Each year, a prestigious group of educators, business leaders, and technologists meets under the auspices of the Educause organization to predict the ideas and tools coming over the horizon that will affect the work of schools and colleges most over the coming academic year, and issue what they call the Horizon Report. They describe their top three trends for 2010 - 2011 as mobile computing, open content, and electronic books.
The authors of the Horizon Report note that "use of the network-capable devices students are already carrying is already established on many campuses, although before we see widespread use, concerns about privacy, classroom management, and access will need to be addressed." For sure, the number iPods, iPads, laptops, and smartphones that our students carry continues to increase, and unless properly managed can hinder teaching and learning. But their key conclusion is that "the opportunity is great; virtually all higher education students carry some form of mobile device, and the network that supports their connectivity continues to grow." The reporters note that "an increasing number of faculty and instructional technology staff are experimenting with the possibilities for collaboration and communication offered by mobile computing." The question for us as teachers is how we take advantage of these new tools in the classroom and in the students' pockets.
The Horizon Report describes this trend as "a movement that began nearly a decade ago, when schools like MIT began to make their course content freely available" with their Open Courseware initiative. Many schools have followed suit, posting teaching and learning materials online for their own students and for anyone in the world to use. The authors of the report note that "in many parts of the world, open content represents a profound shift in the way students study and learn. Far more than a collection of free online course materials, the open content movement is a response to the rising costs of education, the desire for access to learning in areas where such access is difficult, and an expression of student choice about when and how to learn." This trend certainly raises interesting issues about authorship and the role of the academy in the larger society.
We've been able to read books on our computers for decades, but new devices like the iPad and new distribution systems like iBooks have improved the reading experience to rival the print-book. The Horizon Report notes "the past twelve months have seen a dramatic upswing in their acceptance and use. Convenient and capable electronic reading devices combine the activities of acquiring, storing, reading, and annotating digital books, making it very easy to collect and carry hundreds of volumes in a space smaller than a single paperback book." Amazon sells more electronic books than hardback printed books. And they are not alone. The report observes that "electronic books are appearing on campuses with increasing frequency.... Electronic books promise to reduce costs, save students from carrying pounds of textbooks, and contribute to the environmental efforts of paper-conscious campuses."
Where does your faculty stand on these trends? Your students? What should your campus do today to meet these trends head-on?