The Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) today announced the release of the 2010 Horizon Report: K-12 Edition, which is an outcome of the New Media Consortium’s (NMC) Horizon Project, “an ongoing research effort established in 2002 that identifies and describes emerging technologies likely to have a large impact on teaching, learning, research, or creative expression within education around the globe,” according to the report.
During the CoSN Webcast themed “Emerging Technology Trends in K-12,” Larry Johnson, CEO of the New Media Consortium, said the NMC initially looked at about 100 different technologies not only by themselves, but in the context of the challenges schools face as well. “Technology is increasingly a means for empowering students, a method for communication and socializing, and a ubiquitous, transparent part of their lives,” he said. “Second, technology continues to profoundly affect the way we work, collaborate, communicate and succeed.”
Rachel Smith, vice president at NMC, said the first technology likely to be adopted in one year or less is cloud computing, which she said is essentially many computers networked together that share storage and applications, and swap off computing power. “And what we’re seeing is a lot of schools are using cloud computing for the shared apps and the storage,” she said, “but not as many schools are using them for the higher end computing power that’s used in research.”
As outlined in the report, cloud computing “can offer significant cost savings in terms of IT support, software, and hardware expenses. It has become common for schools to use cloud-based applications to manage calendars, rosters, grade books, and communication between school and home.”
The second technology, also likely to be adopted in 12 months or less is collaborative environments, which Smith said are simply online spaces where people can work in groups and they’re typically used for collaborative creation of content and as social networking spaces.
“What teachers are finding out is they can connect their classrooms with classrooms across town or in another part of the country or world, and their students can actually work with these sister classrooms,” Smith said. “No matter where they are, they can explore the differences that happen because of different cultures or environments, and the students can work together to create products with people they may never meet in person.”
A prime example of such an environment is the Solar Navigations wiki launched by Duke University Libraries as a mentoring program for North Carolina’s Durham Public Schools. Using this wiki, students collaborate between classes to create jointly-authored reports on the solar system.
The report describes game-based learning as “an expansive category, ranging from simple paper-and-pencil games like word searches all the way up to complex, massively multiplayer online (MMO) and role-playing games.”
The time-to-adoption horizon is two to three years for a specific category of game-based learning is open-ended, challenge-based, truly collaborative games — but they have tremendous potential to transform education, according to the report. “Games like these, which occur in both MMO and non-digital forms, can draw on skills for research, writing, collaboration, problem-solving, public speaking, leadership, digital literacy, and media-making,” the report states. “When embedded in the curriculum, they offer a path into the material that allows the student to learn how to learn along with mastering, and truly owning, the subject matter.”
The examples Smith pointed to were The Potato Story, which she said is more of a tutorial for students to learn about where food comes from. This program originated in the UK, where a study revealed that many students didn’t know potatoes grew underground. Urgent Evoke is a game occurring right now and has the tagline “A crash course in saving the world.”
“It has over 15,000 players right now, and every week there’s a new theme for the quest,” Smith said. “The quests are all related to major global problems such as hunger, poverty, women’s rights, water, sustainability, electricity, the future of money. Each week there’s a lesson where you have to learn about, teach and take action on the topic, and you have to imagine what the world would be like 10 years from now if these actions were carried out.”
This week, Urgent Evoke is helping to evoke change in the lives of women.
The fourth technology on the second horizon is mobiles, and an enormous number and wide variety of mobile devices are available globally. In fact, Smith said, “the cell network is bigger than the electricity grid globally.”
And the range and number of educational applications for mobiles are growing at a rapid pace, according to the report, “yet their use in schools is limited — more often constrained by policy than by the capabilities of the devices they run on.”
Smith points to MeStudying, an application for studying algebra that was developed by the Florida Virtual School. “There’s one for your iPhone, and it’s a program that actually lets the students work on the algebra problems in a way that’s equivalent to doing the work in the texboook,” she said, “so it’s not just flashcards, it’s actually the problem solving and the algebraic theories and all that information right in that app.”
Johnson spoke about the “science fiction end of things, though it’s really not science fiction,” he said. These two items are augmented reality, which he mentioned has actually been around for about 20 years, and flexible displays.
Augmented reality is a term for a view of a physical real-world environment whose elements are enlarged or increased by computer-generated imagery, and according to the report, it “has strong potential to provide both powerful, contextual, in situ learning experiences and serendipitous exploration and discovery of the connected nature of information in the real world.”
It does this by opening the door to discovery-based learning, and Missouri’s Flynn Park Elementary School is giving it a try: Working with the Litzsinger Road Ecology Center near St. Louis the elementary school participated in a National Science Foundation-funded grant program called Local Investigations of Natural Science (LIONS) to build and play augmented reality games in science and history.
Flexible displays are devices where the display literally folds and then folds again into a more compact shape, Johnson said, adding that although he’s not yet sure where they’re going, they could be in a book or news reader. “You can imagine them being used initially for all sorts of advertising and marketing purposes, where they can be wrapped around things, built into clothes,” he said, “attached to equipment in a science lab — a built-in display for directions on how to use the device.”
The education community is welcome to comment on the report itself and to tag resources related to the project. There were also many technologies that didn’t make the cut available for viewing at the Horizon Report K12 Edition Wiki.