Australasian Horizon Report 2009

I posted earlier in the year about the main Horizon Report from the New Media Consortium and its predictions about technology in education. Now we have the Horizon Report – 2009 Australia and New Zealand edition. Its 36 pages are worth a read. As usual in this report series 6 technologies predicted to have a significant impact on education over varying timeframes are identified. They are:

  1. Mobile Internet Devices that include phones, netbooks, personal wireless hubs and e-book readers: one year or less
  2. Private Cloud Services: one year or less
  3. Open Content – reusing and sharing course materials: 2 to 3 years
  4. Virtual, Augmented, and Alternate Realities: 2 to 3 years
  5. Location-Based Learning: 4 to 5 years
  6. Smart Objects and Devices: 4 to 5 years

I am glad to see netbooks included in technology 1 since mobile phones seem to hold sway in this space. In my experience to date the content quality of the message content sent from mobile phones is not worth the screen real estate it is displayed upon. Mistakes abound primarily because editing and proof reading is so difficult.

Private clouds in this context just refer to general cloud services where the data centres guarantee the data stays within the institution or the country from where the cloud services are accessed. This reduces legal concerns about data jurisdiction. I hearedly concur with this selection as I am a great believer in the benefits of cloud services. However my experience to date suggests private clouds are often far too restrictive in terms of access and prevent the use of a host of useful sharing and analysis tools on the general Internet which of course rely on public access.

Again I fully agree with the move to open content described in the report.

The rising costs of education and the chronic shortage of time felt by most teachers are beginning to open the door to a broader acceptance of open content. Open content for education includes any freely available course materials — everything from worksheets to lectures to study aids to entire courses — offered online for teachers or learners to access, download, use, and in many cases, modify.

My only other comment here is that the 2 to 3 year timeframe is somewhat optimistic judged on the reactions of most of my teaching colleagues.

As things stand with the primitive, processor and bandwidth intensive virtual world clients available like Second Life I can’t see significant educational benefit. The huge cost to produce simulations of use in education will still remain for years to come. I personally completely discount this technology for the next 5 year timeframe.

Location-based learning sounds really appealing but even over the longer timeframe predicted I fail to see the allure. Set against this idea is the current thinking that physical learning spaces, even redesigned for the age of hyper connectedness, are diminishing. Instead various forms of virtual learning spaces (definitely not virtual worlds) will come to the fore. Location-based content is another matter:

There is a considerable amount of work that must be done in this area before it becomes mainstream for teaching and learning, but the potential advantages are great: from basic uses such as guided historical tours to more complex applications for mapping, fieldwork, and immersive activities, location-based learning holds promise for just in-time learning tied to a student’s physical location.

I have some sympathy with the smart objects and sensor technology also referred to as the Internet of Things. RFID chips and QR codes are useful identification technologies. All we need is an educational software infrastructure to build on these technologies – a big ask.

So I would rate this report a 4.5 out of 6 but welcome it wholeheartedly as a vehicle for productive debate about educational technologies.


About Michael Rees
Academic in IT interested in Web 2.0 and social media

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