Tag Archives: future

Still Predicting

change

So where are the flying cars, the silver jumpsuits and video phones which were going to be part of everyday life in the 21st Century?

Making predictions about the future of technology is easy. However accurately predicting the future is not easy and to put it bluntly everyone gets it wrong. Either they try and push an existing process and technology and extrapolate and “miss” out on any future potential inventions that make the existing processes redundant. The other mistake that people make is assume that the process of adoption of new technologies will happen faster than it actually does. So whilst fashion is still quite conservative and cars clog the roads and don’t fly, we through technologies such as Skype and Facetime are able to not just video phone, but we can instant message, present and share our computer desktops at the same time, using the same tool!

The one constant in life is change, we have social change, technological change, political change. This makes predicting change and the impact of change a real challenge.

Predicting how life will change for the university student of the future is fraught with difficulties and challenges and no doubt it is easy to get it wrong… However it’s an interesting thought experiment to try, which is why I think that people do it.

There are many people out there predicting the end of formal education and the radical change to university life for students. This, here I go predicting the future, however in my opinion, is a nice idea, but isn’t going to happen. The culture within education and academics is so embedded and rigid that changes in technology are only flexing and tweaking education, not breaking it or resulting in a radical metamorphosis.

The university students who will start their studies in September 2016 would have been born in 1998 On September 4th 1998 was the day that Google was founded.

1998 Google Logo

A year later in 1999, the term Web 2.0 was first used in an article. These students do not know a world without the internet, within their primary and secondary schools they probably had ICT suites and depending on which FE College they went to they have used tablets, netbooks, mobile devices and wifi enabled laptops to support their learning. These students have mobile phones that in the main are more likely to be used for things other than phone calls. The students of 2016 are very different to the students of 2006 and 1996, or are they?

How different are the educational institutions of 2016 to those ten or twenty years ago? Yes of course they are different, libraries have changed, classroom technologies have changed, but has education changed that much? If not why? There are many factors to take into account the inertia that you find in education. The main one appears to be is culture and a preference for what has been done before. The introduction of technology either falls into the depths of the pilot pit or is used sparingly at the edges of what has been done before and always.

So with all this technology savviness and awareness, you will hear phrases such as the Google Generation and Digital Natives been banded about in the media and in education. The assumption is that as these learners have grown up in a world with technology immersed into their world, grown up with the internet, Web 2.0, social media, tablets, smartphones and other new technologies; that these learners are able to skilfully use these technologies to support, enhance and enrich their learning. A pretty poor assumption in many respects, as learners have also grown up with books and magazines, but often lack study skills to utilise academic books and journals to enhance and enrich their learning. Learners may be using technology and the internet on a regular basis, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they have the study skills to use these same technologies for learning. Study and information skills need to take into account the changes in technology and access to information that the internet allows.

The dependence on written assessment in education is a result of the high cost and time required for oral assessment. As a result there was a shift from oral to written testing and the end result is no longer do we have a questioning and probing assessment, no we have the challenge of writing four essays in three hours. So assessment has changed in the past, but can it make such a radical change in the future? Students can now carry thousands of books in a single device, can access journals when and wherever they have an internet connection, communicate with the world. This quick and easy access to content in likelihood probably changes how learners learn. However when it comes to much assessment, we turn off this access, restrict what learners can use, apart from that, which can be remembered. Often other forms of assessment are seen as having less value. If we are to take advantage of the access that new technologies bring to learners, we need to rethink the ways and medium of assessment.

Part of the problem for planning for the future using the same processes and protocols we have used for change in the past, is that the pace of technological change can be faster than the pace of change. For example just as we get round to the idea of students using their laptops in lectures and thinking we should therefore equip lecture theatres with power sockets and overcome the challenges put in place by over zealous health and safety officers with learners using their own devices within an institution. We find that the devices our learners are now using and will be using have batteries that allow the device to be used all day without needing to be charged up. The new power sockets are now redundant before they have been used.

The same can be said with connectivity, a single wireless router was probably more than ample where there were a small number of devices using small amounts of bandwidth. Now with students having multiple devices and accessing a range of high bandwidth content, wireless networks need to be robust, scalable and capable of handling large numbers of devices and provide sufficient bandwidth. Look in your own pockets and bags, how many wireless devices do you have?

