NMC Horizon Library Report 2014 (Pt. 6 of 6): Educational Technology on the Four- to Five-Year Horizon

September 5, 2014

It’s all about connections, we realize as we read the final section of the newly-released (first ever) New Media Consortium (NMC) Horizon Project educational-technology report on libraries. Skimming that section about technologies “very likely to drive technology planning and decision-making” in academic and research libraries four or five years into the future leads us through concise discussions of the state of the Internet of Things and Semantic Web/Linked Data developments—two technologies that are firmly grounded in connections.

NMC_HorizonReport_2014_Library_cover_borderThe Semantic Web/Linked Data section of the NMC Horizon Report > 2014 Library Edition has plenty to say to anyone involved in libraries and other training-teaching-learning organizations: “Semantic applications and linked data have the potential to be immensely powerful educational resources” that allow us to “more effectively sift, query, and gather relevant information,” Horizon Report lead writer Samantha Adams Becker and her New Media Consortium colleagues remind us.

As is the case with big data, the semantic web “might be able to help people solve very difficult problems by presenting connections between seemingly unrelated concepts, individuals, events, or things—connections that it would take many people many years to perceive, but that could become obvious through the kinds of associations made possible when the semantics of the data are exposed” (p. 44).

For libraries and those who staff them, the implication is obvious: as organizations and people dedicated to providing access to information—and, more importantly, helping others find meaningful uses for that information—they become even more dynamic in their roles as community partners and resources when tools like a semantic web speed up the search process. For other trainer-teacher-learners, the implications are a bit more subtle, but no less important: semantic-web applications almost certainly would facilitate the training-teaching-learning process in ways we can’t even begin to imagine and change the way we support the process of change/transformation that is at the heart of successful learning.

nmc.logo.cmykThe 2014 Library Edition does not paint an unrealistic picture of where we are in terms of developing and employing a semantic web in our work: “While the evolution of the semantic web is still in its infancy for libraries, the worldwide linked open data movement is just beginning to adopt international standards for digital repositories that contain bibliographic information” (pp. 44-45). It is equally blunt about the state of development of the Internet of Things: “While there are many examples of what the Internet of Things might look like as it unfolds, it is still today more concept than reality, although that is changing rapidly” (p. 42).

But the fact that the report does help us focus on what is possible and what is being imagined—and provides examples of current semantic-web and Internet of Things initiatives—does help us understand some of what is currently happening and, more importantly, what may be possible within the four- to five-year adoption horizon described in this section of the report. Looking back over more than five years of reading and being involved in Horizon Project work, I realize how quickly those four- to five-year horizons become today’s horizons—and how important it is for all of us involved in training-teaching-learning to keep up with what is developing in the world of educational technology if we don’t want to be left behind the learners we are attempting to serve.

NB: This is the final set of reflections in a six-part series of articles exploring the NMC Horizon Report > 2014 Library Edition.


NMC Library Horizon Report 2014 (Pt. 1 of 6): Documenting Where We Are and Where We Might Be Going

August 21, 2014

When a wonderful friend and colleague retired from library work after 40 years in the industry, he wistfully reflected upon one consequence of his departure: that he would not be part of all that would be happening with libraries over the next 20 years.

NMC_HorizonReport_2014_Library_cover_borderIf he were to read the newly-released (first ever) New Media Consortium (NMC) Horizon Project educational-technology report on libraries, he would have even more cause to wish he had additional time to invest in these essential partners in community-development and lifelong learning.

The report—available online free of charge and focused on trends, challenges, and developing technologies in academic and research libraries, but essential reading for the much larger audience of people interested and involved in academic, public, and other types of libraries worldwide—is likely to quickly become a seminal work; more than 100,000 people downloaded the report within 24-hour period immediately following its formal unveiling. By documenting where we are and where we might be going, the NMC Horizon Report > 2014 Library Edition will contribute substantially to conversations and decisions that help sustain libraries as responsive key players in the extended and expansive onsite and online communities they serve.

As an essential reference tool in and of itself, it provides a wonderful grounding in the basic language and learning landscape of the continually-evolving world we inhabit within and beyond the physical and virtual spaces of libraries as lifelong-learning centers. To read the report is to become aware of critically-important terminology including “device-agnostic” and “ubiquitous learning” (p. 9), “distant reading” and “macroanalysis” (p. 16), “creative destruction” (p. 29), and “competency-based learning” (p. 31). It also draws attention to first-rate learning resources including JISC (p. 4), the University of Leipzig research group Agile Knowledge Engineering and Semantic Web (AKSW) and its cutting-edge projects (p. 6), the 23 Mobile Things online course (p. 9), the Coalition for Networked Information (p. 14),  the Center for Digital Education (p. 26), the Ohio State University Libraries “Digital Initiatives Program Guiding Principles,” and others. It provides links to numerous articles while also mentioning more specialized reports and books. And as if all of that were not enough, it has a feature not included in previous Horizon Project reports: an extensive section of endnotes and links to online articles and resources that could keep us busy for many months to come. All in all, it’s a magnificent and well-written work of scholarship (crafted by lead writer Samantha Adams Becker and her New Media Consortium colleagues) that documents what we are—and should be—considering as trainer-teacher-learners working on behalf of dynamic communities worldwide.

nmc.logo.cmykAs is the case with all Horizon Project reports, the library edition provides concise descriptions of important developments in technology—“the technologies which the members of the expert panel agreed are very likely to drive technology planning and decision-making over the next five years” (p. 32)—placed within a one-year horizon/time frame, a two- to three-year horizon, and a four- to five-year horizon indicating when those technologies are “forecasted to enter…mainstream use…”

Anyone wanting an expansive overview of the ed-tech landscape will find it on page 33 of the report, as well as on the project wiki. (Going online takes us to yet another magnificent resource, one in which we discover that each technology is linked to a brief description—in essence, a concise tour of contemporary educational technology—and the list is far from static: “new technologies are added within these categories in almost every research cycle” for the various Horizon Project reports.)

The central sections of the final pages of the report lead us through discussions of how electronic publishing and mobile apps are driving technology planning and decision-making within the current (one-year) horizon; how bibliometrics and citation technologies and the open-content movement will have the same impact during a two- to three-year horizon; and the Internet of Things, along with the semantic web and linked data are likely to have significant impacts within the four- to five-year horizon.

With all of this before us, we engage with the 2014 Library Edition as a stimulating report on libraries, learning, and technology as well as a document that will serve effectively as a primer for those earning a degree in library studies to become part of a global community of practice. And the report also serves as a stimulating refresher course for experienced library staff members and library users. By documenting important elements of the library landscape of our times, it helps us identify and celebrate our successes while shaping the conversations that will build upon our past and present to lead us into a dynamic future.

NB: This is the first set of reflections in a six-part series of articles exploring the NMC Horizon Report > 2014 Library Edition. Next: Key Trends


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