Eric Kunnen\’s GRCC Blog

6 Technologies for the Future – Coming Soon to a Classroom Near You
December 21, 2007, 5:49 pm
Filed under: Articles

Garry Brand recently forwarded me this article from ars technica on how Web2.0 technologies will meet the “Ivory tower” of academia in the future. The article refers to an excellent review of educational technologies called the Horizon Report from the New Media Consortium.

Here are some of my thoughts about this article as it relates to our work at Grand Rapids Community College:

1. User Created Content – Here at GRCC we have Blogs, Wikis, and Social Bookmarking through Blackboard. I’d like us to move forward also with the Blackboard Content System (Garry and I are working on a proposal for this.) as a way for faculty, staff, and students to store and share their content. We also have our own GRCC YouTube Channel to share and store many of our lectures, and original programming through our Media Technologies group.

2. Social Networking – Here at GRCC we have Blackboard Scholar which has social networking capabilities and CourseFeed which is a Facebook application that is linked to Blackboard.  Both of these applications push the boundaries of closed systems and provide a more social aspect to learning.

3. Mobile Phones – Here at GRCC we have clearTXT which is linked to our Blackboard system for crisis messaging. However, clearTXT offers much more, such as allowing students to subscribe to announcements, grades, and other items in their Bb courses. There are also group tools in the next version of clearTXT that allow students to create groups and collaborate via text messaging. I’d like to see GRCC move forward with the clearTXT Ubiquity. Along another line of work, Garry Brand has even had a student take a Blackboard assessment on the student’s own Apple iPhone.

4. Virtual Worlds – Other than several of us having an account on SecondLife, I’m not sure what else is happening at GRCC with virtual worlds. Blackboard has offered a Greenhouse Grant on determining how virtual worlds could be used and integrated with the Blackboard learning system.  I haven’t heard any news lately on who won this award.

5. The New Scholarship and Emerging Forms of Publication – Our use of Blogs, Wikis, and Blackboard Scholar has potential here, as well as the Blackboard Content System as a way for faculty and students to add to the body of knowledge in the courses and work here at GRCC.

6. Massively Multiplayer Educational Gaming – Again, other than SecondLife, I’m not sure where we are at GRCC with this technology.  I have read the book “Don’t Bother Me Mom – I’m Learning” by Marc Prensky.  I have even heard him speak at a conference here in Michigan.  I do think that there is a lot of potential with educational gaming, however, I think the problem is the time it takes to actually create an effective game that is custom enough to make a difference.  We do have a site license for StudyMate by Respondus Inc.  This program allows faculty to easily create some Flash based games and quickly load them into their Bb courses.

I like this statement in the article: “While the technologies discussed in the report will all play their parts in the educational process over the next decade, games, student-created content, social networking, and virtual worlds simply can’t deliver that content well in its primary form.” These technologies are not the magic bullet. They cannot replace a teacher roles as a facilitator of learning. However, they can allow a teacher to be more effective.

The article also states: “For most programs, consuming and understanding large amounts of knowledge remains fundamental…” Of course, a base understanding is required before a user can generate content on their own blog or for an assignment in a team wiki or even develop a higher level understanding of the content itself.

“But the other key part of the educational process, thinking through material and debating it with others, seems perfectly suited to new technology. Such tools are good at creating all sorts of secondary learning opportunities: class discussion blogs,…” This statement in the article connects perfectly to the very large set of communication-based technologies in Blackboard.  In fact, if we move to acquire additional mobile tools such as clearTXT Ubiquity, we can further connect students to students and students to the instructor and students to the content in highly flexible and mobile configurations.

One thing I hear a lot about here at GRCC and at other institutions is the need for faculty to come together… to share. I think we are barely scratching the surface as to leveraging technology for better faculty to faculty sharing and connection. One tool that is approaching this ideal is Blackboard Scholar, where resources can be shared and users can connect by viewing profiles and adding favorites and friends. The article describes this as: “Social networking helps professors link up with other interested researchers in their field.”

The article ends with: “Educators need to be discerning in putting such tools to use.” If you were to boil everything down to any technology that has been introduced in academia, the key is this: An Educators ability or capability to take a tool and put it to use in their teaching and the student’s learning. I think this is where we (instructional designers, technologists, leaders) come in… that is, through leading, coordinating, and managing these emerging technologies we can better leverage and support faculty through professional development activities that enable them to become better teachers through their effective use of academic technologies.