The annual Horizon Report is a collaborative effort between the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI) and the New Media Consortium (NMC). Each year, the report identifies and describes six areas of emerging technology likely to have a significant impact on teaching, learning, or creative expression in higher education. It also puts those technologies within three adoption horizons: a year or less, two to three years, and four to five years.
They list as the emerging technology we should see adopted in the next year: Mobile Computing and Open Content.
For the 2-3 year adoption, their choices are Electronic Books and Simple Augmented Reality.
The two technologies that they feel need 4-5 years to adoption are Gesture-based Computing and Visual Data Analysis.
This is no blogger opinion poll. The 2010 Report resulted from the work of the 47-person Advisory Board, with experts from ten countries.
Predicting the future is tough, but what I like about the Horizon Report is that they are fairly conservative with their choices. Since we can't really see the tech horizon, it's good to have a kind of artificial horizon.
Pilots use an artificial horizon (AKA an attitude indicator or gyro horizon) in an aircraft to inform them of the orientation of the aircraft relative to earth. It indicates pitch and bank or roll and is a primary instrument for flight in instrument meteorological conditions.
In other words, when you can't tell which side is up, it helps you.
How do we measure the success of these predictions? Well, last year, the 2009 Horizon Report said that in the year that just passed the 2 things to be adopted in education would be Cloud Computing and Mobiles. Both of them had a strong year, especially cloud computing which require a lot less of an investment for users or institutions. But mobile made their one year list this year too, so that's a bit of a cheat.
They tagged Geo Everything and The Personal Web as ones to watch for two more years. Though geo and location-based apps have made inroads, especially in mobile devices, I can't say that I see much penetration into educational uses. It's not fair to judge these choices based on the short labels they have been given. What is the Personal Web anyway? According to last year's report:
"Fifteen years after the first commercial web pages began to appear, the amount of content available on the web is staggering. Sifting through the sheer volume of material — good or bad, useful or otherwise — is a daunting task. It is even difficult to keep track of the media posted by a single person, or by oneself. On the other hand, adding to the mix is easier than ever before, thanks to easy-to-use publishing tools for every type and size of media. To cope with the problem, computer users are assembling collections of tools, widgets, and services that make it easy to develop and organize dynamic online content. Armed with tools for tagging, aggregating, updating, and keeping track of content, today’s learners create and navigate a web that is increasingly tailored to their own needs and interests: this is the personal web."
I also like that the Horizon Reports include a section called "Relevance for Teaching, Learning, Research, or Creative Expression" for each technology. So, for the "personal web," they say that "The tools that enable the personal web are also ideal toolsets for research and learning. The ability to tag, categorize, and publish work online, instantly, without the need to understand or even touch the underlying technologies provides a host of opportunities for faculty and students. By organizing online information with tags and web feeds, it is a simple matter to create richly personal resource collections that are easily searchable, annotated, and that support any interest."
In the longer view, the report last year saw Semantic-Aware Applications and Smart Objects as needing until 2012 or so to be adopted. Like their 2010 prediction for that horizon far ahead, these technologies are not even being adopted in a broad way outside education. And all of us in education know that technology almost always comes to academia after it gets a foothold in business and the public sector. You'd think it would be otherwise, but it's not.
Not to take the airplane metaphor too far, but when educators are "piloting" some of these emerging technologies, they do need that artificial horizon so that they can stay aware of what's happening on the ground where they teach. And it wouldn't hurt to have the "attitude indicator" operating when you need to deal with budgets and administration.