Eric Kunnen\’s GRCC Blog

A Review of the 2008 Horizon Report through a GRCC Lens
February 4, 2008, 2:52 pm
Filed under: Articles

The Horizon Report is often cited on many college and university campuses around topics of discussion that deal with the intersection between teaching, learning, and technology. The 2008 report was recently announced at the ELI Annual Meeting on January 28-30, in San Antonio, Texas.

The full Horizon Report is available here as a PDF. In addition, there is even a Horizon Project Wiki that includes reports from previous years and some additional background information.

The Horizon Report is a collaboration between the New Media Consortium, the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative, and EDUCAUSE. This report is unique because it provides an overall view, through research, of key technologies that are helping to shape and transform education. The report focuses on emerging technologies along with their significance. More importantly, the report zeros in on how intricate or detailed the technology would be if it was deployed or adopted by an institution by providing “time to adoption” categories which are helpful since many of these technologies are new to educators and institutions.

This report is comprised of the following sections:

■ Key Emerging Technologies
■ Critical Challenges
■ Significant Trends
■ After Five Years: The Metatrends
■ About the Horizon Project

I’ll make an attempt to highlight the key technologies in this Horizon Report and link them to projects we have in Distance Learning and Instructional Technologies at GRCC.

The key emerging technologies listed in this report are:

  1. Grassroots Video
  2. Collaboration Web
  3. Mobile Broadband
  4. Data Mashups
  5. Collective Intelligence
  6. Social Operating Systems

Grassroots Video

Video these days has become a common place. No longer is video ONLY a publication channel for TV stations and Hollywood. Video can be easily captured and placed onto YouTube nearly instantly. Video can be streamed live. Video can be part of an instant messaging or chat session.

From a teaching and learning perspective, video can significantly enhance a student’s understanding of the material. Here at GRCC we have many projects that are related to video. From GRCC’s YouTube Channel to instructors playing back timely YouTube videos in the classroom, to instructors creating screencasts with Techsmith Camtasia or Relay (which was announced at the 2007 Educause conference in Seattle). Video is definitely becoming more prevalent in the classroom at GRCC.

Here is a screen shot of Garry Brand’s (Director of Distance Learning and Instructional Technologies and Professor of Business Law) Blackboard courses with an embedded YouTube player:

Collaboration Webs

What is one of the most powerful tools for learning? Collaboration. The ability to interact with others in a social way within the context of a course is extremely powerful. In fact, one of the major reasons for using a course management system like Blackboard to begin with is not only to upload static content, rather, to create opportunities for collaboration among students.

At GRCC, faculty have a wealth of tools that can be linked to their courses in Blackboard. Tools that are built-in to Blackboard include: group pages (exchange files and hold discussions), Blackboard Scholar (share bookmarks with a team), Wimba Pronto (conduct online office hours), discussion boards (work collectively), Learning Object Wikis (collaborative writing) and Blogs (comment on others reflections), and much more!

Using these tools, faculty can engage with students and students with each other in unique ways. These tools can provide opportunities for collaboration and communication outside of the classroom. So learning doesn’t have to stop when the face to face class session or lecture is over.

Here is a screen shot of a collaborative use of a Wiki for a team project around student success:


Mobile Broadband

If any technology, this one will most definitely expand and grow. The cell phone is one of the best communication devices ever created. Providing just in time convenient access to instruction is becoming possible with a new set of hand held and highly mobile technologies. These devices provide the ability for a learner to engage anytime/anywhere in learning.

From accessing GRCC Youtube Channel course information via mobile (see my previous mobile YouTube blog entry here) to receiving timely notifications of campus closings and course announcements through clearTXT (see my previous blog entry on txt messaging for communication here), GRCC seems to be on the right path.

In fact, this is indeed what students seem to desire as well. Here is a recent Blackboard Community System portal poll on how students would like to receive information from GRCC around school closings and course related content, where more than 48% of students responding would prefer a mobile message:


Data Mashups

The ability to take multiple applications and combine them into a combined product is where synergy can occur. For example, Flickr in and of itself is a great tool for socially sharing images. And Yahoo maps is an excellent online mapping tool. How about combining the both? What an outstanding way to take a field trip or to study geography? Using a mashup of these 2 tools, a new capability can be realized. Schmap is an example of photos that are combined with specific locations on a map:


Collective Intelligence

Knowledge building. Knowledge creation. Knowledge managment.

Probably the best known tools for allowing groups of people to gather together to build a collective knowledgebase are wikis. Sites like Wikipedia are perfect examples of the community coming together to build, categorize, and share a wealth of knowledge.

If you think about the entire “life-cycle” of a course. That is indeed what students and faculty are engaged in. That is, the building of a defined set of collective intelligence around the context of a course. At GRCC, through using a combined set of tools like the Learning Objects Wiki, Blackboard Scholar, and the new dicussion board in Blackboard 8, a course can allow students to: 1) construct knowledge together using the Learning Objects Wiki collaboratively, 2) tag and share resources through Blackboard Scholar, and 3) zero in on discussions, threads, and posts that have been tagged in the discussion board.

Here is an example of leveraging a custom set of tags using the academically focused Blackboard Scholar social bookmarking application inside of a course:


Social Operating Systems

Indeed, the next generation of learning will include tools that are popularly known as social networks. Facebook. MySpace. Bebo. etc.

As one of the best practices in undergraduate education, highlighted by Chickering and Ehrmann’s article on “Implementing the Seven Principles: Technology as a Lever“, communication and reciprocity is key to learning. In other words, the importance of social exchange in learning is crucial.

At GRCC, social tools like Blackboard Scholar, and ClassTop’s CourseFeed Facebook application provide a first step and initial glimpse in taking the basic course management system and providing new capabilities that engage the social aspect through the use of technology. I suspect that this is one area that has tremendous potential in education. The potential is there to really transform and change our teaching and learning practices.

Here is a screen shot of a series of announcements in Facebook that have been created by the integration with Blackboard:


Through the support of various units on campus, GRCC has continued to push forward and explore emerging technologies as they relate to teaching and learning. What is certain, is that new technologies will always be around the corner. One of the challenging aspects here is… how do we sort through all of the technologies, while encouraging faculty to adopt them, and at the same time provide the resources to enable and empower our faculty and students to leverage these new technologies?

In some ways though… let’s keep this simple! Let’s work together to remove the clutter, and zero in on some simple, yet effective technologies that can enhance, extend, and create a more effective educational experience for all learners.


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