Technology scan – CQU and e-learning

The Division of Learning and Teaching Services which includes CDDU is going through a planning process driven by a range of organisational and contextual issues.

As part of that process various folk we’re asked to complete aspects of an environmental scan. Being the nerd in the group I was asked to do the technology scan. The following is a brief summary.

Overview

There are two main themes to my scan

  1. Specific technologies that will be of interest over the coming years.
  2. Underlying trends/themes.

I’ve done this sort of thing, broadly speaking, a couple of times before in a more traditional presentation format. So not surprisingly I will likely repeat myself and make the same mistakes.

The previous attempts include: some video of a presentation from 2005, slides and online resources from 2007 and version 2 of the slides from 2007.

Specific technologies

Rather than develop my own list of specific technologies, and in the spirit of reuse, it made more sense to point people to the Horizon reports from the New Media Consortium and EDUCAUSE.

The 2007 Horizon report identified the following and their time frames. I’ve added some information about what I know is happening at CQU. Actually, that’s a lie. It will be what the group I’m working with is doing. I don’t know enough about what is going on at CQU to be aware of what others are doing.

TASK: If anyone from CQU reads this and knows of other related work. Please post it in the comments.

The list.

  • Within one year or less
    • User created content – already starting to happen, slowly
      The course EDED11448, Creative Futuring is an attempt at a “Web 2.0 course site”. As part of this course students are using RedBubble to share their artistic productions. The class are also using del.icio.us to generate a collection of resources, and theoretically, a podcast.
    • Social networking – I don’t think we’re doing anything in this area just yet. It potentially, could be very interesting as an approach to reducing attrition through enabling students to develop personal connections with others.
  • Within two to three years
    • Mobile phones – I don’t think we’re doing much with this.
      Like everyone else people have played with podcasting, which at a stretch could be something mobile phone related.
    • Virtual worlds – something should be in place by 2008.
      CQU is a partner in a Carrick funded project looking at encouraging the use of virtual worlds in education.
  • Four to five years
    • Educational gaming – nothing to my knowledge
    • New scholarship
      Various staff are starting to use blogs for various forms of scholarship (e.g. what you’re reading now). But as an organisation, I don’t think we’ve engaged with it.

Generic Trends

The following are a collection of generic trends or drivers which I believe are contributing to the above technologies and will contribute to the next generation.

  • Moving up the abstraction layer.
    Since the very early days additional abstraction layers have been added to technology. Way back when you had to physically wire computers to do a task, then you could program them in binary, then low level languages and up the ladder to today when visual programming environments are allowing just about anyone program. 20 years ago we were limited to manipulating text and numbers on green screens. Now you can manipulate 3D objects within a virtual world.

    With each move up the abstraction layer old necessary skills become questioned, new skills and new approaches need to be considered. New possibilities open up. We’re not finished yet.

  • Becoming ubiquitous
    When I first talked about the Web in 1994, no-one knew what I was talking about. It was a rare person who did know. These days it would be rare person who did not know something about it. Increasingly people have and use access to these technologies. There are always exceptions, but they are becoming less common.
  • Everything is becoming open.
    Increasingly content is open and available. Increasingly software systems need to be open. This openness is enabling sharing and developing of new applications which are further up the ladder.
  • Innovation is moving beyond the universities and research centres
    A bit more than 10 years ago the list of the really cool stuff on the web would have been dominated by websites, data or tools from universities and research centres. Now, it’s generally outside universities. Companies are doing cooler things better than universities are capable of.
  • A requirement to question the status quo.
    All of these changes open up new capabilities, new ways of doing things. Novelty which challenges the status quo, the way we do things around here. To be really effective in using new technologies what, how and why we do things has to be questioned.

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