Emerging Technologies in Higher Ed
Devices with the likeness of the Android phone, iPad, and Xbox Kinect may soon appear in college classrooms, according to a recent report on emerging technologies in higher education.
The New Media Consortium, a community of education technology experts worked with EDUCAUSE, a higher education and technology initiative, to gather information on dozens of technologies that impact teaching and learning. They narrowed down their findings to the top six items that are featured in their annual Horizon Report.
These technologies include mobile applications, tablet computers, game-based learning, gesture-based computing, learning analytics, and the Internet of Things. Though they are expected to emerge in classrooms within the next five years, the report is not meant for predictive purposes.
“This report is aimed at policy makers and decision makers who are not technologists,” said Lawrence Johnson, CEO of the NMC, “What we’re trying to do is to help them focus on what our group of experts is telling us is the most important thing for higher education to take on.”
While students, faculty, and staff at higher institutions already use mobile applications and tablet computers, integrating them as part of the classroom is a different matter, said Samantha Adams, the director of communications and a lead writer and reader for ‘The Horizon Project.’
“Mobile apps and tablet computing have been out there for a while - as consumers we have the iPhone, Droid, iPad, and tablet, but the education sector is behind the consumer sector,” Adams said, “We believe mobile apps have experience rapid growth, and it’s going to become the norm.”
Game-based learning, which uses game applications and scenarios to arrive at a learning outcome, are expected to be adopted in two to three years. 3D GameLab is an example of a game-based learning platform that uses quest-based learning to level-up and ultimately complete an aspect of the course.
Chris Haskell of 3D game Lab and lecturer at Boise State University said that traditional colleges that hand papers back to students with notes and grades on them are poor ways of giving feedback.
“But games are really good– it continues to give you feed back,” Haskell said, “We create a much more effective way for students to achieve a much more effective level of learning.”
Learning analytics use technology to analyze students’ learning experience. It helps educators understand the level and comprehension of their students’ learning, and adjust their teaching to help students.
Brian Lukoff, CEO and co-founder of Learning Catalytics, a company focusing on learning analytics technology, said that his technology can better engage students in class who will actively learn instead of passively listening or taking notes.
“Students come to class with devices they already have and log in to Learning Catalytics. When the instructor wants to get real-time feedback about student learning, he/she can click a button and send a question to student device,” Lukoff said, “Once students respond, they get a personalized message on their device telling them who to turn to, to discuss their response.”
Instructors and students can also review material outside of class with the program, said Lukoff.
The report also suggests that colleges will adopt gesture-based computing in four to five years. According to the report, gesture-based computing can include touching, swiping, jumping or moving in order to engage information.
Andruid Kerne, director of the Interface Ecology Lab and an associate professor of computer science at Texas A&M University, developed ZeroTouch, a gesture-based sensing technology that uses infrared transmitters and receivers that recognizes multi-finger positions.
“Gesture-based, and more broadly, embodied computing enable richer expression,” said Kerne,
“The body is part of how we think, how we operate, how we develop new ideas. People do not learn and create as isolated islands.”
Kerne’s team will continue to build game interfaces and interactive installation for exhibits and museums, research labs and education with ZeroTouch.
The last technology in the report, called the Internet of Things, is expected to emerge in higher education within the next four to five years. Adams said that the Internet of Things is an “evolution of smart objects,” where “two mechanisms communicate with each other.”
While the Horizon Report reveals some challenges of adopting these technologies, Johnson said that one of the more significant challenges is the time it takes for institutions to react and implement the technology.
As for any detrimental effects of new technology, Kerne thinks that it is important to use technology to strengthen learning, instead of completely depending upon it.
“Technology can be detrimental to learning when you rely on it too much,” Kerne said, “Nothing can ever replace the value of human to human communication, support, and connection in learning and creativity, and, more generally, in society.”