A superwave is on the horizon: The 2007 Horizon Report

a simulpost with TechLearning

The 2007 Horizon report is a must read! If you're tired of blazing the trail, this month the folks at Educause and New Media Consortium released the Horizon 2007 report that may astound even you!

The report outlines the six most influential forces for the future of higher learning:

1) User created content

The report:
"Small tools and easy access have opened the doors for almost anyone to
become an author, a creator, or a filmmaker. These bits of content represent a new form of contribution and an increasing trend toward authorship that is happening at almost all levels of experience." (New Media Consortium 6).
My thoughts:
The audience is vital but also the authorship that this new audience provides us!

The new first impression
As a child, I was taught how to look a person in the eye when I shook his hand to make a good first impression. Now, people make first impression over IM, blogs, wikis, podcasts, videos (oh the videos!) -- you name it!

Digital Artifacts - And just as we learn in effective web design that every page may be the home page because of the search engine effect, likewise, every digital artifact has the potential to be a first impression.

As David Warlick says
"information doesn't travel in straight lines"
so a digital artifact created today may literally be found years from now and influence your life.

If we teach this mindset that everything we create digitally (even our comments) could be our first impression -- how will students consider the work they post?

Digital artifacts are a legitimate forms of expression and we should learn to create them with authenticity, quality, creativity, and appropriate privacy. (Now, how do we do that!)

The new writing - We live in an era where a person who can type rapidly literally has a "leg up" (as long as they have something worthwhile to say). Just ask those who IM with me, I have to be careful at my 130+ words per minute or they literally don't get a word in edgewise!

It makes sense that after kids master cursive, that they move to the next form of writing: keyboarding.

Putting the ability to write faster than a person talks in the hands of our future is a great gift. And for those who think voice recognition is going to catch up soon, you should listen to the WOW2 podcast with keyboarding expert Patsy Lanclos where we interviewed Sharon Peters' husband (a researcher for Dragon naturally speaking) -- don't expect voice to eliminate the need for typing any time soon.

2) Social Networking

The report:
"Increasingly this is the reason students log on." (New Media Consortium 6).

The report sees this as a key way to increase student participation in classroom activities.

My thoughts:
It is about peer review
Peer review is an essential element of higher level research. That is what social networking is... peer review.

Effective peer review can now be taught at an elementary school level. As serious academicians, we should welcome the opportunity to take peer review to the next level as should college professors and the business world.

Do we really want a cure for cancer?
I honestly believe that if such difficult problems as cancer and AIDS are to be solved, it will be through the more expeditious sharing and the resulting acceleration of research and learning that could result. In no better way could we hope to accelerate the progress of our generation than by collapsing the information float between the highest levels of academic research.

It will require a little humility and willingness to change, but if academicians have knowledge and the welfare of the human race at heart, they should be open to work towards this.

I know that colleges have funding and patents and that whole industries have basically outsourced their whole R&D process to higher institutions of learning, however, perhaps companies should consider funding excellent researchers at various institutions and requiring them to communicate with one another via such tools. Could virtual connection and physical disconnection help validate work and promote progress?

Creating educational magnetism

Just as people with charisma are magnetic and attract others... educational opportunities that use social networking attract the interest of students like magnets. They work! They increase excitement! They make learning more fun! They are great!

Learning through connections
And teachers meet roadblocks every time they try to connect students -- Yes, we must be wise and vigilant, but we must progress.

Everyone is looking for a way to improve the dropout rate! Kids are obviously connecting with more outside the school than in -- "LET THEM CONNECT!" We will be amazed at what we see!

Educational networking
If we're scared of the term "social networking" then why not create another term that the critics won't fear? Some ideas: educational networking, learning networks, co-curricular networks -- just be warned that if you make it sound too boring the kids may not want to try it.

It is OK to sound cool
There is this long standing (wrong) assertion that if it sounds fun its not learning, when in reality, those who have been the greatest scholars have derived an immense amount of joy, passion, excitement, and yes, entertainment out of learning.

