04 February, 2008

2008 Horizon Report: Future Technolgies and Trends

It can take many years from the early adoption of a technology until it is realistic for us to use institution wide in a Higher Education context. The Horizon Report (2008 Edition) by the New Media Consortium and EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative takes a look at six emerging technologies that are likely to see mainstream use over the next few years, as well as challenges and trends that will be faced during this time.

It's well worth having a look at the document - perhaps just go to the sections that interest you if you're short of time. Below I'll look briefly at how each might relate to our context.

Section One: Grassroots Video (1 year or less to adoption)
It is now easy to create, edit and publish video. Most mobile phones have some capability to record video, operating systems come with basic video editing tools and there are many online services that will host video for free. The wide uptake of broadband means that low bandwidth isn't a great barrier to people accessing the video.

All this means that it's becoming more realistic to incorporate video in educational programmes. It might be creating video resources for the students or asking students to create their own videos as part of their learning. As with any data (espacially external services) it is important for both staff and students to keep their work backed up in case there are problems with the service, but that shouldn't prevent the use of the technology.

How could this integrate with the VLE? If the video is hosted externally staff can share links via the VLE and the students can using the discussion tool on the VLE. If you only want videos to be available to the class in question, a service like Ning or eportfolio software like PebblePad make it easy for students to share various media inside a private social network site environment.

Section Two: Collaboration Webs
(1 year or less to adoption)
Google Docs is one of many possible examples of web services that enable groups of people to easily work collaboratively on a piece of work, or easily share work. With Google Docs it would mean office documents, but other services allow work on other types of projects.

This collaboration has been something that staff at Edge Hill have experimented with over a few years. Generally it has been collaboration and sharing within a single class using a wiki or social networking site, but there is the possibility for classes studying the same subject at different institutions to perhaps work together. In fact due to licence restrictions with a VLE like Blackboard, an alternative like an external service would be necessary for collaborative work that involved people from outside the institution.

Section Three: Mobile Broadband
(2 to 3 years to adoption)
While mobile phones are becoming more powerful and ubiquitous, I think that there is still limited benefit right now from us to try and make large amounts of resources more suitable for mobile devices. Our VLE isn't really designed with this in mind and that is a possible obstacle. However it's time to start small scale pilots (as some people round the institution are doing) and these projects will get people thinking about how we could be producing resources that would be suitable for mobile use. This will feed into larger scale decisions about future directions.

It would be good to hear what people are doing in this area. For example I know Media Development are looking at creating video suitable for mobile devices which could be accessed and used on field trips.

Section Four: Data Mashups
(2 to 3 years to adoption)
Data mashups as we know them now still require some technical knowledge to set up. This means that it is not something that everyone can create themselves. However using services like Yahoo! Pipes and Google Mashup Editor they would be achievable for some staff. As we've seen with the other technologies like video, as time goes on tools will be available to make creation even more intuitive for non-technical minds.

The actual use of mashups in HE could obviously involve displaying geographic data on a map, and this is what many users are doing (see http://googlemapsmania.blogspot.com). Other uses have explored various ways of visualising data, for example Gregory Chatonsky's Flußgeist / L'attente / waiting (2007) which mixes Twitter microblogs with Flickr images that have been tagged with a word from the post to create quite a hypnotic piece of art.

Section Five: Collective Intelligence
(4 to 5 years to adoption)
Collective intelligence seems different to the other things on this list, in that it is less a technology that we might use and more a shift in a way of thinking that will affect us (perhaps whether we want it to or not). Because it is an international thing, it won't be Edge Hill University 'doing collective intelligence', it'll be something much bigger.

However ways in which we could use these ideas could be, for example, getting students to tag (Folksonomy) or write about how they used the books in the library (as well as other resources and experiences that have been involved with their learning). This collective knowledge would show the University and future students resources that would be useful for different tasks and areas of study and would work alongside existing more formal ways of organising information.

Section Six: Social Operating Systems
(4 to 5 years to adoption)
This section covers the power of linking Social Networking Site technologies with Operating Systems. Operating Systems currently are focussed on content but not relationships. Social Operating Systems would make it easier to see who created resources, who they interact with and therefore to see other people doing similar work and research. This would enable you to read their work or perhaps collaborate with them. It would also make it easy to discover someone's complete body of work - similar to what some people want to use e-portfolios for.

It'd be interesting to hear from other people about how they see these new technologies and trends affecting us, and how we might best react to them and use them.

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