Tech trends in Australia and NZ

In the latest Horizon Report: 2008 Australia-New Zealand Edition, a number of emerging technologies are discussed that affect higher education. Of these, a few immediately impact current graduate studies in higher education. These are deep tagging, virtual worlds, and cloud-based applications.

First, the report puts some issues into the context of HE. They stress the workplace is influencing education, whereas employers are looking for students who have had “hands-on, purpose-driven, authentic, and other active learning approaches” (p.2) . This might be a stretch for universities who have traditional ideas about knowledge creation lending more toward critical reflection and debates.

Another trend is the connection of the global world and the increased ease to collaborate, and the technologies available to educators. However, with the protectionist attitude and technical security in HE, open access and collaboration might not be an immediate answer.  Yet, the idea of sharing, networking and collaboration is a commendable action that serves notions such as distributed knowledge, as argued by Stephen Downes. Again, epistemological ideals are being tested with advances in technology and a connected world.

To add to the challenges of emerging technologies is the ability for teachers to use and understand the pedogogical worth of them. This however can be encouraged and supported by admin, if they so chose. Another significant problem is having the bandwidth to run advanced technologies, both for the institution and student.

One little aspect rarely addressed but is the pivotal point to changing ways of learning is assessment. Though this report addresses assessment in regards to evaluating tools, I wonder how student learning can be assessed when using new technologies to create work through networks, collaboration, and distributed knowledge. I think once we figure that out, the epistemological issue will be argued less .  Start with the end in mind is a instructional design strategy of Wiggins and McTighe.

Back to emerging technologies affecting current grad studies.

1) deep tagging into multimedia products such as podcasts of lectures and interviews, video clips of presentations, and entries in ebooks with text annotations and retrieval options. The report also mentions Flash files and images. Though still being developed, deep tagging would be a great asset as these normally large sources are hard to deal with as more of these products are available online. For graduate students doing research many capture interviews via digital files. This would help with selection of excerpts for their presentations.

2) virtual worlds, scalable 2 and 3D environments, offer  a way to connect socially or for work purposes. With their visual aspects of avatars or at least the ability to create a profile, thus present a personality, these products are a step toward simulating face to face encounters (either synchronously or asynchronously). Such encounters are greatly wished by many online students to give them greater connection to their fellow peers, enhance communication and alleviate feelings of isolation. Besides bandwidth concerns, these environments can be complex to use.

3) cloud-based applications are a way to store and administer software and data from a central location so they are accessible through the web, thus from any place. Using a laptop or mobile device, students and staff can access classes, resources, software applications, and communication devises without downloading them on their computers. Also, third party applications that are free to use can sit on these central servers increasing the set of tools available to learners. This also creates “alternatives to expensive, proprietary productivity tools” (p. 11) such as Blackboard and Microsoft applications.

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