Libraries—among the key organizations in our lifelong-learning landscape—are “poised to be major players in the digital revolution as academic electronic publishing becomes more sophisticated,” the writers of the newly-released (first ever) New Media Consortium (NMC) Horizon Project educational-technology report on libraries remind us.
Electronic publishing and mobile apps, in fact, are technologies “very likely to drive technology planning and decision-making” in academic and research libraries during the next 12 months, the NMC Horizon Report > 2014 Library Edition confirms.
While those of us immersed in training-teaching-learning within and outside of libraries won’t be surprised to read that electronic publishing and mobile apps are important technologies having a tremendous impact on and providing magnificent possibilities for libraries and other learning organizations, we have a lot to gain by paying attention to this particular report.
The section on electronic publishing, for example, includes a reference to libraries taking “resources that are generated locally” and “turning them into teaching materials as new publications”—an idea that has parallels in what we’re seeing as learners contribute to a new concept of textbooks by creating content used by other learners within connectivist MOOCs (massive open online courses), for example. This theme connects nicely to the idea that mobile apps are critically important within these and other learning organizations because, as the report notes, we are spending considerable amounts of time (an average of 60 hours each week) accessing content through our digital devices (p. 34). If libraries and other learning centers are going to be where the learners are, they are going to be engaged in electronic publishing and using mobile apps to get them there.
Libraries-as-publishers, furthermore, parallels what we have been seeing in online learning for a variety of organizations in at least two ways: we are continuing to redefine the concept of publishing to carry us far beyond a print-based focus (e.g., seeing the posting of blogs, YouTube videos, slide decks, and a variety of other learning objects as “publication”), and we are having to acknowledge our roles as publishers when we make our digital learning objects available for a specific audience (as when we use a company intranet or make our learning objects available only to registered learners) or take a more open approach as through publication in the form of content on MOOCs.
This, of course, raises another training-teaching-learning concern documented in the 2014 Library Edition: the long-standing concern that resources created with today’s digital formats are tomorrow’s inaccessible (i.e., lost) resources: “there is a need for libraries to assess their publishing programs and envision methods for future-proofing them….Only 15% of surveyed libraries developed a strategy for sustaining their publishing services long-term…” (p. 35). The same could be said for anyone creating learning objects designed to be used over a long period of time, and it’s far past the time when we should be preparing for the problems our lack of attention is creating for us.
As we shift our focus to that second one-year-horizon technology (mobile apps), we continue to benefit from considering the training-teaching-learning implications that course through the report: “Mobile apps…are particularly useful for learning as they enable people to experience new concepts wherever they are, often across multiple devices” (p. 36).
We are reminded that apps are making us change the way we think about software: “…mobile apps are small, simple, and elegant,” particularly when compared to “desktop applications that stack feature upon feature on a one-size-fits-all approach” (p 36). They are inexpensive. And the best of them “seamlessly create a full-featured experience”—which, of course, helps learners focus on the essentials of their learning process rather than finding their attention divided between learning how to use the technology and learning what they initially set out to learn. Exploring the resources cited within the report leads us to links to the Bavarian State Library in Germany and its apps allowing users to “explore ancient texts with augmented reality, location-based features, and geo-referencing in historical maps” (p. 37) and a UNESCO report (Reading in the Mobile Era: A Study of Mobile Reading in Developing Countries) that offers insights into how the use of mobile devices for reading is removing barriers to literacy for significant numbers of learners.
What we are left with, as we scan the one-year-horizon section of the 2014 Library Report, is an invitation to step back from our normal immersion in electronic publishing and mobile apps. Acknowledge how significantly each technology is developing. And think about what we can do to use these technologies to the advantage of the organizations and people we serve in our roles as trainer-teacher-learners—and more.
NB: This is the fourth set of reflections in a six-part series of articles exploring the NMC Horizon Report > 2014 Library Edition. Next: On the Mid-Range Horizon—Bibliometrics/Citation Technologies and Open Content