I’m always interested in learning from the prognosis of the New Media Consortium‘s Annual New Horizon Report. The 2010 preview (7th annual report)  is out – with still a few weeks to go in 2009!

As usual the report categorizes new educational technologies in three time frames.  And the winners are :

Time-to-Adoption Horizon: One Year or Less

  • Mobile Computing
  • Open Content

Time-to-Adoption Horizon: Two to Three Years

  • Electronic Books
  • Simple Augmented Reality

Time-to-Adoption Horizon: Four to Five Years

  • Gesture-Based Computing
  • Visual Data Analysis

Rather than squint into my own crystal ball, to attempt to validate or refute this latest publication, I thought it might be fun to look backwards to the first New Horizons Report issued in 2004.

At that time technologies On the Horizon in one year or less included:

1. Learning Objects– Some have argued that learning objects actually came and went! But I think they have become an important part of the repertoire of most thoughtful teachers. True, learning object repositories still struggle or have disappeared (I note sadly the passing of my own efforts with the CAREO repository that was  linked in the 2004 report) but that is mostly because of the power of search engines and social tagging systems, that allow us to find objects inside or outside of a formal repository. The term Learning Object also seems less used now then seven years ago- now we just talk about and utilize  ‘useful web sites”, ‘neat games’, ‘cool simulations’ and awesome visualizations’.

2. SVG Graphics: Although hardly staff room chatter for most educators, SVG graphics have become common place (natively supported by Flash and all browsers except Internet Explorer). Like most educators, I’ve come to expect web graphics and even those displayed on smart phones to be smooth and fast enough to be used without thinking much about it. Thanks to the techies and standards groups  for this contribution.

One the Two to Three year horizon were:

3. Rapid Prototyping: The New Horizon folks envisioned systems and production tools that could produce in near real time, prototypes  of 3d objects and computer applications. Think here of being able to design a new garbage can and press a button to have a protype  created to try out. Well, judging from the speed of the programmers in computer services in my university and the fact that I have yet to see a 3D printer in any school (though I believe they do exist), I have to conclude that the New Media group, struck out on this prediction.

4. Multi-Modal Interfaces: Here the 2004 report suggests that hepatic, gestures,voice and other inputs will be common for education and other computer applications. It took a few longer than projected, but we do now have Nintendo Wii and voice input has been just around the corner for almost as many years as I have been alive, but I still plunk away using my qwerty keyboard, so I’d have to rate this one as a not quite near miss.

On the 4-5 year Horizon the 2004 Report choose:

5. Context Aware Computing:  Again, the report was half right. Many applications are aware of at least themselves, such as this WordPress blog, will ask me if I am sure that I want to browse away from this unsaved post, but my machine really doesn’t know when I am tired, bored or just not learning very effectively. While it is true that work continues and some progress on adaptive interfaces and content for learning, we are still mostly in a one size fits all model of teaching and learning. I realize that the cost of sensors has plummeted and cameras and listening devices are listening for whale sounds and counting how many cans of pop remain in the vending machine, but progress towards context aware learning has been VERY slow.

6. Knowledge Webs: As predicted, it did take 4-5 years, but the explosion of social computing and online communities and their capacity to not only store and organzie information and relationships, but also to generate new knowledge is the most significant educational and lifelong learning development of the decade.

It seems that the New Horizon’s short term predictions were right on, their medium term ones, not very well at all and one out two for the long term. So in teacher style, the 2004 effort gets a retrospective grade of B-. A lesson from this review is to make sure you get decent odds if you are going to bet any money on the accuracy of this year’s Horizon Report.

However,  do give the 2010 report a good read, there is much to think about and learn from envisioning our educational future. One thing I am convinced of is that society will not allow public educators to remain as asleep at the switch has we have been for the last 100 years. Technology impacts all aspects of modern life and education and learning are far too important to be left behind and un-enhanced. We’ve had a good run with blackboards, but it is way past time to move on – and not just to teacher dominated smart boards!