This is an update on my work regarding my attempt to define the term emerging technologies for education: I was feeling a bit uneasy to write that the term “emerging technologies” has not yet been defined. Perhaps I was simply not discovering the definition? Perhaps the definition was laying somewhere out there and my research abilities weren’t up to par? (Unlikely, I know : ), but possible). I asked a few more people about this and ended up emailing George Siemens asking if he had a definition that he is using in his work. He asked the question on twitter here, and posted the replies he received here. Picking up on the twitter message and George’s blog post, a few other definitions have emerged here and here. Thank you everyone for contributing your thoughts – once again, I am thrilled to see educators worldwide adding their knowledge to this work! I will be using these thoughts to improve the ideas presented in my paper. The working book chapter with the definition of emerging technologies for education, teaching, and learning is now updated and available. This book is planned to be published as an open access publication by Athabasca University Press and the knowledge sharing that underpins this specific chapter makes a better case for why an open license is the best way forward!
I just received an email entitled “Amazon.com’s Black Friday Deals” and visited the amazon site to see if they have any deals on the books that i’d like to buy. I quickly stopped looking though because of the time required to go through the deals. Wouldn’t it be helpful if Amazon pulled together Black Friday wish list for me, showing me the books/items that were in my wish list AND were discounted on Black Friday? Simple and elegant, but apparently not available! Maybe next year…
This report was released today, and will probably be everywhere within the next few hours. I am looking forward to reading it, but the pages that i’ve read so far have been thoroughly engaging. From the Digital Youth Project website:
Social network sites, online games, video-sharing sites, and gadgets such as iPods and mobile phones are now fixtures of youth culture. They have so permeated young lives that it is hard to believe that less than a decade ago these technologies barely existed. Today’s youth may be coming of age and struggling for autonomy and identity as did their predecessors, but they are doing so amid new worlds for communication, friendship, play, and self-expression.
We include here the findings of three years of research on kids’ informal learning with digital media. The two page summary incorporates a short, accessible version of our findings. The White Paper is a 30-page document prepared for the MacArthur Foundation’s Digital Media and Learning Series. The book is an online version of our forthcoming book with MIT Press and incorporates the insights from 800 youth and young adults and over 5000 hours of online observations.
Surprisingly enough, the education, e-learning, educational technology, instructional design, and so on literatures do not include a definition of emerging technologies for education. Below is my attempt at defining the term. This definition will be part of a book chapter to be published in 2009. The complete chapter will be posted here by the end of January 2009. Enjoy, and if you have any comments, or if you happen to stumble upon a definition of emerging technologies, please feel free to comment!
Emerging Technologies are tools, innovations, and advancements utilized in diverse educational settings (including distance, face-to-face, and hybrid forms of education) to serve varied education-related purposes (e.g., instructional, social, and organizational goals). Emerging Technologies (ET) can be defined and understood in the context of the following five characteristics:
1. ET can be, but are not necessarily, new technologies. It is important to note that in this context the words emerging and new are usually treated as synonymous, but they may not necessarily be so. While a definition of new might be perilous and contentious, ET may represent newer developments (e.g., utilizing the motion sensing capabilities of the Wii Remote to practice surgical techniques) as well as older ones (e.g., employing open source learning management systems at higher education institutions). Even though it may be true that most emerging technologies are newer technologies, the mere fact that they are new, does not necessarily categorize them as emerging. This idea of new technologies being emerging technologies also begs the following two questions: When do technologies cease to be new? When technologies cease to be new, do they also cease to be emerging? For example, synthetic (or virtual) worlds were described as an emerging technology more than ten years ago (Dede, 1996). Today, virtual worlds are still described as emerging technologies (e.g. de Freitas, 2008). Newness, by itself, is a problematic indicator of what emerging technologies, as older technologies can also be emerging– the reasons for this will become clearer after we examine the characteristics that follow.
2. ET are evolving organisms that exist in a state of “coming into being”. The word evolving describes a dynamic state of change and continuous refinement and development. Twitter, the popular social networking and micro-blogging platform, represents an illustrative example of an ET that is “coming into being.” Twitter’s early success and popularity would often cause frequent outages. Such issues were most noticeable during popular technology events (e.g., during the MacWorld keynote address). After a while, Twitter’s outage issues were both lambasted and anticipated by the industry. When a new company moved into Twitter’s old offices, an image was posted on the office door (Figure 1) as a tongue-in-cheek statement regarding Twitter’s downtime and office relocation. Early attempts to satisfy sudden surges in demand included using more servers and implementing on/off switches to various Twitter features (e.g., during the 2008 WorldWide Developers Conference), while later efforts included Re-designing the application’s architecture and withdrawing services (e.g., free SMS and instant messaging support). Existing in a state of evolution, Twitter continuously develops and refines its service, while maintaining its core purpose, and still being an emerging rather than an established technology.
