NMC Horizon Project Technology Outlook: Where Our Learners Are Going

June 24, 2013

With the release of their first Technology Outlook: Community, Technical, and Junior Colleges (2013-2018), our colleagues at the New Media Consortium (NMC) have provided the fourth of a four-part comprehensive overview of how the learners headed for our workplace learning and performance (staff training) programs are using technology in their own learning endeavors. (The other three parts of that overview are the 2013 K-12 report, with a brief overview video; the Technology Outlook for STEM + Education 2012-2017; and the Horizon Project 2013 Higher Education report with its own video overview.)

NMC--Tech_Outlook_Community_CollegesAlthough the flagship Higher Education report remains one of NMC’s key publications each year (as I documented in four interrelated blog posts earlier this year after serving on the report advisory board), the K-12, STEM + Education, and Community/Technical/Junior Colleges editions help us see how technology continues to be an important element of the learning experience for everyone, from our younger (K-12) learners through those involved in colleges and universities. And if that weren’t enough for those of us working with graduates of our formal academic system, NMC also has facilitated annual future of education conferences over the past couple of years to produce lists of metatrends and essential challenges in teaching-training learning to guide us in our own efforts to keep up with what our learners and colleagues involved in facilitating learning are experiencing.

As is the practice with other NMC reports, the Community, Technical, and Junior Colleges report focuses on highlight lists of technologies that are likely to have significant impacts within short (one-year), medium (two- to three-year), and longer (four- to five-year) horizons. Top trends impacting technology decisions within the venues are explored within the report; significant challenges facing learners and learning facilitators within those venues are also summarized and highlighted.

But most interesting in terms of bridging the venues covered by those four (K-12, STEM + Education, community/technical/junior colleges, and higher education) complementary reports is a section in the new report comparing final topics across various NMC projects.

Community_College_Research_Center_LogoWhat we see from that summary on the first few pages of the new report is that innovations including flipped classrooms, the use of mobile apps in learning, augmented reality, games and gamification, and wearable technology are finding their way into learning at all levels—just as they are in our own workplace learning and performance endeavors. We also see that attention-grabbing innovations including massive open online courses (MOOCs) are changing the way we view our approach to online education, but they are entering our learning landscape at differing rates. (Higher education seems far better positioned to effectively incorporate MOOCs into our learning landscape than do community colleges, where a recent first-rate study—“Adaptability to Online Learning: Differences Across Types of Students and Academic Subject Areas,” published through the Community College Research Center, Teachers College, at Columbia University—documented the difficulties that community-college students face in learning how to learn in online environments.)

And this is where the new report makes a firm connection to what we are doing and facing in workplace learning and performance: “The workforce demands skills from college graduates that are more often acquired from informal learning experiences than in universities,” the report writers note (p. 2). This provides new challenges for teacher-trainer-learners in community, technical, and junior college settings, they continue: “As technology becomes more capable of processing information and providing analysis, community college efforts will focus on teaching students to make use of critical thinking, creativity, and other soft skills.”

The learning circle becomes complete when we acknowledge that our own training-teaching-learning roles are rapidly changing in ways many of us still have not completely understood or accepted; just as our colleagues in academia are having to come to terms with facilitating learning as much as attempting to control it, we are going to have to argue—with our employers, our colleagues, and our clients—that one-size-fits-all learning was never a great model under any circumstances; that learning offerings that remain focused on learners passing exams and achieving certification/recertification really don’t serve anyone very well; and that creating communities of learning where technology facilities rather than drives learning ultimately produces learning that meets learner and business goals in magnificent ways.

Reading, thinking about, and acting upon the contents of any single NMC report certainly places each of us—and our learners—in a great position: we walk away from these reports with our own crash courses in what is happening in our ever-expanding and wonderfully challenging learning landscapes. Reading, comparing, and acting upon the content of the various reports helps us viscerally understand what we need to know so we can help our learners more effectively shine in a world where learning never stops—to the benefit of all involved.


