On the Horizon

The New Media Consortium and the Educause Learning Initiative have released the 2007 Horizon Report. Each year, this report describes emerging technologies likely to have a large impact on teaching, learning, or creative expression within
higher education. The report has been issued annually since 2004.

This picture was taken in the Nambian Desert in Africa by Italian photographer Clara Natoli. I found it on MorgueFile.Within the next year, the report predicts that we will see a number of technologies gain widespread use in higher education, including user-created content, social networking, and mobile device convergence (is it a phone, camera, pda, or music player?). In the two-to-three year timeframe, look for increases in the use of 3D virtual environments (like Second Life), changes in the ways academic research and publication are done, and enhancements in the ways multiplayer online games are used in education.

There are no real surprises here. We’ve been batting around the web 2.0 buzzword for a couple years now, which describes the web as a collaborative space where people can create and interact with content. The web has become more than a giant library. Everyone can create content. Everyone can interact with the producers of web content. I’m posting this online, and it’s costing me almost nothing to do so. You can comment on this article, if you’re so inclined. Someone else may read your comment and want to chime in too. The barriers to participation are gone.

For me, the jury’s still out on virtual environments and online gaming. I don’t dispute their promise, but I’m not convinced the benefits are going to outweigh the high costs of the computing power and bandwidth needed to make them work. I’m not sure the benefits over simpler technologies like blogs, wikis, discussion boards, IM, and audio conferencing are worth all the fuss. At some point, I’ll show my age by explaining how Second Life is really just a Mud, but that’s another post.

Nearly as interesting as the Horizon Report itself is the Horizon Project Wiki, which documents the process of creating the report. It’s fascinating to see how the ideas are collected, researched, filtered, and finalized into the final report. It’s also fun to see the things that didn’t make the list.