Here is an example. If I walk in a class and put a glass of liquid on the table and say,
"I'd like someone to drink this delicious clean glass of dihydrogen oxide."
Will someone drink it? (Probably only the smartest of the bunch.) or, If I walk in and say

"I'd like someone to drink this glass of water."
Names do count and its OK to sound fun and be fun. You can still learn.

My friend Jennifer Wagner over at Technospud projects has elementary kids learning in countless ways while having... yep... fun! (Susan Silverman also does a great job with collaborative, fun projects for elementary kids.)

3. Mobile Phones

The report:
"There is a time these will be as much a part of education as a bookbag." (New Media Consortium 6).
What I say:
I think this reporter for CBS news (on youtube) says it best with his 3 minute iphone report:

When I went to Georgia Tech in 1987, they strongly encouraged freshmen to have a computer. I believe that some college within the next few years will require some sort of smaller mobile computing device.

I wonder if it will:
  • Have enough memory to house their textbooks (that they can download from the online store),
  • accept wireless handouts,
  • synch professor podcasts
  • synch syllabi with their calendar
  • schedule appointments with project teams,
  • talk to their prof during his/her virtual office hours
  • access to resources in their library
  • add or drop courses
  • e-mail, voicemail, IM, and share notes
  • allow the unethical to cheat like crazy (those who come from schools who choose to only stress learning and leave out ethics)
  • tandem learning of foreign languages with a learning partner in another country
  • cooperative learning projects with students from around the world
  • be more connected to learning, their peers, their home, their interests, and their life
  • create, save, edit, and share documents and do just about anything that most of today's computers can do.
Oh, I'm sure the experts can envision even more, but this is enough to really get me excited.

4. Virtual Worlds

The report:
"The trend is likely to take off in a way that will echo the rise of the web in the mid 1990's" (New Media Consortium 6).
What I say:
See my post: The future of the Web: Web 3D. But I think educators will be asking themselves what Molotov Alva asks himself in the increasingly popular video on Youtube:

"Is almost real...real enough?"

Are the simulations and worlds we can create in Web 3d real enough to teach? Which subjects require the real world and which ones are best simulated? These are questions that will form the crux of many a debate in academia with virtual worlds coming into every discipline in some form.

Perhaps the greatest potential uses are in the K-12 arena. Perhaps we will also see the greatest opponents.

5. The New Scholarship and Emerging forms of Publication
The report says:
"The nature and practice of scholarship is changing. New tools and new ways to
create, critique, and publish are influencing new and old scholars alike." (6 New Media Consortium).
I say:
It is about being useful.
For those who don't think that these tools are useful to facilitate serious academic research, look at how this scholar at my alma mater, Georgia Tech, teaches his fellow researchers how to find scholarly engineering and research articles in the Georgia Tech Library with a video he released on youtube.

I believe this video is probably more useful to fellow researcher than a paper on the same subject. In 4 minutes and 56 seconds, they can learn an invaluable skill that will save them hours of time in scholarly research. In another 4 minutes and 56 seconds, they can embed that video onto their own blog to share with others.

What if colleges required freshmen to make videos about useful things they had learned -- how much would be shared and how much would be learned to allow those students to progress more rapidly into the intense flow of learning at major universities?

Scholarship is Scholarship
There is something permanent feeling in the ivory tower nestled amidst ivory paper, something almost pure and surreal. However, with books and textbooks being easily self published, I believe we will see more profs write their own textbooks. (And perhaps some teachers too!)

The medium should be entirely irrelevant with the focus being on the content and the content producer (are they ethical and qualified) and a high caliber of academic standard and attainment. Less importance should be placed on the location of the content producer and whether they have the connections to get published.

I believe that the potential arises for more doctoral students to emerge as world class researchers than in the history of academia. No longer overshadowed by their profs, meritorious work could potentially shine in this new public publication environment.

Yes, standards must still be there and in fact must be adhered to more rigorously than ever. (One would not want an exciting day in the lab to turn into an erroneous blog post that announces the cure for cancer that turns out to be false the next day when one learns they have transposed a number!) But, if serious researchers do not put serious standards in place and see blogs, wikis, podcasts, video, and other methods of electronic publication as legitimate publications, then they will have to accept the struggles that will invariably emerge as a result of their negligence.

