Connecting dots for digital learning and teaching

The NMC Horizon Report – 2013 K-12 Edition

From NMC Horizon Report > 2013 K-12 Education Edition (full report)

The six technologies featured in the NMC Horizon Report: 2013 K-12 Edition are placed along three adoption horizons that indicate likely timeframes for their entrance into mainstream use for teaching, learning, and creative inquiry.

Near-term Horizon

On the near-term horizon — that is, within the next 12 months — are two related but distinct categories: cloud computing and mobile learning. These two sets of
technologies have become a pervasive part of everyday life in much of the world, and are growing everywhere. Students have ever-increasing expectations of being
able to work, play, and learn via cloud-based services and apps across their mobile devices, whenever they want and wherever they may be.

Cloud computing has already transformed the way users of the Internet think about computing and communication, data storage and access, and collaborative work. Cloud-based applications and services are available to many school students today, and more schools are employing cloud-based tools all the time. Now schools are outsourcing significant parts of their infrastructure, such as email and backups, to cloud providers. Emerging devices, such as Google’s Chromebooks, are designed expressly to operate in the cloud and have entered the market at affordable prices, making them viable options for one-to-one learning. These developments have contributed considerably to the adoption of cloud computing approaches at K-12 schools across the globe.

Mobile learning is becoming an integral part of K-12 education, as it is increasingly common for students to own and use portable devices. With easy to use, touchscreen interfaces, even the youngest children can easily pick up a tablet or smartphone and interact with it almost immediately. Mobile devices are gateways to endless learning, collaboration, and productivity fostered by the Internet. In recent years, schools have been implementing one-toone and BYOD strategies to take advantage of mobile technologies that are more accessible and pervasive with each passing year. One of the fastest growing facets of mobiles are mobile apps, and
the momentum has yet to slow down. Scores of education companies and websites are creating responsive programs, platforms, and curricula for mobile devices. Moreover, app development and programming is being taught to K-12 students in schools and after-school programs.

Mid-term Horizon

In the second adoption horizon, two to three years out, adoptions of two technologies that are experiencing growing interest within K-12 education are expected
to pass the 20% penetration point that marks entry into mainstream practice: these are learning analytics and open content. Learning analytics is a burgeoning
body of work rooted in the study of big data, which aims to use analytic techniques common in businesses to gain insights about student behavior and learning.
Information derived from learning analytics can inform instructional practice in real time, as well as aid in the design of curricula and platforms that personalize
education. Open content is gaining traction in K-12, with interest driven by a growing range of open source textbooks and a wider recognition of the collaborative
philosophy behind creating and sharing free content.

Learning analytics is the field associated with deciphering trends and patterns from educational big data, or huge sets of student-related data, to further the advancement of a personalized, supportive system of K-12 education. Preliminary uses of student data were directed toward targeting at-risk learners in order to improve student retention. The widespread adoption of learning and course management systems has refined the outcomes of learning analytics to look at students more precisely. Student-specific data can now be used to customize curricula and suggest resources to students in the same way that businesses tailor advertisements and offers to customers. Schools are already employing analytics software to make the college advising process more efficient and accurate, while researchers
are developing mobile software to coach students toward productive behaviors and habits that will lead to their success.

Open content is the current form of a movement that began a decade ago, when universities such as MIT began to make their course content freely available. Twelve years later, schools are sharing a significant amount of curricula, resources, and learning materials. There is a growing variety of open content from K-12 organizations and schools, and in many parts of the world, open content represents a profound shift in the way students study and learn. Far more than just a collection of free online course materials, the open content movement is increasingly a response to the rising costs of education, the desire to provide access to learning in areas where such access is difficult, and an expression of student choice about when and how to learn.


Image Credit : RubyBlossom (

Far-term Horizon

On the far-term horizon, set at four to five years away from entry into the mainstream of practice, are 3D printing and virtual and remote laboratories. 3D printing provides a more accessible, less expensive, desktop alternative to industrial forms of rapid prototyping. Many of the discussions surrounding 3D printers stem from the Maker culture, an enthused community of designers, programmers, and others that brings a do-it-yourself approach to science and engineering. Virtual and remote laboratories provide students with the opportunity to conduct scientific experiments as often as they like, from whatever device they are using. In virtual laboratories, the equipment is simulated, while remote laboratories encompass high-caliber apparatuses that are housed in central locations. These
technologies are several years away from mainstream use, but already it is clear that their impact will be significant, despite the lack of well-documented
K-12 project examples. The high level of interest and investment in both areas are clear indicators that they are worth following closely.

3D printing has become much more affordable and accessible in recent years in large part due to the efforts of MakerBot Industries. Founded in 2009, this company has promoted the idea of openness by offering products that can be built by anyone with minimal technical expertise. With MakerBot Replicators selling in the range of $1,500 to $3,000, it now only requires a small financial investment to own a 3D printer. Moreover, websites such as Thingiverse offer source files that anyone can use to print objects without original designs, and mobile apps, such as 123D Catch, make it possible for anyone to create their own 3D images of real objects for printing. Schools are using 3D printers to illuminate the design process, build rapid prototypes, and create models that demonstrate concepts in curricula.

Virtual and remote laboratories leverage wireless networks, mobile devices, and cloud-based software to make scientific experiences more accessible for schools that lack fully equipped labs. In many ways, virtual and remote labs have benefits that hands on environments do not; in virtual and remote environments, an experiment can be conducted numerous times with greater efficiency and precision. Granted 24/7 access and with more room to make mistakes, students can spend more time making scientific measurements and engaging in laboratory practices. Many schools are taking advantage of these virtual interfaces and simulations to provide students with authentic scientific experiences without the associated costs of building and maintaining physical lab spaces.

Key Trends

  1. Education paradigms are shifting to include online learning, hybrid learning, and collaborative models.
  2. Social media is changing the way people interact, present ideas and information, and communicate.
  3. Openness — concepts like open content, open data, and open resources, along with notions of transparency and easy access to data and information — is becoming a value.
  4. As the cost of technology drops and school districts revise and open up their access policies, it is becoming more common for students to bring their own mobile devices.
  5. The abundance of resources and relationships made easily accessible via the Internet is challenging us to revisit our roles as educators.

To create the report, an international body of experts in education, technology, and other fields was convened as an advisory board – the advisory board of 55 technology experts spanned 18 countries this year. Over the course of just a few weeks in the Spring of 2013, the 2013 Horizon.K12 advisory board came to a consensus about the topics that appear here in the NMC Horizon Report: 2013 K-12 Edition. The examples and readings under each topic area are meant to provide practical models as well as access to more detailed information.

View the work that produces the report at, or link to download related documents here.


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4 Responses »


  1. Open Content On The Horizon of Education – Part I | Classroom Aid
  2. Open Content On The Horizon of Education – Part II | Classroom Aid
  3. Mobile Learning on The Horizon of K-12 Education – Part I (#mlearning) | Classroom Aid
  4. Technology | Pearltrees

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“Tell me and I will forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I will understand.” -------- Chinese Wisdom "Games are the most elevated form of investigation." -------- Albert Einstein
"I'm calling for investments in educational technology that will help create digital tutors that are as effective as personal tutors, educational software as compelling as the best video game," President Barack Obama said while touring a tech-focused Boston school (year 2011).
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