As we turn the page on 2008 and consider how much has changed in the last few months, it is clear that 2009 will be a year of profound changes.  Certainly our current economic crisis has and will continue to have broad implications for our students, teachers and institutions.  In my travels across the country, I sense and empathize with the stress many of our education leaders are feeling.  I have been extremely impressed by their fierce determination in the face of challenging environments to deliver value to their constituents…and for their continued efforts to push for innovation and improvement.  In times of tremendous pressure we need our great leaders and advocates to stand tall, buoy optimism, and continue to set the path for success.

I’m excited about the opportunity to have very real and pragmatic discussions with our school leaders on how to face the hurdles of declining budgets and increasing expectations and I think based on some of the seeds planted in 2008, several potentially transformational trends will emerge in 2009.

Doing more with less.  This is something our teachers understand all too well.  Teachers are asked to do more with less every day…teach more children, meet more accountability demands, etc.  I think the core trends of 2009 all reflect the need for our schools and systems to think holistically and creatively about how to get more value out of every dollar invested and every program launched.  This is nothing new for education, but the current environment reminds us of the need to make wise decisions and ensure the mission and focus of our schools is finely tuned on driving student outcomes.

This is the time of year for reflection and predictions… and this ritual is by no means mine alone.  eSchool News, Inside Higher Ed and others are also anticipating the trends that may surface.  In future posts, I’ll go deeper on many of the key trends that I think will likely emerge.  For now, here is a brief look at my top 5 predictions for 2009.

  1. Modernization & “Greening” of our schools.  “Green” initiatives have certainly risen to the forefront of public consciousness and will be a primary component of the new administration’s plan for our schools.  There are many good reasons for this - finding sustainable resources to reduce foreign energy dependence, respecting the environment/reducing the carbon footprint, and developing more efficient and cost-effective buildings to save our schools money.  Technology can play an increasingly important role in addressing these issues and enabling the long term goal of sustainability.  Microsoft is helping to reduce the direct impact of computing on the environment through power management at the software and enterprise level. Making it easier for customers to manage their computing footprint, Microsoft helps by providing built-in energy efficiency, power management, resource optimization, server consolidation and virtualization solutions.

  2. The promise of hosted computing. Technology’s evolution has created more options for schools to deploy services and extend value.  Schools can move from on-premise computing environments to hosted solutions that offer tremendous value at little or no cost.  The addition of rich communication, collaboration and storage resources for teachers and students can be done with integration to current environments, allowing schools to maximize current investments while increasing focus on the core mission...educating our students.

  3. Access to personal computing devices.  The improved capability of mobile computing devices and the increased range of laptop options are getting us closer to the promise of one laptop per child.  However, the reduced cost of computing devices does not lessen the importance of holistic thinking about transforming education to optimize technology.  We cannot be “acquisition-centric” when it comes to one-to-one computing.  Before any device enters a school, we must apply rigor on outcomes, environment, sustainability, communication, curriculum, assessment, training, etc.

  4. Emergence and connection of “workforce readiness” to student assessment.  In order to push through the current economic slump, we must invest in equipping our students with the 21st century skills they need to compete in the global workforce.  Our students need to find their place in the “real world” and connect their education to relevant workforce competencies.  Resources like the Microsoft Competency Wheel and Career Forward are examples of our focus on helping schools respond and embrace workforce readiness.

  5. Digital Curriculum a reality. The richness of the internet and the increased availability of digital curriculum are delivering the promise of a paperless learning environment….a promise which creates the opportunity for personalized and adaptive learning.

Looking ahead in 2009, I’m hopeful we can continue to dream big in the face of our challenges.  We must not let our current economic challenge distract us from our mission to help students of all ages realize their potential.   I’m looking forward to the work ahead and your continued partnership.