The Horizon Report, Formative Assessment and 3D printing…???

The K-12, New Media Consortium Horizon Report  (PDF 44 pages) always makes for interesting reading. photo(7)

In previous years I dived into their predictions and commented on each of them.

This time I’ll give their predictions (you can read about each one yourself  by clicking on the link) but I’ll then comment on the significant challenges the authors have identified as to their implementation.

To be clear for readers, K-12 is what we in Ireland refer to as Primary and Secondary education.

Dr. Deridre Butle of St. Patrick’s College, Dublin is the only member of the Report’s Advisory Board from an Irish institution.

The Reports predictions for implementation in schools are

  • Near-term Horizon: cloud computing and mobile learning
  • Mid-term Horizon: learning analytics and open content
  • Far-term Horizon: 3D printing and virtual and remote laboratories

The Report also lists six significant challenges as to their implementation

  1. Ongoing professional development needs to be valued and integrated into the culture of the schools
  2. Too often it is education’s own practices that limit broader uptake of new technologies
  3. New models of education are bringing unprecedented competition to traditional models of schooling
  4. K-12 must address the increased blending of formal and informal learning
  5. The demand for personalized learning is not adequately supported by current technology or practices
  6. We are not using digital media for formative assessment the way we could and should

The preamble to this section talks about financial and physical constraints within schools. I feel that these constraints should be listed as significant challenges. Secondary (not Primary) Schools in Ireland are getting 100Mb broadband to their doors – little attention is being given to what happens next in terms of cost and support. Schools here have little or no ICT support built into their systems and money is often wasted implementing systems that are not leveraged to their full potential.

My comments on each of the significant challenges:

  1. Professional development is an issue and colleagues in the school I teach in have identified training in the use of digital technologies as a key concern. The report rightly states that using digital applications needs to innovate teaching and learning rather than mimicking existing practices. This is a particular challenge noticed by many when Moodle is introduced into schools.
  2. Their second concern will be addressed in Ireland if the Junior Cycle Framework is implemented. I as regular readers know, support the underlying values behind this reform process and teachers one way or the other really want to expand their practices.
  3. New models of education in Ireland tend to revolve around issues of patronage rather than news models of providing teaching and learning on and off-line. In that view I see the report as more USA centric that usual – still interesting though!
  4. Transition-year in Ireland (ages 15/16) is an opportunity for teachers to experiment with blending the formal and the informal. I imagine the same could be done with older Primary school students and indeed may happen naturally there anyway. Teachers that try out formal/informal opportunities in Transition-year may be willing then to experiment in the more formal examination years.
  5. Personalized learning is something we struggle with at secondary level given the shorter class-contact time with each student – we are getting used to it for students with special educational needs but implementing it across the board….? I think the Report makes a highly aspirational pitch for personalised learning without taking into account what it involves i.e. TIME.
  6. I absolutely concur with their sixth point  on formative assessment – technology often allows the  teacher and the learner to examine the development of learning with a focus on process rather than product. Personally I would have placed this as the first significant challenge

I stand to be corrected, but I believe with the cost reduction of 3D printers and patent restrictions ending in 2014 , we will see them in schools before too long – certainly not on the far term horizon!

Citation: Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Cummins, M., Estrada V., Freeman, A., and Ludgate, H. (2013). NMC Horizon Report: 2013 K-12 Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.

Photo credit: Donal O’ Mahony. The image is of 3D Dave at the recent TedX event in Dublin. If you are not familiar with 3D printing click on the link…


  1. John Heffernan

    If I was interviewing history teachers, one question I would ask would be if the school had a 3D printer, what would the first artefact you would make?

    I remember 12 years ago having the same debate over buying a laser colour printer, trying to justify why to make the purchase.