As ICT Specialist in the Azle District in Texas, Amy Tong works hard to stay up to date on the latest EdTech apps, trends and challenges. We talked to Amy to see what she thinks will be some of the hot EdTech topics this year.

To stay up to date on the latest news in education and technology, Amy first looks to Twitter. With so many different hashtags, followers and Tweets going around, where does she start?

Edtech Trends

“I’ll follow EdTech chats and education leadership chats — even if I’m not actively participating in them, I’ll lurk and learn things in the process. I usually look out for the people who don’t speak as much, because when they chat, they chat powerfully.”

Amy also stays alert of education events happening, and even if she can’t attend, she makes sure she knows the hashtag so that she can easily follow along.

“If there’s an event going on or a conference I can’t attend, I’ll follow the hashtag for that conference so I can get the latest breaking information. I’ve done this with bigger conferences like ISTE and BETT.”

For EdTech beginners, Amy suggests using #edtechchat as a good place to start discovering helpful Twitter accounts and topics of interest.

Coding

I asked Amy what she could see being trending topics in Azle in the upcoming year, and coding immediately came up as a subject that will continue to grow in importance.

Getting the programming and coding mindset down is important, as so many jobs in the future are in that space.

“One of my most interesting experiences with coding was in a first grade class. There was a little girl struggling academically and no one was sure why. We came in and started teaching coding, and she blossomed, bypassing the other students in her class. She finally had something in school she was really good at, and she was able to take that enthusiasm and apply it in other classes. It really started impacting her grades.”

With its continuing importance, it will be interesting to see how coding impacts younger and younger students as they’re introduced to it.

“Getting the programming and coding mindset down is important, as so many jobs in the future are in that space. The brain learns code the same way they learn languages – I read somewhere that said coding is the #1 foreign language currently taught in schools,” Amy says.

Gaming

Like coding, gaming is also an EdTech focus this school year, and one that teachers are using to find more and more ways to engage students, especially as games like Pokemon Go grow in popularity and take over student devices outside of the classroom.

Read 5 Ways to Make Pokemon Go a Learning Tool via DailyGenius

“We use games like Minecraft for history — we talked about explorers coming over to America and had students create the boats they came over in. Minecraft is great for math, and the students wanted to be able to build the boat proportionally correct, so they learned more in the process. Teachers are also already thinking of ways to integrate Pokemon Go in the classroom. The mapping and geography aspect of Pokemon Go could be helpful, as well as learning about Pokemon-based ecosystems for science and biology tie-ins.”

YouTube

It’s no secret that kids these days are obsessed with YouTube. Whether it’s watching their favourite YouTube personality or attempting to become one themselves, the lure of YouTube’s public video service is undeniably popular with young students today.

Teachers are also already thinking of ways to integrate Pokemon Go in the classroom.

“YouTube is incredibly common, but there’s always the question of whether parents want their children to do it or not. One student I know made $46,000 off of Minecraft videos he made – he was already saving for college. We want to make sure as parents and educators that we teach kids what’s right or wrong, and make them cautious about people out there while encouraging them not to do it without parent knowledge and monitoring. Creating videos gives students great production and presentation skills — even if they’re not world famous on YouTube, how can they take these skills and use them for jobs and job interviews? It’s definitely a field worth exploring.”

Find out more about teaching students the appropriate uses of technology in our post about Digital Citizenship.

What else will be big this year?

Amy admits that she’s willing to try out anything that excites her teachers, and their suggestions are becoming more interesting as they get more comfortable with using technology in their classroom.

“Teachers are always excited about the next great thing, which is awesome because it keeps me excited. The world of EdTech is always changing and evolving, and finding out about the good new thing is always the challenge. I love my job because I’m purely here to help, and I enjoy coming in at whatever point teachers are at to help them move forward.”

Find out more about Amy’s approach to teaching education technology in her school district in our case study.

About Amy Tong

As Azle’s technology specialist, Amy is responsible for assisting and training the district’s teachers on their devices and apps. You can follow her on Twitter @ftwtong

As Showbie’s community journalist, Katie is eager to explore the latest information in education and classroom technology. When she isn’t scribing her next story for Showbie, she's researching the next big thing in schools around the world. Email tips and ideas to katie@showbie.com

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