Education is like any other industry in many respects as it is subject to emerging and growing trends.  In fact, education is basically designed to respond to the continuously changing needs of a developing society.  That is the whole premise of education in the first place…as society changes so does education.  So it is of great interest for me to look at what the new and growing trends are in the field.  Basically, I have determined and created a list of the top 4 growing trends I see in education for 2013-2014. This list, while not scientific, has been created by compiling what I see in my daily front-line work on the job.  Also, my “second job” as a blogger gives me a unique perspective and lets me become immersed in the world of education through blogs, journal research, social media and forum participation.  Through this work I have been able to determine some definite educational trends which are happening now, and will surely continue well into 2014 and beyond.

VIRTUAL LEARNING:  Virtual learning is much more than simply online learning.  it encompasses learning that takes place outside of the school…everywhere really…and brings it into the school.  It basically delivers educational content online and helps students, parents and teachers have access to information anywhere. (1)  Examples of virtual learning and methods in which it is delivered are “virtually” endless.  it can be through a totally online approach or a blended learning method which is a combination of classroom and online education.  It can also be delivered as MOOC’s (Massive Open Online Course).  Blogs, websites, Thinkfinity, Moodle, Edmodo, Khan Academy and Social Media are all utilized consistently and with growing effectiveness.  In fact, these are only the tip of the iceburg.  Added to this is the BYOD movement (Bring Your Own Device) which has picked up momentum as a method of cost saving and staying current in technology.  Things which were once discouraged and taboo at school, such as cell phones, and tablets, are now encouraged in many districts.  Virtual learning delivers educational content and experiences in ways we never even dreamed about in the past.  This is surely not a passing trend, and will only continue to grow in the future. 

 PERSONALIZED LEARNING:  Personalized learning is any learning experience which is self-initiated and self-directed.  it is based upon the individual needs, preferences and abilities of students who will essentially “own” their learning.  This is very much a break with the traditional “one size fits all” approach. (2)  It also focuses upon descriptive feedback techniques which are very timely and provide immediate strategies for improvement rather than waiting until it is too late and after the learning has already occurred.  Personalized learning has frequently been met with a lukewarm to downright frigid response by educators.  This is quite understandable as teachers struggle to meet the multitude of needs and personalities in their ever-growing roster of students as it is!  However, personalized learning incorporates a variety of resources, including virtual learning, to educate the child.  Teachers become facilitators of student directed learning.  Educators have in turn found that this helps them in a number of ways.  More planning and collaboration time is discovered, student engagement goes through the roof and kids are drastically increasing achievement levels. (3)  Considering all of the benefits for all stakeholders, it is a trend which will only continue to pick up steam in the foreseeable future. 

EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION:   There can be little doubt that there is an obvious trend apparent which focuses upon the great importance of early education.  I really see this happening everywhere.  In the United States, President Obama’s administration has outlined a 75 billion dollar plan to expand early childhood education.  In Ontario, Canada the government has implemented Full Day Kindergarten at a great expense in a time of tight fiscal restraints.  Why?  Study after study has shown that a strong early childhood education creates happier and more successful future students.  Once again, this is a win-win for all.  Considering all of these factors, this is a global trend which will only continue to increase.
ENVIRONMENTAL/OUTDOOR EDUCATION:  Not everyone is going to agree with me on this one.  Some may claim that with shrinking budgets, priority must be put into improving things such as technology or crumbling buildings.  How can there be money be left for “perks” such as environmental or outdoor education?  I would disagree that there should not be a significant amount of funds directed into this area and I see evidence of this trend everyday.  We are in an era of experential learning.  Environmental edcuation fits the bill for so many of our students.  Also, it teaches them harmony with Mother Earth in a time which is seeing a scourge of pollution, depletion of resources and changing climates.  We need this generation to take up this cause , and the jobs will be there in the future for them to do just that!  I really hope I am not wrong about this one as the very future of our children could depend upon it.
There you have it…4 main trends I see occurring in education now…and will only further gather steam next year.  These really are exciting times in education.  It is undergoing a huge transformation right under our very noses.  We need to jump onboard the change train or we will be left in the dust.

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