The six technologies featured in the 2011 Horizon Report are placed along three adoption horizons that indicate likely time frames for their entrance into mainstream use for teaching, learning, or creative inquiry. The near-term horizon assumes the likelihood of entry into the mainstream for institutions within the next twelve months; the mid-term horizon, within two to three years; and the far-term, within four to five years. It should be noted at the outset that the Horizon Report is not a predictive tool. It is meant, rather, to highlight emerging technologies with considerable potential for our focus areas of teaching, learning, and creative inquiry. Each of the six is already the focus of attention at a number of innovative organizations around the world, and the work we showcase here reveals the promise of a wider impact.
On the near-term horizon — that is, within the next 12 months — are electronic books and mobiles. Electronic books are moving closer to mainstream adoption for educational institutions, having appeared on the mid-term horizon last year. Mobiles reappear as well, remaining on the near-term horizon as they become increasingly popular throughout the world as a primary means of accessing Internet resources. Resistance to the use of mobiles in the classroom continues to impede their adoption in many schools, but a growing number of institutions are finding ways to take advantage of a technology that nearly all students, faculty, and staff carry.
- Electronic books continue to generate strong interest in the consumer sector and are increasingly available on campuses as well. Modern electronic readers support note-taking and research activities, and are beginning to augment these basic functions with new capabilities — from immersive experiences to support for social interaction — that are changing our perception of what it means to read.
- Mobiles enable ubiquitous access to information, social networks, tools for learning and productivity, and much more. Mobile devices continue to evolve, but it is the increased access to affordable and reliable networks that is driving this technology now. Mobiles are capable computing devices in their own right — and they are increasingly a user’s first choice for Internet access.
The second adoption horizon considers technologies expected to gain widespread usage within two to three years, and this year’s candidates are augmented reality and game-based learning. Both intersect with practices in mainstream popular culture, both have been considered significant tools for education for many years, and both have made appearances on a number of campuses already. Advances in hardware and software, as well as in a broader acceptance of new methods in teaching, secured the place of these innovations as the top technologies for the mid-term horizon.
- Augmented reality refers to the layering of information over a view or representation of the normal world, offering users the ability to access place-based information in ways that are compellingly intuitive. Augmented reality brings a significant potential to supplement information delivered via computers, mobile devices, video, and even the printed book. Much simpler to create and use now than in the past, augmented reality feels at once fresh and new, yet an easy extension of existing expectations and practices.
- Game-based learning has grown in recent years as research continues to demonstrate its effectiveness for learning for students of all ages. Games for education span the range from single-player or small-group card and board games all the way to massively multiplayer online games and alternate reality games. Those at the first end of the spectrum are easy to integrate with coursework, and in many institutions they are already an option; but the greatest potential of games for learning lies in their ability to foster collaboration, problem-solving, and procedural thinking. For a variety of reasons, the realization of this potential is still two to three years away.
Looking to the far-term horizon, four to five years from now for widespread adoption, are gesture-based computing and learning analytics. Both remain largely speculative and not yet in widespread usage on campuses, but both are also garnering significant interest and increasing exposure.
- Gesture-based computing moves the control of computers from a mouse and keyboard to the motions of the body via new input devices. Depicted in science fiction movies for years, gesture- based computing is now more grounded in reality thanks to the recent arrival of interface technologies such as Kinect, SixthSense, and Tamper, which make interactions with computational devices far more intuitive and embodied.
- Learning analytics loosely joins a variety of data-gathering tools and analytic techniques to study student engagement, performance, and progress in practice, with the goal of using what is learned to revise curricula, teaching, and assessment in real time. Building on the kinds of information generated by Google Analytics and other similar tools, learning analytics aims to mobilize the power of data-mining tools in the service of learning, and embracing the complexity, diversity, and abundance of information that dynamic learning environments can generate.
Each of these technologies is described in detail in the main body of the report, where a discussion of what the technology is and why it is relevant to teaching, learning, and creative inquiry may also be found. Given the practical focus of the report, a listing of examples of the technology in use, especially in higher education, is a key component of each of the six main topics. Our research indicates that all six of these technologies, taken together, will have a significant impact on learning-focused organizations within the next five years.