3. ET go through hype cycles. Today’s emerging technology might be tomorrow’s fad, and today’s simple idea might be tomorrow’s key to boosting productivity. While it is easy to fall into the trap of believing that today’s innovations will completely restructure and revolutionize the way we learn and teach, it is important to remain critical to hype. Even though technology has had a major impact on how distance education is delivered, managed, negotiated, and practiced, it is also important to recognize that due to organizational, cultural, and historical factors, education, as a field of study and practice, is resistant to change (c.f. Cuban, 1993; Lortie, 1975). Technologies and ideas go through cycles of euphoria, adoption, activity and use, maturity, impact, enthusiasm, and even infatuation. In the end, some of today’s emerging technologies (and ideas) will become stable (and staple), while others will fade in the background.
One way to describe the hype that surrounds emerging technologies and ideas for education is to observe the Hype Cycle model (Fenn & Raskino, 2008) developed by Gartner Inc. This model evaluates the relative maturity and impact of technologies and ideas and follows five stages that have been successfully applied to diverse topics (table 1). Most specific to the topic of this book are the hype cycle models developed for Higher Education (Gartner, 2008a) e-learning (Gartner, 2006), and emerging technologies (Gartner, 2008b).
4. ET satisfy the “not yet” criteria. The “not yet” criteria refer to two interrelated issues:
a. ET are not yet fully understood. One factor distinguishing ET from other forms of technology is the fact that we are not yet able to understand what such technologies are, what they offer for education, and what they mean for learners, instructors, and institutions. For example, what exactly is mobile learning? How does it differ from other forms of learning? What does it mean to have access to data regardless of geographic location? What are the social and pedagogical affordances of mobile learning in relation to alternative forms of learning? As a result of ET not being fully understood, a second issue arises:
b. ET are not yet fully researched or researched in a mature way. Initial investigations of ET are often evangelical and describe superficial issues of the technology (e.g., benefits and drawbacks) without focusing on underdtanding the affordances of the technology and how those affordances can provide different (and hopefully better) ways to learn and teach at a distance. Additionally, due to the evolutionary nature of these technologies, the research that characterizes it falls under the case study and formative evaluation approaches (Dede, 1996), which, by itself, is not necessarily a negative facet of research, but it does pinpoint to our initial attempts to understand the technology and its possibilities. Nevertheless, because ET are not yet fully researched, initial deployments of emerging technology applications merely replicate familiar processes, leading critics to argue that technologies are new iterations of the media debate (e.g., Choi and Clark, 2006; c.f. Clark, 1994; Kozma, 1994; Tracey & Hasting, 2005). Unfortunately, to a large extend, they are right – newer technologies are often used in old ways: Linear PowerPoint slides replace slideshow projectors; blogs – despite the opportunities they offer for collaboration – replace personal reflection diaries; and pedagogical agent lectures replace non-agent lectures (e.g., Choi and Clark, 2006).
5. ET are potentially disruptive but their potential is mostly unfulfilled. Individuals and corporations recognize that a potential exists, but such potential hasn’t yet been realized. The potential to transform practices, processes, and institutions, is both welcomed and opposed. For example, open access journals have the potential to transform the ways research and knowledge are disseminated and evaluated. While this advancement has the potential to disrupt scholarship, to date, the majority of research is still published at closed access journals and periodicals.
As I have said before, i developed the above “definition/description” because i couldn’t find one in the literature. If you have one that for one reason or another i couldn’t find, please feel free to add the citation/reference to the comments or send me an email. If you have any critiques, i also wouldn’t mind hearing those either :)
One facet of human thinking that intrigues me is the idea that we often believe things to be black and white. While shades of grey is probably the norm, and things aren’t usually as simple as we make them to be, we tend to think in binaries. A binary system is one that consist of two, and only two, units. For example, we tend to think in terms of male and female (disregarding all the other orientations that exist between the two extremes), white and black, real and virtual.
You can blame this CNN article for this Saturday morning rant :). In it, the reported describes how ‘A British couple who married in a lavish Second Life wedding ceremony are to divorce after one of them had an alleged “affair” in the online world.’ I increasingly see stories of the real life blending into the virtual one, and of the virtual one blending into the real. I have always been a proponent of the idea that we live in a world where our “real” activities cannot be distinguished from our “virtual” activities, actions, work, and thoughts (- as a side note, in a job interview once, I was asked if i think that virtual existence is the same as real existence and replied by asking what a real existence means). In other words, the real vs. virtual binary is non-existent, especially considering the fact that what we think is “real” may not be “real.” Confusing? Consider this: You walk down the street and you come across someone who is completely and utterly different than you (e.g. a cypriot professor who studied in the US and currently works in the UK – I am guessing other than me, noone else of that description is reading this blog). What do you “see” whan you see this person? You “see” this person with your own worldview and (positive & negative) stereotypes. What you see therefore, is not “real” as such, but it is your own understanding of this person. What is real for you may not be real for the person next to you.
Some of us – those who have access and skills to take advantage of the technology – live in a world where the distinction between the real and the virtual bends and blends. And this has immense implications for not only teaching and learning which is the focus of this blog, but living and experiencing the world.