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‘Horizon Report’ Highlights 6 Technologies to Watch in Education

“The Horizon Report,” an annual guide to tech trends, comes out next week. And it’s predicting a new technology king: open content.

After failing to make last year’s “Technologies to Watch” list, the open-content movement now joins mobile computing as the two trends most likely to enter mainstream learning in the next year, says the report, from the New Media Consortium and Educause.

“Far more than a collection of free online course materials, the open-content movement is a response to the rising costs of education, the desire for access to learning in areas where such access is difficult, and an expression of student choice about when and how to learn,” the report says.

When it comes to mobile devices, the report notes that gadgets like smartphones and netbooks are already taking hold on many campuses, whether as tools for fieldwork or storage for reference materials. But the authors caution that concerns over privacy, classroom management, and access need to be dealt with before their use becomes widespread.

Peering further into the crystal ball, the report predicts the increasing popularity of electronic books in education over the next two or three years, as obstacles like limited availability and poor graphic quality become less of a problem.

Also two to three years on the horizon is simple augmented reality, the idea of blending virtual data with what you see in the real world. The educational potential of this technology emerges, for example, when students visit a historic site. An augmented-reality application could overlay details about how the place looked at different eras in history, the report says.

Looking out to around 2015, the authors see gesture-based computing becoming mainstream in classrooms. The idea is that computers can recognize and interpret physical gestures, something you already see in devices like the Nintendo Wii. Medical students today learn how to use tools with simulations that involve gesture-based interfaces. The authors envision other fields like the visual arts also taking advantage of this technology.

Also on deck for the more distant future: visual data analysis. This is the blending of computational methods with advanced graphics to tap humans’ talent to detect patterns in complicated visual presentations. For example, researchers have created models of biological processes from MRI data and other complicated data sets, the authors say.

“The Horizon Report” will be officially released at the Educause Learning Initiative Conference in Austin on January 19.

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