By Paul Signorelli
During a recent cross-country flight to attend a conference, I settled in with my Samsung Galaxy tablet to read a pre-publication draft of the NMC Horizon Report > 2014 Higher Education Edition, which highlights key trends, significant challenges, and the latest developments in educational technology. As always, I was impressed by the list of influential technologies, divided into a one-year horizon, a two-to-three year horizon, and a four-to-five year horizon. Flipped classrooms and learning analytics were positioned in the one year horizon; 3D printing and games and gamification are a bit further out; and the quantified self and virtual assistants are placed in the four-to-five year horizon.
What was most striking to me as I read the report on my tablet, however, was the reminder of how much of an impact the reports have on all of us as trainer-teacher-learners.
Tablet computers are just one of the technologies I have become familiar with by serving on Horizon Report Advisory Boards and, equally importantly, by reading the reports that NMC staff members produce from the initial work completed by its panel of experts. When I first considered tablets in education, they immediately appeared to offer tremendously positive implications for training-teaching-learning — as platforms for mobile learning, as valuable tools for connecting learners to learning resources, and as another way to create spur-of-the-moment extended learning spaces by connecting learners and learning facilitators via social media tools including Twitter, Google+ Hangouts, and Google+ communities.
I had no idea at the time that what I was learning about tablets would become important in my own day-to-day work. The first personal payoff came a few months later when I was hired, on short notice, to serve on a team of instructional designers and trainers helping hospice workers learn how to use the devices for medical record-keeping. Several months after that project ended, I continued my NMC-inspired learning curve by working with NMC colleague Samantha Adams Becker to incorporate tablets and a Google+ Hangout into learning opportunities for the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD), which was interested in exploring what the NMC Horizon Report > Higher Education Edition offers those involved in workplace learning and performance (staff training) endeavors. For Samantha and me, it was a wonderful example of how the report inspires conversation, provides learning opportunities, and fosters creative approaches to learning.
In 2013, I explored massive open online courses (MOOCs) through another round of serving on the NMC Advisory Board, and it opened the door to hands-on experience with MOOCs. While most of my colleagues were still learning about them through second-hand media reports which focused almost exclusively on the hype, I was incorporating lessons learned into the work I was doing with other learners online and onsite; that gave me a comprehensive idea of what well-designed MOOCs could inspire and produce. Diving into the Educational Technology & Media MOOC (#etmooc) helped me learn about the topic as well as about what connectivist MOOCs could offer. This experience inspired me to write numerous articles documenting what #etmooc was contributing to the field of educational technology and media. Most surprisingly, it drew me into a burgeoning community of learning that continues to thrive long after the course formally ended. It also led to my participation in an extension of that community: the Exploring Personal Learning Networks MOOC (#xplrpln), a connectivist course offered through Northwestern University later that year.
The NMC’s documentation about the development of wearable technology has also had a positive impact on my ability to keep up with developments in potentially transformative areas of ed-tech. Becoming aware of the Google Glass project through NMC, I was able to take advantage of an unexpected sighting of a prototype of Google Glass in early 2013. My own efforts to keep up with the topic continued through reading a detailed review of Glass in Distro online in May 2013, and most recently extended into first-hand experiences with Glass via colleagues attending an American Library Association conference. There I attended Glass demonstrations provided by Google representatives and discussed the potential uses of Google Glass in training-teaching-learning.
There are obviously varying levels of learning available to us through NMC and the Horizon Project. Hundreds of thousands of people each year take advantage of what we can gain simply by reading the reports. Others participate in summits and a variety of other events, including the Horizon Project Wiki-Thon, which starts this month. Some of us stay in touch with colleagues met through the Horizon Project and continue to learn from them. Opportunities to learn with the NMC continue to grow, especially since the launch of the NMC Academy, an open online learning platform that offers educators an efficient method of professional development.
The bottom line is that the New Media Consortium is a learning organization, a community of learning, and a catalyst for exploring new ideas — which, for me, means it’s one of the best educational resources available, and is one worth pursuing at every possible level, regardless of whether that’s with a tablet, wearable technology, downloads of the latest Horizon Report, or through the latest tech tool that the reports inspire us to incorporate into work and play.
Paul Signorelli is a writer-trainer-instructional designer-social media strategist who has served on Horizon Project advisory boards since 2010; he can be reached at email@example.com.
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