On the train yesterday to UCISA Executive meeting in Oxford. I take the opportunity of almost 3 hours of not being interrupted to read relevant papers, and on this journey I’ve been looking at the Horizons Report. This is a collaboration between the New Media consortium and the EDUCAUSE leaning Initiative, and is a report produced every year which looks at emerging technologies which will have an impact on teaching, learning, research or creative expression in learning organisations.
The technologies which are identified are categorised into timescales of when they are likely to be adopted as mainstream use for learning or research applications – within a year, within two to three years, and within four to five years. It’s a very easy report to read, and has a good executive summary – I recommend it.
Six technologies are selected, two for each timeframe and examples of given of their application in education.
One year or less
Mobiles – the evolution of mobile devices into a single portable devices that can make phone calls, take pictures, record audio and video, store data and connect to the internet is already interwoven into our lifestyle. The development of third party applications represents a big change in the way they can be used and opens the door to many uses in education. They can be turned into sophisticated calculators displaying graphs in 3D, used as instrument simulators or deliver campus information to students.
Cloud computing – the emergence of very large data farms has transformed once expensive resources like disk storage and processing cycles into a commodity. Most of use the cloud without even knowing every time we use Youtube, Flickr, or Google. Applications in Education include Science Clouds and Earthbrowser.
Two to three years:
Geo-everything – everything on the earth’s surface has a location that can be expressed with just two coordinates. So, physical objects can be located, as well as the geolocation of digital media such as photographs. This isn’t new – but is growing, as it’s available on more devices. Loads of applications in education especially in field research in science, social sciences and medicine and health. There’s a good example of an annotated map where someone has created a map of the course described in the travels of Marco Polo.
The personal web – only 15 years after the appearance of the first commercial web pages, the amount of information now available is staggering, and what ‘s goring is information about individuals, - we have information about ourselves in twitter, blogs, facebook, flickr, youTube. A New generation of tools for tagging and categorising allows a personal web to be created. Of course, these tools are also useful for research and teaching.
Four to Five Years
Semantic aware applications – new applications are emerging which can gather the context in which information is being used and make connections that would otherwise take a great deal of time and effort. Examples of semantic aware applications in Education are still rare, but the potential is there, and a lot of research into these semantic applications is underway.
Smart objects – a smart object “knows” about itself – where and how it was made, where it is, what it’s being used for, what’s near it, and can report on their state. There are many technologies for attaching this capacity to an object such as RFID, but the potential is enormous. They have been used in industry for many years, and are just starting to be introduced into education – libraries are an obvious example for these applications, but there are applications in Archaeology, and health care. Researchers have developed a tiny smart object which can be injected into a tumour. Once there it can report on the dose of radiation received and the exact location of the tumour.
It will be interesting to see whether these technologies will become mainstream in Education in these timeframes, and if so, are we as IT departments ready to cope with them?