Every year about this time I make a few “$5 prognostications” with my team about what next year will hold for education, technology at large, and the growth of the Ed-Fi Alliance. This year I thought one convergence of trends was worth sharing.

2017 will be the rise of “even more” local control, in a good way!

More Democratization of Tech

The proliferation of smart phones with expansive app ecosystems, combined with bring your own device (BYOD) policies are fueling an expansion in teacher choice. Teachers now have greater flexibility to choose best-of-breed technology to meet the unique needs of their students. This democratization of tech is hugely impactful, but with so many choices at their fingertips, teachers need to know these tools and apps not only work together, but that they’ll be able to use the wealth of data created to move the needle on student achievement. An outcome that currently is an afterthought, but that could be a powerful opportunity.

More Personalized Learning

Next, we’ve seen the promise of personalized learning continue to gain momentum with educators, parents and yes, even students. This trend will explode in 2017 powered by teacher selected best-of-breed technology (see trend above). We can argue over the specific definition of personalized learning, but what is clear, is that no matter the instructional model or setting, the common denominator is that data will drive decisions around how we do personalized learning –  teacher and student agency, the setting, everything should be informed by data that is supported by interoperability. Think of the impact of this. Where you once had disjointed use of technology with hard-to-access metrics, now you are looking at the full picture of student performance. Where there was a deluge of data points from many disparate sources, now there is an organized approach to getting meaningful data into the hands of teachers. This is what is going to power personalized learning in a sustainable way.

More Autonomy

Last, but not least, greater local control over budgets provides states, district superintendents, schools and building leaders with greater autonomy than ever before. Instead 2017 will mean that school leaders will be empowered to find and fund the tools that are just-right for their situation. This trend can be enormously successful, or if not executed with an eye toward integration and a larger view, it could cause the pendulum to swing the other way.  It is a delicate balancing act and as education is a public good, funded in large part by taxpayer dollars, it requires and deserves transparency, accountability, and success. So it’s important to get it right. Local control over budgets will enable schools to be nimble and to meet their specific technology goals but it must be centered around a big-picture approach that facilitates integration.

I’m excited about 2017, as I believe we will continue to see more teacher choice, greater personalization of learning, and budget decisions being made closer to home. This convergence of trends will ultimately lead to improved student outcomes, a goal that is central to the Ed-Fi mission.