Commentary: New technologies on the horizon for teaching


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A well-researched report [1] has listed the technologies that should increasingly feature in teaching. It is projected that in the coming year there will be increased use of cloud computing, mobile applications, social exchanges, and tablet computing. Within 2–3 years, we can expect to see more adaptive learning environments, augmented reality, game-based learning, and learning analytics. Learning analytics is defined by Wikipedia as the measurement, collection, analysis, and reporting of data about learners and their contexts, for purposes of understanding and optimizing learning and the environments in which it occurs. Within 4–5 years, we will see the introduction of digital identity, gesture-based computing, and haptic (touch controlled) interfaces. The New Media Consortium (NMC) that produced the report is an international association of educational technologists working at the forefront of educational research since 1993. The NMC Horizon Project for 2012 follows a decade of previous reports. The way that the NMC Horizon Report is collated is instructive because many contributors work on the report as a wiki under a 47 member editorial board. The report evolves dynamically each year and is then lodged in the public domain under a creative commons license.

Six key trends identified in the report are as follows. 1) People expect to be able to work, learn, and study whenever and wherever they want to. 2) The technologies we use are increasingly cloud-based, and our notions of IT support are decentralized. 3) The world of work is increasingly collaborative, driving changes in the way student projects are structured. 4) The abundance of resources and relationships made easily accessible via the Internet is challenging our roles as educators. 5) Education paradigms are shifting to include online learning, hybrid learning, and collaborative models. 6) There is a new emphasis in the classroom on more challenge-based and active learning. Change brings challenge and the five significant challenges listed in the report will certainly resonate with many. The challenges are: 1) Economic pressures and new models of education will bring unprecedented competition to the traditional models of higher education. 2) Appropriate metrics of evaluation are lagging the emergence of new scholarly forms of authoring, publishing, and researching. 3) Digital media literacy continues to rise in importance as a key skill in every discipline and profession and this must be included in courses. 4) Formidable institutional barriers must be overcome to move forward in a constructive way with emerging technologies. 5) New modes of scholarship require different approaches from libraries and university collections, requiring change to how scholarship is documented and the business-publication models to support these activities.

In addition to the Horizon Report the NMC constantly clears information from member universities to promote teaching that is more engaging, effective, and inclusive. Updates are provided via social media and an electronic newsletter. The NMC archives additionally provide a collection of content that spans two decades. For browsing, or in-depth reading, the information about learning with new media at the NMC is worth a visit.