How can you keep up with what's coming down the Ed Tech road?
Last year, Brian Alexander wrote a great article in EDUCAUSE Review titled, “Apprehending the Future: Emerging Technologies, from Science Fiction to Campus Reality” [access the full article here: EDUCAUSE Review, Vol 44, No. 3 (June/July 2009): 12-29]. This week, I borrow heavily from this article, to provide a few recommendations for some methodologies for keeping up with the ever changing world of Education Technology.
The Environmental Scan
This common and simple technique calls for repeatedly scanning the horizon to try and stay informed about what might be coming over it. By consulting multiple sources and comparing details and looking for complimentary perspectives, one can attempt to arrive at one's own conclusions about which upcoming technologies to keep abreast of. E-scans can be conducted by one person, or many, and can utilize a mix of ‘manual' efforts (searching out resources and reviewing them) and semi-automated approaches (using tools like RSS Feeds or Google Alerts to provide a steady stream of potentially useful information – see the video below for more on Google Alerts).
There are many sources of insight into emerging education technology trends available on the Internet to inform your environmental scan. Here's a few examples:
- The EDUCAUSE Evolving Technologies Committee
- MIT's Technology Review
- The “Future of Education Technology” posting category here on EmergingEdTech
To have a stream of input about emerging education technologies (or any other topic of your choosing) delivered to your email In Box, try a Google Alert. All you need is a Google Account (free), and the knowledge of how to set up the Alert. It's easy to do – in the brief tutorial video below, I explain how to use this powerful tool.
The environmental scan offers the advantage of providing input from a wide variety of sources, which can help to identify true trends, and it is an educational process exposing the scanner(s) to a lot of information. A down side to the e-scan can be the amount of work it can take to gather all this information, and the challenge of analyzing it.
The Delphi Method
This approach is all about leveraging known experts. The Delphi method is named after the Greek oracle (the ultimate expert), and entails a process whereby a group of experts are consulted. The process can begin with a set of questions focused on the topic being analyzed. Responses are collated, possible trends identified, and a new set of questions submitted to help clarify possible conclusions.
Here are some examples of existing applications of the Delphi Method to the topic of emerging education technologies:
- The New Media Consortium's “Horizon Project“.
- “The Future of the Internet” report series by the Pew Internet & American Life Project and Elon University.
- EDUCAUSE's “Top Teaching and Learning Challenges 2009“.
This Delphi method is a clear contrast to the environmental scan in that it leverages established expertise to provide the input and inform the analysis. As a long standing methodology, there is a wide body of best practices to draw from when utilizing this technique.
This is a really interesting approach to identifying trends. “Prediction Markets are games structured like commodity futures markets but use pretend (usually) currencies and trading on ideas or events rather than goods.”
While working as Director of Research for the National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education, Mr. Alexander helped to organize the NITLE Predication Markets, where hundreds of educators explore dozens of propositions, covering a wide range of technologies. For example, as of the moment I am writing this, the question, “Which alternative to PowerPoint will be most widely used on (small college) campuses in fall 2010?” is featured on the home page of the NITLE site. “Google Presentations” is the leading response, with a 37.7% chance based on what appears to be about 40 ‘purchased answers'.
Predication Markets are a rather unique tool for vetting out which emerging technologies will gain prominence.
A few other approaches to peering into the potential future direction of education technologies, such as role-playing futures using scenarios, and crowdsourcing, are discussed in Alexander's article. I thought the first three approaches (those discussed above) were the most straightforward and informative. Click here to access the full article and learn more about all of these concepts.
I hope these ideas, and the original source article, provide readers with some tools for learning about evolving technologies for the instructional process. As always, reader input is welcomed and encouraged, so if you have any insights, thoughts, or question, please comment and share them! Thanks.
Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out):
Immersive Technologies and the Future of Education
Google’s Liquid Galaxy Project – too cool not to share
8 Engaging Videos Advocating Better Integration of Technology in Education