The question that we do need to ask is are we using technology to extend and improve an existing process, or can we use technology to radically change processes? Expectations are that we can use technology to lever radical change in education. This has never happened before, it would be surprising if it happened now. A simple example, when the internet had limited bandwidth, it wasn’t possible to use video or even audio across the web, so people resorted to textual communication. Bulletin boards, usenet and discussions forums allowed asynchronous conversations. The depth of discussion and learning that can take place with such tools certainly outweighed the disadvantages of textual conversations. However these were challenging tools for learning as it required a change in thinking and culture. Many academics and learners found them difficult to use and challenging to change the way in which they delivered learning. As bandwidth improved and new synchronous tools arrived, we have seen how virtual classroom and webinar tools allow for live teaching. These tools have proved popular with academics and learners alike. We have to question why is this, part of the reason has to be that webinar tools are digitising a traditional lesson or lecture format. Academics and learners are comfortable with this format, so a virtual version is easy to grasp and understand. This affinity with traditional approaches, means when given a choice, they will choose a virtual version of something they understand rather than try a different possibly better process. It is this aversion to the new and preference for the comfortable means that radical change is highly unlikely.

Cynicism and resistance to technological change in education has been part of education as long as people have tried to introduce new technologies. Paper was seen as wasteful and extravagant when it replaced slates. Pen and ink was an expensive luxury and shouldn’t be used by education. Likewise there was widespread resistance to the introduction of calculators. Some of today’s academics are cynical and resistant to the use of the web and mobile devices, just as their predecessors were to the new technologies of their time. Some academics are not, just as some of their predecessors, they embrace and see the opportunities that new technologies bring to learning.

Changing technologies is only one factor that impacts and affects education, a look at the newspapers and news websites, as well as glancing at Twitter will show how changes in policy and funding can have a much greater impact than a change in technology.

Change is happening, and the one constant in life is change, but it is happening very slowly. One thing is certain though, things change and academics and institutions that see change as an opportunity and a challenge will probably thrive better than those that ignore or encounter resistance to change.

Great Scott! – Back to the Future at FOTE15

There wasn’t a FOTE conference in 2015, which was a pity as it was one of my favourite annual events. I spoke at many of the conferences, most recently in 2014 when I spoke about the conflict between the light and the dark and used a Star Wars theme.

I remember reflecting on the conference on the way home that it would be a lot of fun to do a Back the Future themed talk for 2015.

Back to the Future

Alas it was never to be…

However I thought it might be a little fun to explore what might have been…

Continue reading Great Scott! – Back to the Future at FOTE15

Looking back to so what of the future…

books

Five years ago in March 2010, I wrote an article on the “future”.

At that time I wrote

Over the last year or so I have been doing a few keynotes and presentations entitled the future of learning. I do start with a caveat that I don’t know the future for sure and that no one can really predict the future…

I then reflected on the past before looking forward.

Well for me the “next big thing” is e-Books and e-Book Readers. These will hit the consumer market big time over the next three years. We will see many more people reading books, magazines and newspapers via devices such as the Apple iPad, Microsoft Courier and other devices not yet on the market.

Well in May 2010, we saw the release of the iPad in the UK and with that came the iBooks application.

Though the Kindle was originally released in 2007, the third generation of Kindles released in 2010 were competitively priced and we saw more people buying these devices and reading ebooks.

By 2012 we saw a huge increase in the sales of ebooks, some of that was due to the success of “50 Shades of Grey”, but in 2013 and 2014 we saw a decline in the rate of growth of ebook sales, so still growing, but more slowly than in 2011 and 2012.

There is also a “backlash” against ebooks with many commentators and some booksellers talking about “a growing number of people who are going back to books.”

Within education, we saw projects such as the Jisc Collections e-books for FE which from 2011-2014 saw 2996 e-books made available to FE Colleges for free.

So we have seen over the last five years a huge increase in the usage of ebooks and ebook readers, though to be honest whatever did happen to the Microsoft Courier?

As for the next five years…. well that might need to be another article.

Libraries of the future

Imagine a new Library of Alexandria. Imagine an archive that contains all the natural and social sciences of the West—our source-critical, referenced, peer-reviewed data—as well as the cultural and literary heritage of the world’s civilizations, and many of the world’s most significant archives and specialist collections. Imagine that this library is electronic and in the public domain: sustainable, stable, linked, and searchable through universal semantic catalogue standards.

