New horizons in educational technology

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your event horizon depends on your perspectiveLater today the 2010 Horizon Report: K-12 Edition will be formally released, the latest in a series of influential annual publications identifying "emerging technologies likely to have an impact on teaching, learning, research or creative expression within education around the globe".  Where there are references in the popular press to 'key trends in technology use in education', the Horizon Reports are quite often, directly or indirectly, the source. Previous editions of the Horizon Report influenced the selection of global educational technology trends discussed on this blog by Bob Hawkins in a heavily read post back in January.

This latest Horizon Report, a collaboration between the New Media Consortium and the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) [disclaimer: I served on the project advisory board for this year's edition], is short and easy to read, and helpfully contains pointers to many examples/illustrations of projects representative of the various emerging educational technology trends.  And the trends themselves?  Here are the ones that made this year's list:

Time to adoption: One year or less
--> Cloud computing
--> Collaborative environments

Time to adoption: Two to three years
--> Mobiles
--> Game-based learning

Time to adoption: Four to five years
--> Augmented reality
--> Flexible displays

One of the comments on the Horizon Report that we at the World Bank hear from our partner ministries of education in developing countries is that the viewpoints and perspectives represented in the report are very 'OECD-centric', i.e. that they are more immediately relevant for schools in Boston or Brisbane than they are for those in (for example) Lagos or Lusaka.  This is a fair criticism.  The time to adoption for cloud computing in education in most developing countries, for example, is probably the furthest out on the event horizon of any of the trends noted above, even if, for OECD countries, a time to adoption of less than one year is reasonable in many circumstances.

(A side note: Even in schools that I visit with very poor connectivity, I regularly see perhaps the oldest example of cloud computing used in abundance: web-based email is the de facto default tool for asynchronous commnication via the Internet in most rural schools.  This is almost always the consequence of the lack of alternative tools on the local school network, of course -- and testament to the enduring utility of email -- and not a conscious decision of policymakers, but it does perhaps highlight the fact that the horizons for adoption can be viewed in different ways in different places.)

At the same time, however, we hear that the insight into emerging trends for educational technologies in 'developed' countries that the Horizon Report provides is very valuable in helping educational planners in emerging economies orient themselves to trends that are perhaps relevant in different ways -- and usually along different (longer) time horizons -- than they are for planners in OECD countries.  This tension points to one of the fundamental challenges facing even the most well-informed, far-sighted and holistic educational planners engaged in this area: governments often feel the need to make large, multi-year 'bets' on various technologies, knowing at the same time that the pace of technological innovation in this area outruns the pace of institutional (and related policy) innovation. 

(For what it's worth: Two projects that have received support from the World Bank, and which have been profiled on this blog in the past, were included in the lists of representative initiatives illustrating emerging trends in this year's Horizon Report: Urgent Evoke, in game-based learning, and the International Children's Digital Libary, which the World Bank helped to support in Mongolia, in mobiles.)

For those interested in just how the report was put together, I'd strongly urge you to have a look at the tools used to facilitate the extensive on-line collaboration with a gloablly dispersed set of advisors on the related project wiki.  Related deliberations and discussions have been documented and are fully available to the public at  This model of collaboration may be quite relevant for those exploring consultative processes when developing joint knowledge products with multiple aprtners, and when seeking input from a geographically diverse group of experts and practitioners in a given field.

CoSN and NMC have put together a helpful accompanying Discussion Leader’s Guide (pdf) and Presentation (warning: PPT file) to help continue the conversation around these issues at face-to-face gatherings. The release of each Horizon Report typically unleashes an avalanche of discussion on blogs and message boards on the Internet soon after it is published (if not in the comments section below).

Please note: The image used at the top of this blog entry ("your event horizon depends on your perspective") comes from the Wikipedian named Solitude via Wikimedia Commons and is used according to the terms of its Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License.


Michael Trucano

Visiting Fellow, Brookings, and Global Lead for Innovation in Education, World Bank

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