The Year Ahead in IT, 2013

Lev Gonick, Inside Higher Ed, Jan 03, 2013
Commentary by Stephen Downes

I'm always thinking about the future of learning technology, even if I don't write about it so much these days. This is partially because it has become a bit predictable. Learning will become more open and content cheaper and easier to produce - hence, the move to flips, MOOCs and son-of-flips-and-MOOCs will continue. Computer hardware will continue to outpace need, so we'll see an increase in cloud and virtualization. Always-connected and mobile will continue to grow and increase capacity with LTE and processing power, so we'll see always-on learning. And then of course there are the things that have happened in the past, which are the easiest to predict, things like 3D printing, gamification and analytics. All good. These are the easy predictions, and everyone is making them. So what are the hard things that nobody is predicting?

I think the impact of HTML5 will be widely felt - the New York Times article from the other day is just the thin edge of the wedge - we're going to see widespread integration of multimedia and text in ordinary things like books, posts and articles - leaving print-based media behind completely. This will be very good for publishers, because for now it's still pretty difficult for amateurs to do (I'd love to see ds106 focus on this rather than retread Twilight Zone episodes). What else? We will also see dynamic learning materials (and dynamic reading materials generally) - multimedia posts and articles connected to live data sources. We've seen these already in things like weather bugs, Yahoo stock charts and Google Maps mashups, but it will become widespread. Again, this will favour publishers, because they will have priority access to live data. So, expect a rebound year for commercial content. Expect the pay media sites begin to prosper and for publishers to begin rolling out high-quality dynamic learning resources non-professionals cannot easily emulate.

That's the hard prediction - a reversal of existing trends. It will happen this year. You might think I oppose it, but I don't. Commercial media quite properly should focus on the difficult and high-quality. Where it has gone wrong in the past was in trying to monopolize easy media against a growing tide of open content. Once it enters into a proper research-and-development cycle (something it hasn't needed in a century) it will begin to prosper again, without harming openness, and this is good for all of us.

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