On the Horizon…

horizon2I’m happy to note that Blogs@Baruch received a mention in the annual Horizon Report, a document produced by Educause, an international non-profit organization “whose mission is to advance higher education by promoting the intelligent use of information technology.” Every year the report is read by information and instructional technology professionals at universities and colleges across the world to get a sense of the current state of technology adoption, and future directions. It identifies key trends and critical challenges facing schools as we attempt to keep pace with the technological needs of modern life and as we explore innovative ways to integrate technology into our functions and curricula.

The bulk of the study is focused on describing, analyzing, and sharing prime examples of six “technologies to watch,” which are organized by their “time-to-adoption.” Click the image above to download a copy of the report; it’s interesting reading for techies and non-techies alike. Here’s a summary of the “technologies to watch”:

Time-to-Adoption: One Year or Less

  • Mobiles: making services and information readily available to students and staff on portable devices such as iPhones and Blackberrys. For an example of what this looks like, see Stanford’s iApps Homepage.
  • Cloud Computing: a new way to think about computers, software, and files, which takes advantage of “data farms,” or collections of computers that distribute processing and storage. You no longer need to run productivity software on your hard drive; Google Apps, for instance, supports word processing, presentations, spreadsheet design, and calendars that are accessible, shareable, and functional through a web browser, wherever you are. The vanguard in this development is data intensive cloud computing used by the hard sciences, but this also has implications for students and staff, who, perhaps, need not rely so heavily on Microsoft Office in coming years. (Though not mentioned in the Horizon Report, last September, CUNY’s Online Baccalaureate began a “Virtual Application Streaming Pilot Project,” a local cloud computing experiment).

Time-to-Adoption: Two to Three Years

  • Geo-Everything: mobile phones, cameras, and other handheld devices can now automatically attach “geolocative” information to data they produce, such as photographs and videos. Researchers and teachers are exploring ways to integrate this functionality into their work via annotated maps, visual narratives, and game-based learning. See Community Walk and Paint Map for examples.
  • The Personal Web: individuals and groups are exploring the “creation of customized, personal web-based environments to support their social, professional, and learning activities using whatever tools they prefer.” At the Institute, we call this “personal publishing,” and it is the core idea behind Blogs@Baruch, which was mentioned as one of five exemplary “Scholarly Community Blogs” cited in this section. Other examples of “The Personal Web” include Omeka, an open source software developed by the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, which allows anyone with access to a server and a MYSQL installation to build and share online collections of artifacts; and SMARTHistory, an “edited online art history resource to augment or replace traditional art history texts.”

Time-to-Adoption: Four to Five Years

  • Semantic-Aware Applications: the “semantic web,” according to Wikipedia, “is an evolving extension of the World Wide Web in which the semantics of information and services on the web is defined, making it possible for the web to understand and satisfy the requests of people and machines to use the web content.” Some refer to this as Web 3.0, or “using the web as what to write with.” Educause sees the development of “tools that can simply gather the context in which information is couched, and that use that context to extract imbedded meaning.” Woah. Few examples of the semantic web in higher education exist. Patrick Murray-John, an instructional technologist at the University of Mary Washington, is exploring what opportunities new tools that look treat online materials as data may have for the studying of teaching, learning, and thinking.
  • Smart Objects: “a smart object is simply any physical object that includes a unique identifier that can track information about the object.” Think about a package that’s tagged with a bar code that is scanned and allows you to track it; or the library book you have that’s way overdue. Products based on this idea are entering the consumer market, and could be used in archaeology, medicine, and in combination with Geo-Everything approaches. An example being developed by researchers at the University of Florida would continuously monitor patients for a variety of conditions as they went about their normal lives.

We’re pleased to be included in a report of this magnitude, and to see such a wide variety of innovative deployments of technology. These are interesting times!