Horizon Report Retreat (Pt. 2 of 3): Reflections, Reinvention, Transformation—And Watching Evolution Happen

February 7, 2012

The world of technology, education, and creativity is changing so quickly that it’s as if we are sitting in a Darwinian doorway and watching evolution happen, a colleague at the recent New Media Consortium “The Future of Education” Horizon Project Advisory Board retreat in Austin, TX observed.

And that pretty much sums up how it felt to be at the second day of that three-day retreat with nearly 100 very creative educators from academic institutions, museums and museum organizations, companies involved in the development and diffusion of new technology, libraries, and other game-changers in teaching-training-learning.

To try to capture the level of discourse that flows through and from a gathering like that one is like trying to fully capture a profoundly moving dream hours after waking up. Except that there was no sleeping going on there. That was a fully-engaged group of dreamers who knew that their (our) dreams document and even have the ability to shape the world in which we live, breathe, and work. A group of people who are deeply passionate about and engaged in how technology and creativity affect training-teaching-learning. And one that never for a moment seemed to lose sight of the human element of an industry driven and affected by the rapid rate of technological change.

Convened to reflect on what 10 years of Horizon reports have produced;  to consider ways of reinventing the annual flagship report on technology in higher education and its various subsidiary versions (taking specific looks at technology in museums, technology in kindergarten through 12th-grade education, and even regional variations on these themes; and to foster discussions about how those reports will continue to transform the ever-increasing world of teaching-training-learning, we began Day 2 with encouragement from NMC Founder/CEO Larry Johnson to stretch ourselves into an idealized future. To identify a set of big ideas capable of guiding people in the larger world for years to come. And to find ways to keep the Horizon Report relevant in a world that seems to change as quickly as sand shifts under our feet in a pounding surf.

There was talk of libraries as learning centers; the ubiquitous nature of mobility in learning at a time when the use of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets is absolutely exploding at a global level; the need to seek a new form of literacy—“deluge literacy”—to help learners cope with the deluge of information they face on a daily basis; and discussion of a TED talk about building an architecture for participation—lubricating the wheels for collaboration—a creativity process capable of inspiring innovations and change from the ground up. And there was a poignantly compelling reminder that “global” doesn’t necessarily mean “universal.”

You could sense, moment by moment, that this was a group with dreams of inclusivity rather than exclusivity. A group focused on how technology is changing the way we learn, but also keeping technology in a position subsidiary to the human element of teaching-training-learning. And a group intensely, passionately engaged in responding to learners’ needs and looking for ways to effectively and engagingly incorporate technology into the learning process.

It’s obvious that the hundred of us there were all attending, participating, and sharing ideas in the same conference/retreat at very significant levels. And yet because of the masterful way the event was facilitated by David Sibbet, President and Founder of The Grove Consultants International, and the way face-to-face and online communication was supported (through a very active Twitter backfeed under the hashtag #nmchz; I contributed via @trainersleaders), it’s possible to assert that we all attended and participated in 100 different, highly personal, and overlapping conferences where the levels of engagement were increased by our abilities to listen, talk, take notes, exchange tweets, and read those tweets during breaks and after hours while we were all onsite together.

At one of the break-out discussion sessions, I found myself at a table with colleagues from Brazil, Colombia, Denmark, Egypt, Puerto Rico, Shanghai, Spain, and the U.K. During rides to and from the conference hall, I was with an Australian who works for the BBC, in Manchester. You can’t physically be in these situations and settings without viscerally understanding how small the world has become in many ways. And how inspiring and transforming it can be to even be able to spend a few minutes listening to the various perspectives an opportunity like this reveals. As we watch evolution unfold.

Next: Reflection and Inspiration in Six-Minute Bites


Horizon Report Retreat (Pt. 1 of 3): Reflections, Provocations, Lightning, and Thunder

January 25, 2012

At the opening reception for the New Media Consortium’s “The Future of Education” Horizon Project Advisory Board retreat here in Austin, TX, one of the opening keynote speakers (Lev Gonick) said the Consortium has gathered 100 thought leaders from 20 countries to reflect on what the Horizon Report accomplishes; to provoke; and to think about the future.

The wonderful provocations began even before any of us took a seat to listen to a series of introductory comments and wonder how we magically became transformed into “thought leaders.” We were treated to printed signs around the room that summarized metatrends documented through 10 years of Horizon Reports, and those trends ought to be posted on the physical and virtual doors to every learning space around the world, and conveyed to every trainer-teacher-learner who is helping shape the learning industry today:

Horizon Metatrend #1: People expect to work, learn, socialize, and play whenever and wherever they want to.

Horizon Metatrend #2: The Internet is becoming a global mobile network – and already is at its edges.

Horizon Metatrend #3: The technologies we use are daily more cloud-based, and delivered over utility networks.

Horizon Metatrend #4: The world of work is increasingly global and increasingly collaborative.

Horizon Metatrend #5: The Internet is constantly challenging us to rethink learning and education.

Horizon Metatrend #6: Real challenges of access, efficiency, and scale are redefining what we mean by quality and success.

Jim Vanides, Senior Program Manager for Hewlett-Packard, Skyped in with a wonderful wake-up call that included reminders about how the mixture of great technology and great pedagogy is a recipe for success, and that the Horizon Report itself is a fantastic model for gathering and sharing information.

EDUCAUSE Director Malcolm Brown drew from Jim Brown’s Harvard Business Review article “Change by Design” to talk to about “wicked problems”—those problems whose causes are complex and ambiguous—to remind us that when we have a problem, we also have an opportunity. The two, he suggested, always co-exist. We deal with wicked problems by engaging in design thinking, he suggested, and we benefit from the primary elements of design thinking: they are strategic, human-centered, fully innovative, and team based—benefitting from drawing together people ,with a variety of expertise (as the Horizon Report process does every year through the use of an exceptionally well-facilitated wiki (managed by Chief Executive Officer Larry Johnson and his NMC colleagues) as the vehicle for discussions on technology, learning, and creativity. The process, Brown explained, includes three phases: inspiration, ideation, and implementation.

“Design thinking, in our context, starts with the Horizon Report,” he explained.

And then there was David Sibbet, President and Founder of The Grove Consultants International, who was present at the birth of the New Media Consortium in Hakone, Japan in August 1992. A gifted graphic facilitator, Sibbet spoke and documented, through his words and images on large sheets of paper at the front of the room, about the legacy of Horizon reports. As any good facilitator would, he coaxed out thoughts from attendees about what the reports and involvement in the shaping of those reports have done for all of us:

  • Serving as annual springboards for conversations
  • Providing a collective workspace for Advisory Board members
  • Offering a robust methodology for the activities we document
  • Helping us work locally, think locally, and connect to a larger (global) community
  • Pulling us into a learning ecosystem (what a lovely term; wish I’d thought of that one!)
  • Serving as a strategic learning tool—exposing individual best practices—so we can translate trends to end users

As the evening drew to an end, Gonick delivered one final summary of what the annual report accomplishes: “It’s a challenge document.” So as we began leaving the room, we had our challenge before us: Now we begin discussing the work we have yet to do.

In the early hours of the morning, I found myself unexpectedly sitting up in bed. Enjoying one of the most brilliantly beautiful lightning and thunder storms I’ve ever witnessed. There were ripping bursts of light. Room-shaking blasts of thunder. And it struck me that I couldn’t imagine a more visceral physical manifestation of what conferences and collaborations like this generate in the most positively disruptive of ways. I finally did get back to sleep. But rose again early this morning. Because I know there will be plenty of time for sleep later. Much later.

Next: Reflection, Reinvention, and Transformation at the Horizon Retreat


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