More services will be running on cellphones or handheld computers, and more devices will be able to broadcast their location to others, says a new report from Educause’s Learning Initiative and the New Media Consortium.
The “2009 Horizon Report,” the latest edition of the annual list of technology trends to watch in education, is compiled based on news reports, research studies, and interviews with experts.
Topping the list of hot technologies are smart phones and other mobile devices. The authors noted that smart phones can now run third-party applications, which could revolutionize how such devices are used in education by consolidating numerous teaching, learning, and administrative tools into devices that fit into the palms of students’ hands.
Another top trend identified in the report is cloud computing, which refers to Web-based applications and services. Such services, many of which are free, will allow campus users to access more tools and information at a lower cost—although it may make users increasingly dependent on their hosts, the report says.
The prevalence of electronics that have “geo-locators“—that is, that are capable of knowing where they are—could have important applications for field research, specifically with regard to tracking the movement of animal populations or mapping data sets to study weather, migration, or urban development patterns, the report says. Similarly, “smart” objects—which are aware not only of their locations but of themselves and their environment—are already used in some libraries for tracking and tagging materials and may have analogous applications across a number of academic disciplines.
Though the Internet has proved to be a helpful resource for many students and professors, the sheer volume of its content can make finding relevant information a tedious chore at times. According to the report, the personal Web—i.e., widgets and services that help connect individual users to the Web-based information relevant to them—will allow students, professors, and administrators to use the Web more efficiently.
In a similar vein, semantic-aware applications will emerge to allow students to use one of the Internet’s more popular features—Web search—more efficiently, the authors predict. Semantic-aware applications refer to technology designed to analyze the meaning of phrases typed into search boxes, rather than just the keywords. Beyond search technology, the report says that semantic-aware applications may eventually help researchers organize and present their findings in ways that more easily describe conceptual relationships among collected data. —Steve Kolowich