Teaching-Training-Learning with Evolving Tools and Practices

June 20, 2013

The continuing rapid evolution of our teaching-training-learning tools and roles is sparking some interesting conversations among colleagues in a variety of sectors, and those conversations, increasingly, are helping to create connections and collaborations in what once felt like a terribly siloed learning industry.

T+D_LogoASTD (American Society for Training and Development) Human Capital Community of Practice manager Ann Pace, in a brief column in the May 2013 issue of T+D (Training+Development) magazine, succinctly takes us to the heart of the matter: we’re spending considerably more on social learning than we were a year ago (a 39 percent increase over that 12-month period), and we’re increasingly overtly acknowledging that each of us can serve as a “facilitator and enabler of learning” as we “create the structure that allows [the] shift [from learning occurring at specified times in predetermined locations to being something that is continuous, formal as well as informal, and experiential as well as including teacher-to-learner knowledge transfers] to occur.”

Some refer to this perceived shift as a learning revolution; others of us, as we review the writing of those who preceded us and talk to teacher-trainer-learners in a variety of settings (e.g., K-12, undergraduate, and graduate-level programs; corporate training programs; and learning programs in libraries and healthcare settings), have the sense that this isn’t so much a revolution as a recognition that the best of what we do has always involved the transfer of knowledge from instructor to learner; the acquisition of knowledge by learning facilitators through their interactions with learners; a combination of formal learning opportunities with opportunities that foster informal learning in synchronous and asynchronous settings; and much more.

What Pace helps us see is that incorporating the vast array of social learning and social media tools available to us into what we have always done well significantly expands the learning resources available to us in the overlapping roles we play as teachers, trainers, and learners. And it requires only one additional very short step for us to recognize that the continually-expanding set of tech tools at our disposal (desktop computers, laptops, smartphones, tablets, and, soon, wearable technology including Google Glass devices) and delivery methods (blended learning opportunities, the use of Skype, Google+ Hangouts, live online sessions enabled through products ranging from Blackboard Collaborate to live tweet chats and similar exchanges through chats conducted within Facebook private groups open only to learners within a specific class or community of learning) helps us cope with a world where the need for learning never stops.

There are even obvious, positive signs that we all are continuing to benefit from our expanded ability to reach colleagues through online resources in addition to our continuing attendance at conferences, workshops, and other events designed to facilitate the exchange of information, ideas, and innovations. The tendency many of us have had of allowing ourselves to be locked into learning silos—it is as silly as librarians in academic settings not seeing and learning from what their public library colleagues are doing in training-teaching-learning (and vice versa), or ASTD colleagues in local chapters not being aware of what colleagues in other chapters or at the national level are doing—seems to be diminishing as conversations between colleagues are fostered by organizations such as ASTD, the American Library Association, and the New Media Consortium (NMC),  which gathers colleagues from academic settings, museums, libraries, and corporate learning programs together onsite and online to share resources, spot the metatrends and challenges in teaching-training-learning, and encourage collaborations that benefit a worldwide community of learning.

We see, within that NMC setting, conversations about the shifting roles of educators in academic settings that parallel the comments that Ann Pace made through her T+D column. We realize that the shifts we see in our individual learning sandboxes consistently extend into many other learning sandboxes in many other industries where learning is the key element differentiating those who are successful from those who aren’t. And we see realize that by meeting, collaborating, and then sharing the fruit of those collaborations throughout our extended social communities of learning, we are part of the process of implementing ASTD’s goal—workplace learning and development (staff training) professionals’ goal—of making a world that works better.


