Tech Talk Roundtable 70 : The Horizon Report, Part Three

Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 2.13.10 PMMission

The NMC Horizon Project charts the landscape of emerging technologies for teaching, learning, research, and creative inquiry. Launched in 2002, it epitomizes the mission of the NMC to help educators and thought leaders across the world build upon the innovation happening at their institutions by providing them with expert research and analysis. At 12 years and growing, the NMC Horizon Project is the longest-standing initiative that analyzes educational technology trends.

Time to Adoption: Four to Five Years

The Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a network of connected objects that link the physical world with the world of information through the web. The advent of TCP/IP v6, launched in 2006, expanded the capabilities of the Internet, and enabled objects, sensors, and devices to be addressable and thus findable across the Internet. This augmented address space is particularly useful for tracking objects that monitor sensitive equipment or materials, point-of-sale purchases, passport tracking, inventory management, identification, and similar applications. Embedded chips, sensors, or tiny processors attached to an object enable helpful information about the object, such as cost, age, temperature, color, pressure, or humidity to be transmitted over the Internet. This simple connection supports remote management, status monitoring, tracking, and alerts if the objects they are attached to are in danger of being damaged or spoiled. Many web tools allow objects to be annotated with descriptions, photographs, and connections to other objects, and other contextual information; the Internet of Things makes access to these data as easy as it is to use the web. To date, however, there are not many well-documented applications of IoT in international schools in Asia, though examples in tertiary education reflect the great potential for schools.

Virtual and Remote Laboratories

Virtual and remote laboratories reflect a movement among education institutions to make the equipment and elements of a physical science laboratory more easily available to learners from any location, via the web. Virtual laboratories are web applications that emulate the operation of real laboratories and enable students to practice in a “safe” environment before using real, physical components. Students can typically access virtual labs 24/7, from wherever they are, and run the same experiments over and over again. Some emerging virtual lab platforms also incorporate reporting templates that populate with the results of the experiments so that students and teachers can easily review the outcomes. Remote laboratories, on the other hand, provide a virtual interface to a real, physical laboratory. Institutions that do not have access to high-calibre lab equipment run experiments and perform lab work online, accessing the tools from a central location. Users are able to manipulate the equipment and watch the activities unfold via a webcam on a computer or mobile device. This provides students with a realistic view of system behavior and allows them access to professional laboratory tools from anywhere, whenever they need. Additionally, remote labs alleviate some financial burden for schools as they can forgo purchasing specific equipment and use the remote tools that are at their disposal.

Virtual Reality

Virtual reality (VR) refers to computer-generated environments that simulate the physical presence of people and/or objects and realistic sensory experiences. At a basic level, this technology takes the form of 3D images that users interact with and manipulate via mouse and keyboard. More sophisticated applications of virtual reality allow users to more authentically feel the objects in these displays through gesture-based and haptic devices, which provide tactile information through force feedback. While enabling people to explore new environments has compelling implications for learning, to date, virtual reality has been most prominently used for military training. Thanks to advents in graphics hardware, CAD software, and 3D displays, virtual reality Is becoming more mainstream, especially in the realm of video games. Oculus VR, a company focused on designing virtual reality products, is developing the heavily-anticipated Oculus Rift, a head-mounted display for gameplay to make the game environments and actions more lifelike. As both games and natural user interfaces are finding applications in classrooms, the addition of virtual reality can potentially make learning simulations more authentic for students.

Wearable Technology 

Wearable technology refers to devices that are worn by users, taking the form of an accessory such as jewellery, sunglasses, a backpack, or even actual items of clothing such as shoes or a jacket. The benefit of wearable technology is that it conveniently integrates tools that track sleep, movement, location, social media, and even new classes of devices that are seamlessly integrated with a user’s everyday life and movements. Google’s “Project Glass” was one of the earliest examples, and enables a user to see information about their surroundings displayed in front of them. Smart watches have also become commonplace, allowing users to check emails and perform other productive tasks through a tiny interface. Additionally, a rapidly growing category of wearable technology takes advantage of the burgeoning interest in the “quantified self.” The Jawbone UP and Fitbit bracelets are two examples that track how you eat, sleep, and move. Empowered by these insights, many individuals now rely on these technologies to improve their lifestyle and health. Today’s wearables not only track where a person goes, what they do, and how much time they spend doing it, but now what their aspirations are and when those can be accomplished.

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About Michael.Boll

MS Technology Coach

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