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Grant Wiggins’ creativity rubric for lessons.

The internationally recognized NMC Horizon Report series and regional NMC Technology Outlooks are part of the NMC Horizon Project, a comprehensive research venture established in 2002 that identifies and describes emerging technologies likely to have a large impact over the coming five years in education around the globe.

No one knows teaching like teachers, so we asked more than 3,100 educators what kinds of digital instructional tools are essential to help their students be prepared for college and careers in the 21st century.

In surveys and interviews, teachers told us that they are looking for resources that can help their students meet new, more rigorous standards, including the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and Next Generation Science Standards. They also are optimistic that digital instructional tools can be useful. But even as the instructional market is going increasingly digital and a huge array of products exists, gaps remain: Certain types of products that teachers said they need for specific instructional purposes are simply not available; in other cases, there are products available, but teachers aren’t using them or don’t perceive them to be effective. These market gaps present opportunities for product developers to create new digital instructional tools or improve existing ones to better meet the needs of teachers and students.

Education technology—“Edtech”—has become an area of intense innovation and debate—with topics like Massive Open Online Courses, coding for kids, and tablets constantly attracting attention and sparking debate every day.

But how are teachers and students responding to the constant influx of new digital tools?

The latest Pew Research Center Internet and American Life survey of 2,500 Advanced Placement (AP) and National Writing Project (NWP) teachers from 6th to 12th grade suggests that while edtech is infiltrating classrooms, key disparities are affecting how teachers teach and how their students learn.

Anthropologists have long studied the role that mythology plays in the cultural fabric of a community.  According to these social scientists, various cultures use myths as a form of storytelling to provide an explanation for a changing or confusing world, to validate existing beliefs, to fill in gaps of knowledge or understanding, and to establish a sense of order amongst chaos.  Myths often are also used to inspire awe and wonder amongst the community.  While the excitement of the myth story is contagious, the awe and wonder is not intended to stimulate scientific questioning or inquiry, but rather to maintain a status quo of order or power.  Such is the case for example with the traditional Navajo myth about the creation of the constellations.  As the story is told, the Sun and Moon were made from cutting giant discs of quartz that were then hoisted into the sky to provide light to the Navajo people, both during the day and at night.  Not wanting to be wasteful, the creation deity used the remnants of the quartz cutting process to create patterns of stars in the night sky that had an explicit function of explaining the community’s laws.  While the myth provided the Navajo people with an awe-inspiring explanation for how the Sun, Moon, and stars were created, it also sought to establish a cultural order within the community, as the medicine men were the only ones recognized with the wisdom to interpret the constellation-based laws.     

In a similar way, the education community has used anecdotal stories over the years to understand or make sense of the role of technology within the lives of today’s K-12 students.  These stories have developed into a comprehensive mythology around student digital learning that closely mimics the role of myths within other cultures.  The unprecedented pace of the infiltration of technology tools and resources within our daily lives has created a need, especially for adults, to create a new sense of order within education, and to fill in gaps of knowledge and understanding around the use of technology with overly simplified explanatory narratives.