NMC Horizon Project Summit 2013 (Future of Education, Day 1): Challenges and Plans for Action

January 22, 2013

You would, based upon onsite discussions throughout the first day of the 2013 New Media Consortium (NMC) Horizon Project Summit on “The Future of Education” here in Austin, Texas, have been in good company walking away feeling optimistic this evening.

nmc.logo.cmykSummit graphic facilitator David Sibbet (President and Founder of The Grove Consultants International) and NMC Founder/CEO Larry Johnson didn’t waste a minute before establishing that the 100 of us from kindergarten through 12th-grade schools, colleges and universities, libraries and museums, and a handful of other organizations from all over the world, have a clear mandate over the next few days:

  • Identify some worthy challenges that deserve to be solved, and pilot a process that we can use to move an action agenda forward

Our playing field remains the intersection between technology, learning, creativity, and the people at the center of those fields. The common element that continues to draw us together is a passion for exploring the technology that continues to evolve all around us and the trends and challenges we and those we serve are facing. And the approach was a mixture of attentiveness, reflection, humor, and focus on what the metatrends—“a global and overarching force that will affect many multidimensional changes; for example, environmental impacts on business, individuals and countries,” according to an online sustainability dictionary—within education are.

Much of our time this afternoon was spent reviewing the 10 metatrends that were documented through the conversations at the 2012 Horizon Project Advisory Board retreat. There was also extensive conversation around a variety of metatrends that didn’t make that list but may be worth exploring as we identify the worthy challenges and develop the process for developing the proposed action agenda.

It’s worth summarizing some of the metatrends previously identified to set a context for what comes next: the work of the world is increasingly global and collaborative; people expect to work, learn, socialize, and play whenever and wherever they want to—and they can draw from a global mobile network (the Internet) to foster learning; concepts of open content, data, and resources, combined with changing view of ownership and privacy, have an impact of much of what we do; and the Internet is challenging us to rethink learning and education while refining our notion of literacy.

Metatrends that may be included on a revised list by the time the conference ends two days from now were varied and intriguing:

  • The need for good data to be used in learning (learning analytics)
  • The end of credentials as we know them; one summit participant even mused about what would happen if we put expiration dates on academic degrees
  • The growing importance of the maker subculture and how it might reflect a new arts and crafts movement that does not at all eschew the use of technology in creation
  • The continuing expectation that people have that they will be able to learn, work, and play whenever and wherever they want to engage in those activities
  • New business models for learning
  • Redefining literacy
  • The impact of a commitment to openness in disseminating information
  • The end of physical boundaries of work in a world where our work and non-work lives are increasingly intertwined
  • Natural User Interface (NUI)
  • Increasing awareness of the importance of informal learning
  • Commitments to global/collaborative interactions

There was also frank discussion about how “complexity” is a theme that seems to flow through almost every other theme we were exploring—a theme that itself almost seems to serve as a meta-metatrend that helps to make sense of the other disparate themes under discussion.

Our list-in-progress, Johnson reminded us toward the end of the afternoon, is not definitive—nor is it meant to be. It’s a starting point for discussion and action, and the real work will be continued within the overlapping communities we serve, and with the active participation of members of those communities.

“We have 100 people in the room, and I hope we have 100 perspectives,” he said.

And then the immediate future under the nurturing of the New Media Consortium was outlined for all of us:

  • A new NMC K-12 Ambassadors Program is about to unfold through a very quick search to identify 25 top innovative educators from around the world; their mandate will be to provide insight into the world of kindergarten through 12th-grade education and how the NMC can support them. This might eventually lead to similar ambassador programs for museums and libraries worldwide.
  • The existing NMC Horizon EdTech Weekly App for Apple devices is about to be supplemented by a similar app for Android devices.
  • And in a movement I personally have long supported, the NMC community that has developed through the these new annual meetings is going to be supported year-round through establishment of an NMC Commons, “an Enterprise Hive social business community platform to improve member services, support collaboration among colleagues, and enhance the production of the NMC Horizon Report series.”

“This room is going to be the first sub-community on that group,” Johnson assured us.

The formal discussions ended as late afternoon melted into early evening, but the exchanges of ideas continued well into the night as we gathered for a reception that allowed us to engage in small-group discussions.

There still is much to do before we reach the goals that Johnson had outlined earlier in the day. But at least one thing is clear: the future of education may be an incredibly complex topic to explore over a three-day period, but the community that NMC staff is nurturing is one that is more than willing to be active participants in helping shape that future in the most positive of ways.


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