudson Regional Information Center
This past school year our regional consortium created a team to provide professional development to teachers in eight of our school districts. Through this year-long training program, we’ve learned what makes a successful professional development program — including flexibility, careful planning, regular feedback and extensive communication. As we wrap up a successful first year, we’re looking at ways to build on this foundation. We spoke with our students, teachers and administrators to understand the technology trends shaping their districts, schools and classrooms. Here are the top four trends we’ve observed:
  1. Problem-solving through computer science. Google’s free CS-First program can help students learn computational thinking and problem solving as part of their classwork. As Google Education Trainer Amber Klebanoff writes, “The CS-First program is not only teaching students about coding but predominantly about how to problem solve while promoting self confidence and pride in the ability to create and succeed at a difficult task.”
  2. Passion based learning through 20 percent projects at school. Educators are encouraging passion-based student learning that fits with their curricula through 20 percent projects — allowing students to use an hour each week to explore the topic of their choice. As Clarkstown High School North Marine Biology Teacher and Google Education Trainer Heidi Bernasconi commented, “Twenty percent time in my class brought a needed energy back to my students.” Despite AP exams and other demands, Bernasconi blends “the 20 percent solution” into her classroom practice. “The projects are graded almost solely on students creating realistic and challenging goals,” she said. For more examples of this check out Kevin Brookhouser’s blog post.
  3. Exploring the world beyond the classroom. Now that more districts are focusing on real-world learning and interactive content, we’re seeing educators use technology to bring their lessons to life. Google Expeditions will play an interesting role in this exploration next year, by helping students visit far-away places from their classrooms and libraries using Google Cardboard. That chapter has yet to be written, but one thing is certain — technology continues to provide more student-driven learning opportunities.
  4. Access to technology and professional development. As more educators recognize the transformative power of technology in the classroom, districts are prioritizing technology in their budget decisions — whether it’s ubiquitous wireless access, improved Internet bandwidth, or increased access to devices. It’s heartening to see districts recognize the importance of sustainable professional development and invest in regional consortia, professional learning networks and school-based resources.
As technology enablers, we’re eager to see how these trends take shape in different districts with unique opportunities and challenges. We’re also excited to continue building the professional development opportunities that will help each district harness emerging technology to inspire new ideas, interests and ways to teach and learn.