2009 Horizon Report

Created annually by the NMC (New Media Consortium and EDUCAUSE), the Horizon Report reports on new technologies that are likely to have an impact on innovation in learning in three time frames.  1) One year or less, 2) two to three years and 3) four to five years.  The full report is available on the Internet as a PDF or as web pages.  2009 Horizon Report.

Here is a brief run down of what they have to say.

  • One Year or less
  1.  Mobiles.  Accessing information on the Internet from a mobile device (primarily cell phones) is catching on fast.  With the introduction of the iPhone and the Android Platform developed by Google, the dream of a handheld device that can give us access to all the information we “normally” access through a desktop or laptop computer is taking root.  Expectations for information to be made easily available on mobile devices is becoming normative not exceptional.  One interesting iPhone app was created for Stanford University by the company Terribly Clever.  You can see screenshots here: http://stanford.terriblyclever.com/
  2. Cloud Computing  From the report “The cloud is the term for networked computers that distribute processing power, applications, and large systems among many machines.”  An easy example of this is Webmail.  If you use an email system like Gmail or YahooMail, you are already in the “cloud.”  Your data (mail) is stored on hosted servers and you create and interact with that data (creating an email for example) through software that is on the web (primarily) and not on your local computer.  The could is even challenging software like MS OFFICE.  There are now a number of Office Productivity applications that are in the “cloud” already.  Google docs and the suite of Zoho products are good examples.
  •  Two to three years
  1. Geolocation.  Also called Geo-tagging.  This is a two-fold trend: 1) data about physical objects in the “real world” can be marked in software applications and 2) mobile devices increasingly have the ability to be “location aware” (meaning that your iPhone can place your location on a map. ) Think of Google maps.  You can see a local map that has information about stores, landmarks, etc. connected to map that you are looking at.  You are in Chicago and you want to see all the ice cream parlors near you — you can take out your mobile device and see for yourself.  But what is interesting is that the ability to create geolocative data is also in the hand of end-users.  CommunityWalk is an interesting example of this trend.
  2. The Personal Web.  From the report: “Using a growing set of free and simple tools and applications, it is easy to create customized, personal web-based environments — a personal web — that explicitly supports one’s social, professional, learning and other activities via highly personalized windows to the networked world.”  These include RSS, personalized start or portal pages (iGoogle or PageFlakes as examples), customizable widgets, social bookmarking (or LibraryThing for example), etc.    This is an exciting trend.  From an educational perspective, it is the technical foundation for PLEs (personal learning environments) which I have written about before. 
  • Four to Five years  
  1. Semantic-Aware Applications.  The concept of the “semantic web” is being advocated by the inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee.  The idea, in a nutshell, is that the web would be improved if there were information about the meaning (context, concepts, etc) of documents on the web not just the documents themselves.  This would be meta-data about the “objects” on the web.  The reason to do this is that this information would be machine readable and our computers could help us make meaningful connections more easily.  Here is an interesting youTube video on the topic:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGg8A2zfWKg
  2. Smart Objects.  From the report: “A smart object is simply any physical object that includes a unique identifier that can track information about the object. There are a number of technologies that support smart objects: radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags, quick response (QR) codes, and smartcards are some of the most common. Objects that carry information with them have long been used for point-of-sale purchases, passport tracking, inventory management, identification, and similar applications. RFID tags and smartcards “know” about a certain kind of information, like how much money is available in a user’s account and how to transfer the correct amount to a retailer for a given purchase, or which book is being checked out at a library, who the patron is, and whether that patron has any currently overdue materials. ”  This basically is a process that overlays data on objects in the “real world.”  This is definitely a trend to watch.

Personally, I think Cloud Computing and Mobile are here today and they are being adopted fast.  

The area that I like thinking about the most is “The Personal Web.”    It has clear application to online education and what we are doing as a University.  The Personal Web isn’t one thing, it is a bundle of technologies that empower users and learners to take control of their experience and their education.


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