So, I'm sitting in the last session of the NLII national conference. This session is about the transformative technology that is on the near Horizon. It looks at six technologies that will likely be transforming the educational experience in the near future (meaning the next five years).
This may be the most helpful session I've been to at this conference (if not the most inspirational). It provides a practical warning/heads-up that these technologies are coming, many of which our students are interested in, if not already using.
Extended Learning is coming in one year or less, although some professors have already begun. Working outside the classroom enabled by technology.
Ubiquitous wireless is coming in one year or less, if not already here in a variety of forms. After all, I'm writing this blog from my laptop in the midst of a session. No wires for power or for access. This has incredible potential for shaping the experiences of the classroom and even in breaking down the traditional classroom format.
Intelligent Searching is coming in 2 to 3 years. This is the idea that there needs to be significantly better ways to search the vast amount of information. "Old" methods of searching (Google, Yahoo, etc.) are becoming more intelligent, more focused (Lookout, Google Scholar) or changing methods of visualizing the web's information (Grokker, Web Brain, KartOO). Metadata tagging and graphical searching are also increasingly being made available.
Educational Gaming is coming in 2 to 3 years and provides a new way (although long promised) to use gaming technology and immersive environments in order to figure out ways of explorative learning. Using the Unreal environment or other map-building programs in games allows one to build immersive and/or historical online communities. Edutainment games are also ways of involving students of all ages from children through adults in fun, yet educational ways.
Context-Aware Computing and Augmented Reality are four to five years away -- CAC is using information from sensors about the environment to be better informed about that environment. Can be seen in distributed sensor networks that might track lightening, or "Tribbles," interactive machines that respond to touch and light. Augmented reality refers to overlays of information that overlay the world around the user. Might include SmartBoard type technology that one could draw on the board and create an environment that the computer transforms into a working environment.
Social Networks and Knowledge Webs are four to five years away. Not so much a technology, this is a phenomena. Neither of them are new; existed for a long time. What is new is that tools are beginning to emerge to facilitate the way that these two ideas operate. For example, Social networking programs like Tribe, friendster, flickr, del.icio.us, dodgeball (last is a cell phone program that notifies people when their friends are in the geographical area). Knowledge Webs like CAS, Sakai, NSDL, and Pachyderm are just beginning to bring knowledge together.
All of these are great ideas and I'm excited about the possibilities for my teaching. I just wish I had the time to implement all or some of them. Ah well, one last meal in New Orleans and we're off to the airport.