Technology Since 1998

What technology change might (or might not) tell us about the next 15 years in higher ed.

January 6, 2014

If you were asked to name the most important technology milestones in the last 15 years what would make your list?

The thing is, 15 years does not seem like a very long time.  

How many of you are working at the same place now as 15 years ago?  

How many of your colleagues do you know now that you also new 15 years ago?

My list of the most important technologies (or gadgets or platforms) in the last 15 years would include:

Google 1998
Wikipedia 2001
Facebook 2004
YouTube 2005
Twitter 2006
iPhone 2007
Kindle 2007

My criteria for including technologies is that they need to be in some sense game changers -- technologies that have launched and sustained new ecosystems.   

I leave off my list any technologies that were once hot but have faded in importance. No AltaVista, Friendster, MySpace, or Second Life on my list.

Nor do I put on my list of the most important technologies over the past 15 years anything that is purely evolutionary. The MacBook Air is a great laptop, but it is the descendant of the old iBook I once owned.

Also missing from my list of the most important technologies over the last 15 years is anything edtech related. This is depressing. Should Sakai, Moodle, Blackboard, D2L, or Canvas have made my list?  Or a lecture capture or media management solution?    The reason for their absence is that I’m looking for technologies that changed our culture.   

For all the importance of the LMS on campus, I’m not sure that its existence has changed even our academic culture.  

(Please feel free to disagree. Online and blended learning seem to me the more important developments, techniques enabled by a host of technologies).

So what is missing?

Some questions about this list would include:

a.  Why does the list stop in 2007?

b.  Is a list such as this instructive for thinking about technology change in the next 15 years?

c.  What does this list say about change in higher education?

What is clear is that the pace of technological change is much faster than the pace of institutional change.

Yes, we have seem some important shifts in postsecondary education in this time period.  Everything from online and blended learning to MOOCs.   But nothing in education has changed to the degree that the technology world has been mutated since 1998.  

The going-to-college experience has (I would argue) gotten better since 1998 (and certainly more expensive), but for most students (particularly residential students) not all that much has changed.

How do you think about technology change?

How do you think about where higher ed is going in the next 15 years?


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