What the future holds – The Horizon Report 2011 Schools Edition

Horizon Report front coverAfter the publication of the Horizon report in March, the new 2011 Schools Edition (or 'K-12 Edition' as it's really called, as it originates in the US) has just been published, and provides a really useful insight into emerging technologies likely to have a large impact on teaching, learning, research or creative expression. The report is produced by three respected organisations - the New Media Consortium, the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), and the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) - and the advisory panel that contributes to the report is global, so the research isn't just covering a north American perspective -

The Horizon Report

The Key Trends, Critical Challenges and Technologies to Watch identified in this year's report make interesting reading, and there's plenty of detail in the report for more information:

Key Trends

The report identifies a series of key trends, from interviews, articles, papers and new research - and these are then used to analyse the future changes. You can see the commentary behind each of the these key trends in the report, but the headlines alone tell a key story:

  • The abundance of resources and relationships made easily accessible via the Internet is increasingly challenging us to revisit our roles as educators in sense-making, coaching, and credentialing.
  • As IT support becomes more and more decentralised, the technologies we use are  increasingly based not on school servers, but in the cloud.
  • Technology continues to profoundly affect the way we work, collaborate, communicate, and succeed.
  • People expect to be able to work, learn, and study whenever and wherever they want to.
  • The perceived value of innovation and creativity is increasing.

The message from this list is that change is constant - and we cannot expect change to be rolled back - even if we haven't yet adapted to them. We'll need to react to the increasingly anytime-anywhere learning model - because students are moving there (as are employees) whether or not the institution allows for it.

Critical Challenges

The report then goes on to identify the challenges that schools face, and are prioritised in their impact on teaching and learning:

  • Digital media literacy continues its rise in importance as a key skill in every discipline and profession.
  • Economic pressures and new models of education are presenting unprecedented competition to traditional models of schools
  • The demand for personalized learning is not adequately supported by current technology or practices.
  • A key challenge is the fundamental structure of the K-12 education establishment — aka “the system.”
  • Many activities related to learning and education take place outside the walls of the classroom and thus are not part of our learning metrics

What this says to me is that there is a growing tension between 'systems' and 'people' - and that the old rules that kept users locked into a system aren't in play anymore. We're seeing this regularly in higher education, where the learners and the teachers are exploiting technology to get around the 'system rules' - and there are plenty of examples of this in schools too (eg look at the use of Twitter by teachers to create their own Personal Learning Networks, replacing structured professional development courses)

Technologies to watch

The crystal-ball gazing ends with a look at the technology changes that the report sees as 'ones to watch' in the near future. It's interesting that education, criticised by some as slow to change, is one of the earliest adopters of Cloud Computing - and that it's sitting in the 'near-term horizon' category, as impacting all schools - and that Learning Analytics and Personal Learning Environments are seen as 'far-term horizon' - although there has been plenty of discussion about both of these for many years.

On the near-term horizon - within the next 12 months

  • Cloud Computing
  • Mobiles

On the second adoption horizon - within two to three years

  • Game-based learning
  • Open content

On the far-term horizon - within four to five years

  • Learning analytics
  • Personal learning environments (PLEs)

Learn MoreDownload the Horizon Report 2011 for Schools (PDF)

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