Saturday, September 25, 2010

Education Technology Trend-spotting Forum (22 September 2010)

The 2 invited speakers for the forum were Dr Larry Johnson and Dr Stephen Breslin

Some things that the 2 experts shared:
Larry Johnson, CEO, New Media Consortium

7 Patterns of Technology

1. Computing in 3 Dimensions

  • e.g. Models that are generated and only possible to create 'virtually' and not realisatic in real world.

2. Games in Reality

  • Learning moves through games (this has been adopted in some countries for military training).

3. Keyboards are for Old People

  • Observation of more youths are using sms than email to send messages.
  • Communication is no longer limited to devices that come with keyboards.
  • Speech-to-text is one technology that is likely to take off in the very near future.
  • Touch technology has become more ubiquitous - e.g. use of multi-touch surfaces as well as iPad.
  • On the other hand, I agree with what Larry shared: The choice of device really depends on the purpose and/ or the kind of activity one carries out. For instance, the iPad could be an ideal device for reading because of its portability and storage. On the other hand, a decent device like a tablet or a laptop would still be the more appropriate device when keying in lots of text (e.g. preparing a report) despite the fact that iPad comes with a (virtual) keyboard. Every device has its natural fit. Another example: While a phone would allow one to access pages of text or read information from the websites, however, when it comes to reading books of hundreds of pages, the iPad would probably be the choice.

4. The Machine is US

  • The latest development was showcased in the 2009 TED show (Sixth Sense Technology)
  • Personally, I think the Sixth Sense technology is amazing, and it definitely possesses lots of potential mobile (or outdoor) learning. In particular, the ease to access information and the 'portability' of 'devices'.

5. Collective Intelligence is the new knowledge

  • The example given was about citizen journalism - when news is no longer dependent on one source, but people become participative and contributes to the virtual community via various means and platforms (e.g. twitter, facebook).
  • Moreover the latest news does not necessary come from the news station or reporters, but could be reported by anyone out there. Especially first hand footages (videoclips, photos, etc)

6. The Network is Everywhere

  • Networks are created in multiple platforms; serving different purposes.
  • The point I gather from this point is, information is embedded everywhere; it's really up to one's creativity and resourcefulness to tap on the information around and turn them into knowledge.
  • This is clearly illustrated in the example about the use of the photos posted in Flickr to help 'define' the boundary of the country.
  • On the other hand, by analysing the photos posted at the various locations, and using the timestamps, experts could analyse the photos to study certain migration patterns.
  • Well, the examples are amazing, isn't it?

7. The People are the Network

  • It's about social networking, if I remember correctly.
  • Using Facebook as an example, again, it's about teasing useful related information from the network of responses. Hm... unfortunately but still, can't quite make out the link between the advantage of the looking through those who share the common interest (through the 'like' button') to teaching and learning yet.


Stephen Breslin, CEO of FutureLab

(a) Emerging Technology Trends

1. Continuation of Moore's Law

  • Massive decrease in cost and massive increase in computing power

2. Once per decade disruption

  • shift from networked to ubiquitous computing

3. Computing as BioScience

4. Cosmetic psycho-pharmacology

  • Smart drugs and cognitive enhancement

5. Invasive and non-invasive brain/machine interfaces

6. 3D printing and printable electronics

  • the capacity to print bespoke mechatronic devices

7. Artificial intelligence remains hard

  • Semantic web technology augments capacity of intelligent analysis and synthesis of information

8. Large scale systems of systems

  • complex system less well-understood, cost of failure increases

(b) Beyond Current Horizon (BCH)

Stephen also shared some of the implications of the findings from the research:

1. Education is a futures facing activity

  • assumptions about the future underpin all levels of education activity

2. Challenging Existing Assumptions

  • e.g. continued progress towards a universal technology-rich, global knowledge economy.

3. Explore alternative Future

  • Possible - what could be
  • Probable - what is likely to be
  • Preferable - what ought to be

4. Education futures work should aim to challenge assumptions rather than present defintive predictions

5. The future is not determined by its technology

6. Thinking about the future involves politics

7. Education has a range of responsibilities that need to be reflected in visions of its future.

In a way, I fully agree with the point that we need to challenge the assumptions - the assumptions of how future looks like, and what is needed in the future - in terms of the skill sets that's needed for survival in the future. When the set of 21st century skills were drawn up, it's based on the trends and the 'extraplotted' 'predications' which are based on our experiences. So, how close is it going to be?

On the other hand, Stephen also reminded us that "We are the Agents of our Own Future". So, we determine how the future looks like, what the future needs... and then we engineer it accordingly.

Haha... well, both points seem to contradict each other a little, but also complement each other!

Another important reminder from him... I thought it was very useful: The emphasis should be "What makes good learning" rather than looking at technology. Fully agree! We could have the best technology in hand, however, without sound pedagogy, it would not be able to put to good use to bring about the desirable change or impact. So, its success still lies in the hands of the curriculum designer!

He also gently shared the UK government's effort in building schools of the future - the key to the entire exercise is... People Matters - Practice and Mindset determine what changes and eventually unfolds - in terms of the learning experiences of the learners.

3 challenges were posted:

  1. Should education continue to be organised around the unit of the individual learner?
  2. Should schools retain its dominant position in assumptions about educational futures?
  3. Should preparation for competition within a knowledge economy remain a primary goal for education?

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