Likewise, as colleges rush to embrace and effectively use these technologies, digital citizenship becomes an essential skill for the serious future businessperson and the serious academician. It becomes equally important as pen, paper, eye contact, and verbal expression. Notice, I did not say it will replace it, simply augment our other forms of communication.

Naysayers are always quick to say... "but"

  • "But it will always be important to write a paper!"
  • "But it will always be important to have good interpersonal skills!"
  • "But it will always be important to speak effectively!"
My answer is yes, yes, and yes.
  • "It is always going to be important to write a paper on paper and electronically."
  • "It is always going to be important to have good interpersonal skills for face to face and technology based communications."
  • "It is always going to be important to speak effectively in person or in a video conference."
It is not an either / or equation.

It is an "and" equation with a big + beside it.

We are not removing any form of communication that has existed before, we are simply adding more ways to do it! And some forms will be more appropriate for certain things than others. Yet again, more to discuss.

6. Massively Multiplayer Educational Gaming

The report says:

In the coming years, open-source gaming engines will lower the barrier to entry for developers, and we are likely to see educational titles along with commercial ones." (New Media Consortium 6).
I think the report also distinguishes a very subtle but very important point for all of those following these trends:
" Educational gaming...appears here in two variants: virtual worlds and massively multiplayer educational gaming. Over the past year, it has become clear that these topics, while related, are not simply two sides of the same coin. Virtual worlds are not games, but spaces where many sorts of activities might occur, most of them social. Massively multiplayer games sometimes take place in virtual worlds, but not always. They are more structured, with clear goals and objectives built in, and players interact with the setting in ways that are generally very different than the ways one might interact with the elements of an open-ended virtual world." (New Media Consortium 7).

My thoughts:
For those seeking to align curricular standards, this should be a dream come true. States could create whole video games around courses. Kids would beg to go to Spanish or Math or English.

Why won't they? Probably for some of the same things that happen to me, comments like this:

"You're spending my good tax dollars making a video games so the kids can come down and play all day."

"Kids act like they have to be entertained. I wasn't entertained, they sat my rear end in a desk, I sat still and I was bored, but I learned something."

"Why are we doing this when no one else is doing it?"

The challenge of change
In fact, it is often hard to believe for some parents at my school. I have had criticism because "why isn't the local super-wealthy college prep private school doing what I'm doing? "

Well, that particular school cut out computer science and put in two years of Latin! We've continued to remind parents that our job is to be the best. I think that collaborative global skills are more important to the long range health of my students than anything else I can do. They may suffer a couple dozen points on their SAT, but they will be more successful in life, I believe.

The Horizon of Hope
It is easy to get frustrated, but these changes are coming at the speed of a super wave. And we can look at how surfers conquer formerly insurmountable super waves to find our answers.

I recently saw an incredible documentary about how surfers can now ride the super waves. Prior to this, these superwaves only meant death because the currents were too difficult for the surfer to get out to the origin of the waves and if he could, the surfer could not gain enough speed to ride the wave. So, surfers have begun using jet skis to allow them to get on these waves and get them to the proper acceleration.

If you want to see how it is done, watch this incredible one minute video:

Riding the superwave into greatness

These surfers can use their technical knowledge of how to surf and the technology of the jetski to reach greater heights than in the history of surfing.

The same is with us. Academicians, teachers, businesses who wisely harness technology to overcome our weaknesses and use humans to do what we are best at... thinking, creating, theorizing, networking, and more... will ride the superwave of achievement into the future.

Some who refuse to acknowledge this superwave will be left behind or crushed, but those who see its potential will have the ride of their life.

Bibliographic Reference:
BIBLIOGRAPHY New Media Consortium. "2007 Horizon Report." March 2007. NMC: Projects and Initiatives. Ed. New Media Consortium and Educause Learning Initiative. 15 March 2007.

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