Research Question 2: What key technologies are missing from our list?

Instructions: Please use these prompts to help you consider what might need to be added to the current list of Horizon Topics. Add your thoughts as bullet points below, using a new bullet point for each new technology or topic. Please add your comments to previous entries if you agree or disagree.
a. What would you list among the established technologies that some educational institutions are using today that arguably ALL institutions should using broadly to support or enhance teaching, learning, or creative inquiry?
b. What technologies that have a solid user base in consumer, entertainment, or other industries should educational institutions be actively looking for ways to apply?
c. What are the key emerging technologies you see developing to the point that learning-focused institutions should begin to take notice during the next 4 to 5 years?

Each new topic entry must include a title, a description similar to the ones that are written now, and, if needed, a rationale as to why it is different from any of the existing topics. The Horizon Project research team will investigate each nomination entered here to see if it meets the criteria set for new topics (eg., that the topic represents a "real" technology, as opposed to a concept, a new idea, or a proposal; that it is sufficiently developed that research, projects, and information about it exist; and that it has a demonstrable link, or strong potential link, to education).

Please "sign" your contributions by marking them with the code of 4 tildes (~) in a row so that we can follow up with you if we need additional information or leads to examples.
  • New Topic Title. Description, rationale and discussion....

Topic: Early Intervention Engines (Systems)

Description: These are systems designed to identify and track so-called at risk students so specific interventions can be deployed to enhance student retention and completion rates at particular points in the student life-cycle. Such systems will draw data from a number of other system like Student Management System (SMS), Learning Management System (LMS), electronic assignment submission, use of Library, etc.

Rationale: There is increasing pressure on institutions from central governments to show the value of public expenditure on vote education. The number of non completions is seen as a waste of public funding and this has led to a partial shift in institutional funding to the number of student completions. Accordingly, there will be greater emphasis on keeping existing students in their programme of study and early interventional systems will help to identify those students most in need of support.

Discussion: Institutions already have various data on their students but much of this does not integrate in a consolidated or performance reporting function. Early Intervention Engines may well be used to keep students in their study as well as identifying those learners who should be excluded under a capped funding model.

Topic: Online Examination Technology

Description: This is technology that allows institutions to examine students under normal examination conditions but geographically dispersed whilst they are centrally monitored. Several pilot projects are already underway and the technology is quite sophisticated. It even detects the type of keystrokes an individual learner makes on their keyboard to ensure they are who they claim to be. Obviously monitoring also occurs by webcam.

Rationale: The development of this technology is a good fit for large distance providers and enables the examination of students living offshore as education becomes increasingly gloablised.

Discussion: In many respects this technology is another example of how a traditional metaphor of teaching and learning is being used to determine the future shape of a particular technology solution. There are nevertheless likely to be financial savings for institutions if the technology can deliver on its promise. See

Examination or not, assessment is an area eLearning colleagues often fall short on. But are there dazzling technologies we can talk about ? - stephen.atherton stephen.atherton Aug 31, 2010

This is one of the key issues that we should be looking at and I look forward to piloting some of the dazzling technologies! - philip.poronnik philip.poronnik Sep 2, 2010

I was very impressed with this solution to the problem of remote 'invigilation' One challenge in this space is that any credible system needs to a complete end-to-end environment with a level of fault tolerance significantly greater than most other teaching systems (consider the fragility of video conferencing on any scale)- stephen.marshall stephen.marshall Sep 2, 2010

I would like to see this as a trend, but I don't think its an agenda item in New Zealand Schools. The testing solutions that are currently in place are all looking at lower order thinking - remember and understand - as these are easily addressed using multiple choice/drop down answers. I have worked with the Scoris assessor system for marking long answer examination papers in the International Baccalaureate examinations - This system is useful for distance marking but is not really an examination system ratehr a marking system - andrew.churches andrew.churches Sep 5, 2010

Topic: eBook Readers and Smart PDAs

Description: eBook readers include a range of hand devices (increasingly wireless) preloaded with a range of publications. These include the Kindle, Sony, and iPad, etc. The latter represents a new type of multiple purpose device which is likely to reshape the ebook reader market.

Rationale: This category tries to make a distinction between ebooks and ebook readers. The point may well be made by renaming or expanding the current Electronic Books category. There is little doubt that the rapid growth of e-book readers in the last 12 months is likely to continue. Amazon report that ebook sales now outstrip hard backs. There is also a claim that a new iPad like e-reader is currently under development in India which will be available early next year at a greatly reduced cost. See...

Discussion: Over the next 12 months we should expect to see wider acceptance of technology standards for e-book readers and a stronger business model for purchasing of content. Two major rival suppliers are likely to dominate the market - Apple and Amazon.

Question: Is this part of the Electronic Books topic or something different? - Larry Larry Aug 25, 2010

Response: Yes it can be but I've also made the point that ebook readers and related hardware devices are not the same as electronic books. The term electronic books does not fully capture the range of possibilities related to this innovation.

For me, the issue that remains in this area and in the Electronic Books topic is how this technology enhances the efficiency and quality of student (and teacher/researcher) engagement with textual material and complex ideas. Much as the web has moved from passive consumption models to more active engagement and socially driven content, we need the ability to make reading of complex texts active and dynamic - we need tools that move us to digital support of activities like highliting, annotating and bookmarks to dynamic versions that support analysis and re-exploration as ideas develop in the mind of the reader. This is where the distinction comes between the tools and the content - I don't want the books to be independent of each other, they need to interoperate and this is where genuinely smart PDAs/readers will start to make an impact. - stephen.marshall stephen.marshall Sep 2, 2010

The release of the iPad and similar products is going to shake the publishing industries and will have an effect on education. There is a distinction between the technology and the media. The readers are very good, but are not currently supported by purpose built media - The development of such media, with suitable hyperlinking, embedded multimedia elements etc will change how these are used - Here is the mock up from Sports Illustrated for the iPad - what if this was a text book. Here is another example - this one from wired magazine - or the New York Times - andrew.churches andrew.churches Sep 5, 2010

Topic: Near Field Communication

Description: Near-Field Communication (NFC) is a short-range, high-frequency wireless communication technology that lets devices exchange information if they are within about 4" of each other. An extension of RFID, it is used to allow mobiles to communicate with one another. (See Wikipedia entry.)

