Technologies to Watch

Since 2005, the annual Horizon Report has been the most visible aspect of a focused collaboration between the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI) and the New Media Consortium … … a comprehensive research venture established in 2002 that identifies and describes emerging technologies likely to have a large impact over the coming five years on a variety of sectors around the globe.”
[Johnson, L., Smith, R., Willis, H., Levine, A., and Haywood, K., (2011). The 2011 Horizon Report. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.]

Key Trends
The technologies featured in every edition of the Horizon Report are embedded within a contemporary context that reflects the realities of the time, both in the sphere of education and in the world at large. … The highest ranked of those trends had significant agreement among the Advisory Board members, who considered them to be key drivers of educational technology adoptions for the period 2011 through 2015.

Technologies to Watch
The six technologies featured in the 2011 Horizon Report are placed along three adoption horizons that indicate likely time frames for their entrance into mainstream use for teaching, learning, or creative inquiry. The near-term horizon assumes the likelihood of entry into the mainstream for institutions within the next twelve months; the mid-term horizon, within two to three years; and the far-term, within four to five years.

On the near-term horizon — … are electronic books and mobiles. … a growing number of institutions are finding ways to take advantage of a technology that nearly all students, faculty, and staff carry.

Electronic books continue to generate strong interest in the consumer sector and are increasingly available on campuses as well. Modern electronic readers support note-taking and research activities, and are beginning to augment these basic functions with new capabilities — from immersive experiences to support for social interaction — that are changing our perception of what it means to read. [Emphasis added.]

Mobiles enable ubiquitous access to information, social networks, tools for learning and productivity, and much more. Mobile devices continue to evolve, but it is the increased access to affordable and reliable networks that is driving this technology now. Mobiles are capable computing devices in their own right — and they are increasingly a user’s first choice for Internet access.

The second adoption horizon [2-3 years] … are augmented reality and game-based learning. Both intersect with practices in mainstream popular culture, both have been considered significant tools for education for many years, and both have made appearances on a number of campuses already. Advances in hardware and software, as well as in a broader acceptance of new methods in teaching, secured the place of these innovations as the top technologies for the mid-term horizon.

Augmented reality refers to the layering of information over a view or representation of the normal world, offering users the ability to access place-based information in ways that are compellingly intuitive. Augmented reality brings a significant potential to supplement information delivered via computers, mobile devices, video, and even the printed book. Much simpler to create and use now than in the past, augmented reality feels at once fresh and new, yet an easy extension of existing expectations and practices.

Game-based learning has grown in recent years as research continues to demonstrate its effectiveness for learning for students of all ages. Games for education span the range from single-player or small-group card and board games all the way to massively multiplayer online games and alternate reality games. Those at the first end of the spectrum are easy to integrate with coursework, and in many institutions they are already an option; but the greatest potential of games for learning lies in their ability to foster collaboration, problem-solving, and procedural thinking. For a variety of reasons, the realization of this potential is still two to three years away.

Looking to the far-term horizon [4-5 years] … are gesture-based computing and learning analytics. Both remain largely speculative and not yet in widespread usage on campuses, but both are also garnering significant interest and increasing exposure.

Gesture-based computing moves the control of computers from a mouse and keyboard to the motions of the body via new input devices. Depicted in science fiction movies for years, gesture-based computing is now more grounded in reality thanks to the recent arrival of interface technologies such as Kinect, SixthSense, and Tamper, which make interactions with computational devices far more intuitive and embodied.

Learning analytics loosely joins a variety of data-gathering tools and analytic techniques to study student engagement, performance, and progress in practice, with the goal of using what is learned to revise curricula, teaching, and assessment in real time. Building on the kinds of information generated by Google Analytics and other similar tools, learning analytics aims to mobilize the power of data-mining tools in the service of learning, and embracing the complexity, diversity, and abundance of information that dynamic learning environments can generate.

Each of these technologies is described in detail in the main body of the report, where a discussion of what the technology is and why it is relevant to teaching, learning, and creative inquiry may also be found. Given the practical focus of the report, a listing of examples of the technology in use, especially in higher education, is a key component of each of the six main topics. Our research indicates that all six of these technologies, taken together, will have a significant impact on learning-focused organizations within the next five years.

If you’re asking yourself – So what? – the answer is that these technologies will continue to change the nature of the library customer, increasing their information literacy, as well as their capabilities with technology. Another example of how technology is changing things is the form that the Horizon Report took this year.

The Horizon Project Navigator. This edition of the Horizon Report kicks off the ninth year of the series and a turning point in the NMC’s Emerging Technologies Initiative, which is dedicated to charting the landscape of emerging technologies for teaching, learning, and creative inquiry. In each of the preceding years, the Horizon Project process has focused on the creation of a print-based publication (or its pdf analog), one produced through a collaborative process that leveraged the productive potential of a wiki for posting and responding to ideas, RSS feeds for gathering information dynamically, and tagging for collecting and sharing references. The decision to print the NMC report was based on the fact that a physical report remains a powerful tool on many campuses.

However, in its continuing interest in modeling the advantages of new technologies, over the course of 2010, and with the generous support of the HP, the NMC designed and produced the Horizon Project Navigator (, an online database that harnesses the power of technology and social media to create an information and resource hub that is made stronger through the participation of its users. [Emphasis added.]

The Horizon Project Navigator leverages the affordances of social media and computation to offer users access to the same materials — and more — used by the Horizon Project Advisory Board. It is a dynamic, customizable, and powerful tool for individuals who want the ability to chart the landscape of emerging technologies for teaching, learning, and creative inquiry through their own set of needs and interests. The platform provides a fully dynamic online version of the Horizon Report created for the emerging technology professional.

Change is here! Are you ready for it?

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