Saturday, February 19, 2011

On the Horizon

The New Media Consortium's 2011 Horizon Report, produced jointly with EDUCAUSE, predicts technologies which will have a large impact on teaching, learning, and creative expression in higher education. Now in its eighth year of publication, the report is distinguished by predictions of adoption cycles in education; i.e., how long it will take teachers and schools to actually use these emerging tools. Let's look at what's on the near-term (one year or less) horizon.
Mobile computing is on the short adoption cycle (as with last year's report). Last year, Horizon cited the wide range of activities mobile devices make possible; this year, the report says, "mobiles are here because so many people use them as their first choice for accessing networked resources." For online instructors, the impact of mobile devices is that they can literally teach from and to anywhere there is a cell signal. I'm looking forward to the Java-enabled mobile device that supports Confer sessions, and at the same time I'm pushing for a mobile-ready version of the Confer classroom.

Also singled out for near term adoption are electronic books. Yes, we all know that texts can be downloaded and read on mobile devices, and that both devices and content are now readily available. But that's not the real point: "What makes electronic books a potentially transformative technology is the new kinds of reading experiences that they make possible." What's happening with this new technology is that our definition of "reading" is changing, with audiovisual, interactive, and social components mixing into the act and extending the process.

These predictions will be welcomed by iPhone, Android, Kindle, iPad, and shiny new app owners. It's important to remember, though, that we serve a student population that includes a large number for whom constant Internet access is not a given, and some for whom "reading" on a small screen is more of an obstacle than an advantage. We have to be careful not to create a new digital divide: between the mobile "haves" and the desktop- or "dumb-phone"- bound "have-nots": new technology adoption has to occur in a relevant and practical context.

Meanwhile, I'm excited by what's on the horizon. How about you?
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