What’s on the horizon for educational technology? Researchers at the New Media Consortium look into their crystal balls each year and publish the Horizon Report for higher ed and K-12 schools. The report features six technologies to watch and puts them in a likely timeframe for entrance into mainstream use for teaching and learning.
The six technologies to keep your eye on are:
Time to Adoption: One year or less
The “cloud” refers to surplus computing resources available from specialized data centers, each often hosting thousands of servers, that power the world’s largest websites and web services. Growing out of research in grid computing, cloud computing transforms once-expensive resources like disk storage and processing cycles into a readily available, cheap commodity. Development platforms layered onto the cloud infrastructure enable thin-client, web-based applications for image editing, word processing, social networking, and media creation. Many of us use the cloud, or cloud-based applications, without even being aware of it. In schools, use of cloud computing is progressing along a path that began with the adoption of collaborative tools for administrative tasks and that leads, eventually, to classroom adoption of cloud-based tools for learning.
Time to adoption: One year or less
Collaborative environments are online spaces where the focus is on making it easy to collaborate and work in groups, no matter where the participants may be. As the typical educator’s network of contacts has grown to include colleagues who might live and work across the country, or indeed anywhere on the globe, it has become common for people who are not physically located near each other to collaborate on projects. In classrooms as well, joint projects with students at other schools or in other countries are more and more commonplace as strategies to expose learners to a variety of perspectives. Collaborative environments can be off-the-shelf or assembled from a wide variety of simple, free tools — the key is the interactions they enable, not the technologies they include.
Time to adoption: 2-3 years
The interest in game-based learning has accelerated considerably in recent years, driven by clear successes in military and industrial training as well as by emerging research into the cognitive benefits of game play.
Developers and researchers are working in every area of game-based learning, including games that are
goal-oriented; social game environments; non-digital games that are easy to construct and play; games
developed expressly for education; and commercial games that lend themselves to refining team and group skills. At the low end of game technology, there are literally thousands of ways games can be — and are already being — applied in learning contexts. More complex approaches like role-playing, collaborative problem solving, and other forms of simulated experiences have broad applicability across a wide range of disciplines, and are beginning to be explored in more classrooms.
Time to adoption: 2-3 years
The mobile market today has more than 4 billion subscribers, more than two-thirds of whom live in developing countries. The global network supporting mobile devices of all kinds now covers more territory than the electrical grid. A massive and increasing number of people all over the world own and use computers that fit in their hand and are able to connect to the network wirelessly from virtually anywhere. Tens of thousands of applications designed to support a wide variety of tasks on a host of mobile devices and platforms are readily available, with more entering the market all the time. These mobile computing tools have become accepted aids in daily life for everything from business to personal productivity to social networking. The range and number of educational applications for mobiles are growing at a rapid pace, yet their use in schools is limited — more often constrained by policy than by the capabilities of the devices they run on.
Time to adoption: 4-5 years
While the capability to deliver augmented reality experiences has been around for decades, it is only very recently that those experiences have become easy and portable. Advances in mobile devices as well as in the different technologies that combine the real world with virtual information have led to augmented reality applications that are as near to hand as any other application on a laptop or a smart phone. New uses for augmented reality are being explored and new experiments undertaken now that it is easy to do so. Emerging augmented reality tools to date have been mainly designed for marketing, social purposes, amusement, or location-based information, but new ones continue to appear as the technology becomes more popular. Augmented reality has become simple, and is now poised to enter the mainstream in the consumer sector.
Time to adoption: 4-5 years
Computer displays continue to develop in ways that are enabling whole new categories of devices. Flexible screens that can wrap around curved surfaces are in prototype, as are small, very thin interactive screens. Flexible screen technology allows displays to be literally printed onto plastic, along with the batteries that power them, enabling the sorts of live motion displays previously only hinted about in the world of Harry Potter. When the technology is developed fully it will enable integrated interactive display devices that combine input and output in a single interface, finally realizing the full potential of electronic paper, though widespread commercial use remains several years away.
Download the full report here.