Rationale: NFC is listed in several of the mobile technologies to watch lists for 2010 and 2011, and is beginning to appear in mobile apps already. It can be used to exchange information between devices, to send information to a device (like passive advertising, or advertising where the receiver points the mobile at the source and accepts the transfer), or as a contactless card reader for the exchange of ID information or currency, for example.

Discussion: NFC is an enabling technology, or one that supports other applications. In and of itself, it's not an emerging technology for education, but it might be a good candidate to watch on the enabling technologies list. - ninmah ninmah Aug 24, 2010

Topic: Virtual world sensory experiences

Description: Within existing technological limits, sight and sound are the two senses which best lend themselves to high quality simulation. However, projects have emerged where the ability to simulate smell to enhance the learning experience needs further investigation. - shirley.reushle shirley.reushle Aug 29, 2010
Agree but would add multi-sensorial media and devices and including haptics (touch and feel) and tactile engagement. - caroline.steel caroline.steel Sep 2, 2010
Agree with Caroline - many of the biomedical sciences would benefit greatly form tactile and olfactory and even enhanced visual/aural experiences. - philip.poronnik philip.poronnik Sep 2, 2010
At the ISTE 2010 conference in Denver, many of the vendors were displaying 3D smartboards or TV, with pretty average mock ups of how these could be used in a classroom. There is potential with these products for adding the tactile element to the visual and auditory aspects. The development with Microsofts X-box Kinect - - would allow for the development of virtual worlds/expeirences that could easily be linked to educational settings The lack of cumbersome VR gloves or googles makes the use of these products easier and simpler in the classroom. The pricing of the base product also makes it affordable. The limitation is going to be the availablitiy of suitaable media. - andrew.churches andrew.churches Sep 5, 2010

Topic: Haptic technologies

Description: Haptic technologies provide information through touch receptors.

Rationale: This is related to Augmented Reality but speaks to the need to provide direct feedback through touch and force to a student as part of learning many skills. This has been around for a while (see for a 2001 example) and in popular use is primarily limited to vibrating controllers although there are quite a range of gloves in existence ( Along with the visualisation technologies and data overlays I think this is a necessary part of genuinely compelling immersive educational experiences particularly in the area of skills education.

This is I believe beyond the 5 year framework weare looking at. The VR developments, lead by Kinect, etc are just within the 5 year timeframe and this is a product that is available commerically in the next month or so. Haptic technologies, while exciting and potentially brilliant are way down the track. - andrew.churches andrew.churches Sep 5, 2010

Topic: HTML5

Description: The way in which we build, render and script things on our browsers is dramatically changing.

Rationale: The HTML 5 standard has not even been finalised and yet we see the biggest fight for browser mindshare ever being played out between Apple, Google, Mozilla, Opera and now Microsoft. The weapon of choice for all of them is HTML 5. The previous browser competitions between Microsoft and Netscape and later Microsoft and Mozilla were mostly about distribution of the Browser application. Now with high speed internet connections almost universal, you can download the latest browser from all 4-5 vendors for your platform in a couple of minutes. Microsoft now only has a distribution advantage on locked down corporate desktops, but Apple has led the way in making the consumer/personal market the trend setter over the corporate market, further diminishing this distribution inequity.

Mozilla used features enabled by plugins and extensions to give it differentiation from IE but in the new world of browser mobility, these browser specific plugins begin to loose their attractiveness. What is much more tempting is a new feature that works across all the browsers and allows innovation without the user having to download and install anything. This is what the swag of features/technologies brought by HTML 5 offer. Examples:
  • Rich media
Rich media such as video, audio and animation has never been web native until the advent of HTML 5. Now with Video/Audio tags, CSS3, Canvas and SVG along with the improved speed of JavaScript in the browsers, rich media is native to the web. Don't underestimate the huge impediment to creative web development that having to work with a plugin technology, i.e. flash, has had on the web. Removing this impediment allows the creative use of rich media throughout the web because with HTML 5 the same tools and techniques are used no matter how rich the web experience the designer is creating
  • Applications
Apple has shown with the App Store, that by removing many of the application development/distribution overheads, users and developers are brought together in an ecosystem that has produced an explosion of app development and use. Web application technologies in HTML 5 will bring about an even larger app ecosystem because Web Apps can be multi-platform and distribution can be via stores or just by going to a url. The web can move from being a web of Sites to a web of Apps. Googles upcoming ChromeOS shows that Google can see this future and is planning to take advantage of it. Apple was typically ahead of the game by 3 years in that when the iPhone was introduced Apple wanted all apps to be web based, but the tools and technology in the HTML 4.01 of the day was not up to it and developers revolted. Apple are still positioning iOS to be a first class Web App platform when the revolution arrives.
  • New Paradigms
There are many new technologies that are having an impact on our computing use. GPS/Gyro/compass integration, Touch navigation, Integrated Video cameras. HTML 5 and follow-on web standards are enabling all of these for use within the browser. - Phillip.Long Phillip.Long Sep 2, 2010