Friday, February 06, 2009

2009 Horizon Report

The New Media Consortium (NMC) and the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI) has published the 2009 Horizon Report (download pdf). This extensive annual report goes into great detail and identifies six emerging technologies expected to have a significant impact on teaching and learning over the next 5 years. Briefly:

  • Mobiles. Already considered as another
    component of the network on many campuses,
    mobiles continue to evolve rapidly. New interfaces,
    the ability to run third-party applications, and
    location-awareness have all come to the mobile
    device in the past year, making it an ever more
    versatile tool that can be easily adapted to a
    host of tasks for learning, productivity, and
    social networking. For many users, broadband
    mobile devices like the iPhone have already
    begun to assume many tasks that were once
    the exclusive province of portable computers.

  • Cloud Computing. The emergence of large-
    scale “data farms” — large clusters of networked
    servers — is bringing huge quantities of
    processing power and storage capacity within
    easy reach. Inexpensive, simple solutions to
    offsite storage, multi-user application scaling,
    hosting, and multi-processor computing are
    opening the door to wholly different ways of
    thinking about computers, software, and files.

  • Geo-everything. Geocoded data has many
    applications, but until very recently, it was time-
    consuming and difficult for non-specialists to
    determine the physical coordinates of a place
    or object, and options for using that data were
    limited. Now, many common devices can
    automatically determine and record their own
    precise location and can save that data along
    with captured media (like photographs) or can
    transmit it to web-based applications for a host
    of uses. The full implications of geo-tagging are
    still unfolding, but the impact in research has
    already been profound.

  • The Personal web. Springing from the desire
    to reorganize online content rather than simply
    viewing it, the personal web is part of a trend that
    has been fueled by tools to aggregate the flow of
    content in customizable ways and expanded by
    an increasing collection of widgets that manage
    online content. The term personal web was
    coined to represent a collection of technologies
    that are used to configure and manage the
    ways in which one views and uses the Internet.
    Using a growing set of free and simple tools and
    applications, it is easy to create a customized,
    personal web-based environment — a personal
    web — that explicitly supports one’s social,
    professional, learning, and other activities.

  • Semantic-Aware Applications. New applica-
    tions are emerging that are bringing the promise
    of the semantic web into practice without the
    need to add additional layers of tags, identifiers,
    or other top-down methods of defining context.
    Tools that can simply gather the context in which
    information is couched, and that use that context
    to extract imbedded meaning are providing rich
    new ways of finding and aggregating content. At
    the same time, other tools are allowing context
    to be easily modified, shaped, and redefined as
    information flows are combined.

  • Smart Objects. Sometimes described as the
    “Internet of things,” smart objects describe a
    set of technologies that is imbuing ordinary
    objects with the ability to recognize their
    physical location and respond appropriately, or
    to connect with other objects or information.
    A smart object “knows” something about itself
    — where and how it was made, what it is for,
    where it should be, or who owns it, for example
    — and something about its environment. While
    the underlying technologies that make this
    possible — RFID, QR codes, smartcards, touch
    and motion sensors, and the like — are not
    new, we are now seeing new forms of sensors,
    identifiers, and applications with a much more
    generalizable set of functionalities.

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