Thanks to @ostephens on Twitter who pointed out this thoughtful article from Lisbet Rausing on imagining the future of libraries.

It’s an interesting observation when in the article it says

the question for scholars and gatekeepers is not whether change is coming. It is whether they will be among the change-makers. And if not them, then who?

We know change is coming, we can pretend that we can fight it, but the reality is that we need to be making that change.

So what of the future?

Can you predict the future?

Do you know what life will be like next year, in five years, in ten years?

Over the last year or so I have been doing a few keynotes and presentations entitled the future of learning. I do start with a caveat that I don’t know the future for sure and that no one can really predict the future…

Though as a reflective person I do look back at the work I have been doing on mobile learning and I think there are lessons to be learned about the journey I have travelled.

This is me in 2006 based on work I was doing in 2004 and 2005.


This work came from mobile stuff I was doing back in the late 1990s. Back then I worked for an organisation called at-Bristol, a hands-on science centre in the middle of Bristol.

One of the projects we started working on was with HP looking at how we could use an HP Jornada on our then fledgingly wireless network to allow visitors additional and enhanced information on webpages about the exhibits. One of the key questions at the time was how we got the URLs into the devices at the right place. Then we decided to use HP’s Jetsend IR technology to “squirt” the URL to the Jornada. Of course since then the technologies have moved on and importantly so have the public. Today you would probably let the visitors use their own devices and smartphones. You would use QR codes, Bluetooth or more probably in the future RFID to find out where the visitor was before sending them the information (or letting them access the information via QR codes). If the attraction was outside then GPS could be used. The key though was not the technology but the concept of enhancing a visitor’s experience with additional content through a mobile device.

After leaving at-Bristol and joining the Western Colleges Consortium, I continued to work on mobile learning; at that time there was no funding available.

When I was working on mobile learning all those years ago, the reason was that mobile phones and mobile devices were becoming more sophisticated and more useful to consumers and business. I knew then it would only be a matter of time before they become useful to education and importantly a focus for policy and funding.

And in 2007 along came MoLeNET, millions of pounds of capital funding with a focus on mobile learning in FE.

There is no way that I would call myself a futureologist, but from an FE perspective I am looking at how new technologies can enhance and enrich everyday life, as before long these technologies will enter education.

So the big question is what am I working on now? What do I think will have a real impact in education, not just for learners, but also for funding and projects.

Well I am not working on Second Life or MUVEs. These do have some great application to learning, however until consumers start to use these technologies a lot more, than we won’t see a big change in their use in education.

Social networking and Web 2.0 are very big in the consumer field at the moment, Facebook is everywhere and corporate and entertainment use of these tools is now much more widespread than it was just a year or two ago.

As a result policymakers will start to think about how these tools and services can be used in education. And where thinking starts, funding usually follows…

So what about next year or the year after?

Well for me the “next big thing” is e-Books and e-Book Readers. These will hit the consumer market big time over the next three years. We will see many more people reading books, magazines and newspapers via devices such as the Apple iPad, Microsoft Courier and other devices not yet on the market. More publishers and broadcasters will start to think about how they are going to use these devices and start offering content on them, think of BBC iPlayer and its availability on the iPhone.

As a result policymakers will start to think about how these new technologies can be used in education. And where thinking starts, funding usually follows…

You see at the end of the day, it will not be how these products are used by educators, it’s how they are taken up and used by consumers and business. Whether that is right or wrong, is not really the case, as more often this is how it happens now, and has happened over the last twenty to thirty years, with most technologies.

CherryPal launches $249 cloudy mini PC

Is this the future of home computing?

CherryPal launches $249 cloudy mini PC

A small $249 box with access to the web (and 50GB of online storage).

The Register reports that:

Start-up CherryPal is taking pre-orders today for its partly cloudy “desktop” that mashes web-hosted computing, going green, open source, and social networking into a 10 ounce box.

The (self-titled) CherryPal systems are $249, and surprisingly won’t require a monthly subscription despite the fact that most of its storage capacity and several of its features hosted in the cloud.

CherryPals are thinned-down computers running an ultra-low power chip from Freescale. They’ve got 256MB memory and 4GB solid-state capacity.

The future of computing?

What do you think?