2009 Horizon Report Thoughts & Observations

This is my first opportunity to read the Horizon Report, and I have to say that I found it to be a very thorough and useful resource.  I think the notion of issuing an exhaustively researched report on emerging technologies and their expected impact on education is an invaluable service.  I expect that now I know where to find this report, I will become a regular reader.

Still… a few questions and observations came to mind as I read this year’s report…

First, just to play devil’s advocate… I have no doubt that all of the technologies listed in the report will have a profound impact on education in one way or another.  But I wonder if some of the items are included in the report because the advisory board sees genuine educational potential in the item, or if it’s a matter of playing “catch-up” with a popular trend and trying to attribute an exaggerated sense of educational importance and urgency to a particular technology.  To illustrate my point, the first technology highlighted in the report is mobile devices.  Now, I agree with the report that one cannot overstate the impact mobile devices are having on our society and the way we communicate and access information–including in educational applications.  But the report goes so far to hint that mobile devices could someday replace personal computers.  True, smart phones potentially offer almost limitless information all in a pocket-sized device.  But…a crucial point that is overlooked by the report is one particular–and in my opinion, glaring– limitation of these devices–specifically, the small keyboards and screens.  Granted, for such applications as playing rudimentary games, viewing YouTube videos, language translation, and looking up movie times, weather forecasts, sports scores, and news blurbs, mobile devices are perfect.  But the cramped keyboards and small screens take their toll on the user, in my opinion.  How quickly and accurately can one really type an entry of any length using only their thumbs?  And while I agree that the potential of mobile devices is almost limitless, until the ergonomic problems are solved, I don’t believe desktop and laptop computers are going anywhere anytime soon.  That’s not to say that mobile devices should be dismissed as educational tools–in fact, I believe quite the opposite to be true.  I guess my point is that the implied urgency with which these technologies are described should be tempered by their limitations as well–not the least of which being universal access.  I think the “Pockets of Potential” article addresses mobile technology more thoroughly and fairly.  To be fair, though, I think the Horizon Report’s main oversight is the anticipated time-frame; I doubt that the screen & keypad shortcomings of mobile devices will be improved enough in the coming year to bring them closer to replacing laptop & desktop computers.

Now, as a counterpoint to my own previous example, I think the second technology cited in the report–cloud computing–may be a potentially pivotal solution to making mobile devices more useful; the recent popularity of mini laptops–netbooks–is testament to this.  It’s not inconceivable to think that future computers will simply provide processing power, memory, minimal storage space, and Internet access–because all applications will reside somewhere in the “ether”.  Google Docs is already an example of this.  Many users are switching from expensive software suites that have to be upgraded to “free” applications on the web that are constantly updated and improved beneath the notice of the user.  The potential shortcomings of this, though, include questions of rights and ownership and security.  If I create a document on a computer I’ve purchased using software I’ve bought, the ownership is mine, and I am responsible for the security and integrity.  However, if I create an identical document in Google Docs, do I really have sole ownership?  And who else might have access to its contents?  As the report cites, trust is still an issue–for both security and integrity–and rightly so, in my opinion.

Lastly…before this gets even lengthier…  Having said all that, I still applaud the efforts of all the contributors to the Horizon Report.  Their approach seems to be as exhaustive and impartial as possible, and I have no doubt that the information is as accurate and timely as possible.  As I stated earlier, I have no doubt that I will be consulting this report in the future.  I would only offer that readers treat the report as one of many resources regarding technology and education–that they use it along with other sources to help gain a more global and wider perspective.

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Blog Title Change

I never really liked “EdTech Archive”–it sounded too dry.  I’m not sure “shoebox” is much better, but I think it more accurately reflects how I compile and store things…

ePortfolio Thoughts

After reading this week’s assigned articles about ePortfolios, it occurred to me that web 2.0 technology is finally making it so that everyone can do what media people have been doing for years (though with more primitive technology).  When applying for jobs, artists always needed to bring with them a physical portfolio containing samples of their artwork; in radio and TV, job applicants needed to send a resume tape (audio cassette or VHS) with samples of their on-air or video editing work.  Regardless of its physical form, all the work was in one semi-portable format.

Now with web 2.0 technologies, everyone can create an online portfolio showcasing their work–regardless of the media, and it’s completely portable.  Instead of lugging around unwieldy stacks of articles or other writing samples, all this paperwork can now be digital and all in one place–accessible with the click of a mouse.  And–more importantly–it can be mixed media.  A teacher who wants to showcase a particular project or lesson-plan can now incorporate multimedia slideshows consisting of samples of their students’ work along with video and audio clips–all to create a more engaging presentation.  And of course, video editors, radio talent, and artists no longer have to be constrained by physical media–they can now send their prospective employers a simple URL to their ePortfolio, which can be a personalized presentation of their work, including links to audio files and/or embedded videos–or even Flash-based presentations.

I have no doubt that as ePortfolios become more ubiquitous, they will change the job application/selection process–even more than they already have–giving people an improved method for showcasing their talent, and making job hunting more competitive.

EPSY556: Techsploration – Week 1

For our first Techsploration (I like the way that word looks and sounds), we’ve been asked to reflect on the future of learning.  And to prepare for our first synchronous discussion, we were asked to view the “Did You Know 2.0” video.

Much like the “The Machine is Us/ing Us” video, the notions of technology and education are explored and presented in engaging ways.  I came away from watching both videos with a sense of urgency and purpose, feeling like we as a society (especially Americans) are in danger of being “left behind” if we don’t keep pace with rapidly evolving technology and learn to communicate and collaborate better with our counterparts overseas whose population and literacy numbers seem to be soaring far beyond ours.

At the risk of sounding theatrical, we are witnessing the beginning of what I perceive to be a profound revolution in education through technology; someday we’ll be able to dazzle our grandchildren with tales of being there when the Internet first became popular.  With today’s technology, we are afforded the ability to communicate and interact on an unprecedented global scale.  And tools like image and video editing–which were once too complex and costly for the average user and therefore restricted to professionals only–are becoming easier to use and more ubiquitous, even at the grade-school level.

This is an exciting time, to be sure–especially for educators.  But it is also tempered with some frustration and trepidation, I think, because we as educators on all different levels, understand the impact technology will have on the future of learning–but we are still uncertain on how to best proceed with limited resources and that continuing sense of urgency.

When discussing education and technology, I think there’s an overall tendency to focus on how each affects the other and the potential benefits of marrying the two together–as well as the potential pitfalls of keeping them separate.  But I would take this a step further by proposing that the future of learning will be characterized by the notion that education and technology will be inseparable and, perhaps, interchangeable.  I believe that the use of Web 2.0 tools like blogs, social media (like Facebook and Twitter), and media sharing will be so ingrained in the process, that to consider a time when the two concepts were separate will be unfathomable.