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Ed-Tech: Always on the Horizon
February 18, 2012 - 3:43pm

Earlier this month, EDUCAUSE and the New Media Consortium released the 2012 Horizon Report, detailing the technologies that -- as the name suggests -- are on the horizon for higher ed.

The "horizon" is a fascinating metaphor (Cue Husserl), particularly when it comes to thinking about education technology. The horizon is the skyline. You are always standing in the middle of it, but it is always out of reach. It seems as though you can move closer to it, but no matter which way you go, the horizon always slips away. We cannot avoid the horizon; it surrounds us in all directions. Yet it is always vaguely in the distance -- anticipated but never accessed. And despite our certainty that the world is indeed round, there's something about the horizon that still seems to suggest falling into nothingness -- whether utopia or abyss.

Discussions about education-technology feel very much like this. It isn't simply a matter of amnesia, where we forget where we've been before. I suppose looking towards the horizon seems like it could be an antidote to an ed-tech myopia (something Steve Hargadon and I recently discussed in our weekly ed-tech podcast). But even if we look up and take it all in, it's not always clear how -- or even whether it's possible -- to "get there." Add to that, of course, that where we stand and where we face influences our view of the horizon. As the report itself notes, the technologies it identifies are "embedded within a contemporary context that reflects the realities of the time, both in the sphere of higher education and in the world at large."

NMC has been issuing Horizon Reports for a decade now. I couldn't find the first report online, but according to the 2004 report (the earliest one available on the NMC site), here are the emerging technologies then "on the horizon": learning objects, scalable vector graphics, rapid prototyping, multimodal interfaces, context-aware computing, and knowledge webs. In 2007, the report listed user-created content, social networking, mobile phones, virtual worlds, alternative publications, and massively multiplayer educational gaming.

I should note here that the Horizon Report isn't meant to be a predictive tool. And even when it has identified emerging trends, it's always careful to note some of the challenges that schools (both K-12 and at higher ed) face in adopting them. According to the report, some 50 technologies were weighed for inclusion.

So what's on the horizon in 2012?

  • Mobile apps and tablet computing in the near-term (time to adoption: 1 to 2 years)
  • Game based learning and learning analytics in the mid-term (2 to 3 years 'til adoption)
  • The Internet of Things and gesture-based computing in the long-term (4 to 5 years)

You can download and read the full report here.  From where you stand, do you see other things on the horizon?

 

 

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