2007 Horizon Report

Our second half of an NMC double-header presentation at the ELI 2007 Annual Conference in Atlanta was the official release of the 2007 NMC Horizon Report. This is the 4th year of NMC’s report on emerging technologies for teaching, learning, and creative expression, and my biased opinion (2 years on the advisory board and now part of the team that produces it) is that it again sets the mark high for a practical look at new technologies.

And high it was. We were told to expect an audience of perhaps 60, so we prepped 100 handouts, but the room overflowed, people were taking the floor seats and extra chairs brought into the back. We were told later the fire marshall had capped the attendance at 175!

So, in NMC fashion we had to do somethings fun, different, and interactive for this presentation (one of many reasons I joined NMC). In years past, the report was ready in print for the ELI conference, but this year we squeezed a bit more editing time in by releasing the PDF version at the conference, and sending out the print ones in early February. The report is provided as a PDF with Creative Commons license so other organizations and individuals can print, reuse, share, etc. So previously people saw the report and knew then what the 6 horizon topics were, but this year we had a little bit of secrecy and fun to reveal the 6 topics.


The theme was then a mashup of some Get Smart and Blues Brothers… and no real loss if either metaphor slipped you by. I was inspired by the classic opening sequence to Get Smart of Don Adams walking through those series of clanking and imposing security doors.

It started with a little pre-amble slide show I assembled to play as people came in and settled down. I had done something similar last year when I was handed the topic of mobile phones; rather than create a presentation to click through, just project a rotating image of photos about the topic. This year, I snagged about 200 images to show, some form flickr, many of them screen shots from the sites or technologies mentioned in the report (those and more have been deliciously tagged as well). We had the theme song along with some Blues Brothers music in the back.

There are many ways one could do this, and I pick iPhoto’s slideshow– toss a bunch of images in, create a slideshow, give a default transition, assign music in iTunes, and ready to roll. The most intensive part is moving the images around to create a varied slide order. I know I spent much more time on it than warranted by the 10 minute display, but it filled at least half the flight time to Atlanta.

As noted in our introduction by EDUCAUSE’s Diana Oblinger, the work of the Horizon project has evolved too in process, from the first years where much was done in Face to face meetings, email, and teleconference calls, to this year– there were no meetings, no synchronous activities, and all of the work took place in our wiki site.

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Anyhow, NMC CEO Larry Johnson introduced the session with an overview of the project and process, which are public on the Horizon wiki. Then… an interruption. His phone rings, and he breaks out the shoe phone.

“Yes, its me. We’re live now. He’s ready? It’s here? Send him in!”

Cue the Blues Brother’s Peter Gun Theme, and in strolls Elwood Alexander, a.k.a. Bryan, dark glasses with a briefcase chained to his wrist:

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What a riot. He flips the case open, and hands Larry the secret list of the 6 topics highlighted in the 2007 report. For those not there, I have a small movie slideshow from the action (please note the questionable rights to the music, sigh, here come the lawyers):

[flv:http://cogdogblog.com/wp-content/movies/elwood.flv 320 240]

Okay, this was just the fun part. The six topics:

  • Time to Adoption 4-5 Years:
    • The New Scholarship and Emerging Forms of Publication
    • Massively Multiplayer Educational Gaming
  • Time to Adoption 2-3 Years:
    • Mobile Phones
    • Virtual Worlds
  • Time to Adoption One Year or Less:
    • User-Generated Content
    • Social Networking

A few notes here, and something even our own advisory board had a few rounds about. It’s not that these are not viable technologies now, the placement on the horizon is when they would become mainstream/widely used at a large number of educational institutions. As well, repeat readers will note the return of topics form previous years (phones, games have been here a few times), but they have a different context, or focus, and it even means something if a technology makes a repeat performance.

This list of 6 came out of an initial set of more than 200 which are vetted, winnowed, combined, and voted by our advisory board, which this year was almost 30, and included this year a bit more international perspective.

The goal for this session was to open up these topics more by asking our audience to pose questions around the 6. To do this in a large group, our process was to provide a half sheet of paper, and they were asked to select one of the 6 topics, and respond to:

  • What are the missing pieces for this technology or practice to be implemented in higher education?
  • What are the big, unanswered questions here that call for more research?
  • What are the learning implications of this technology or practice?

Working in small groups where they sat, we asked them to do a 10 minute discussion about these, and write their questions on the slip (I really wanted to play a Get Smart Cone of Silence clip here). It took no effort to see the entire room start buzzing with a lot of engaged discussion:
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At the end of this time, we walked around the room with large plastic bowls to collect the slips of responses, asking the writers to provide their name/email on them. We had time only to delve into one topic, so we did the old but effective “make noise” for the topic you want most- it was a close match between Virtual Worlds and Mobile Phones, with virtual worlds coming out the victor.

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Then one paper was selected at random (the person chosen will get 25 print copies of the 2007 Horizon Report, print versions are coveted!). Her responses were read, and then we solicited more comments form the audience. These range from questions about identifying the pedagogy behind using virtual worlds, concerns of identity, accessibility, supporting faculty, etc.

As people spoke, Cyprien Lomas graciously took notes in our Horizon wiki are set up for this. Our plan is to transcribe all the other collected responses, and invite others as well (hey they could be you, blog reader) to contribute.

All in all, it was an exciting session to be a part of. The Horizon Report is likely getting actively downloaded as I write, it has been the most requested item from our web server for a long time. I’m toying with some new ways of publishing it as well in our upcoming drupalized version of the NMC site- likely as a drupal book with commenting or appending enabled.

In my role of researching topics and examples, I made heavy use of del.icio.us and asking others to use — a common tag, and then adding secondary tags for our topics, e.g. links for user generated content. It would be great (ahem) for more people to play tag with us. At the outset, I had also experimented with setting up a reblog, which helped me to learn some new technology, but that fell to the wayside, as the process of reviewing, and selecting stories form other web sites, while relatively easy, called for using yet another interface, another web tool. I am thinking there are ways we can do this in the future using drupal’s blog link tools from their aggregator, as well the use of Google Reader to Share or tag stories offer some options as well.

We’re all very happy to now have the 2007 Horizon Report “out there”, and look forward to hearing more feedback, ways to enhance the process, as 2008 is not that far away.

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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. I was wondering what was up when I saw the Flickr pic with the chained briefcase on yer feed…

    Classic image of Elwood Alexander.

  2. I wish I could say I planned the tease, but the hotel network connection crapped out half way through, and was not able to get the rest until I flew to Dallas and landed in a less profile of a hotel (with hence, better internet)

    More than half the people I talked to at ELI asked in a Clara Pellar tone– “Where’s the Lamb?” In your honor, yesterday for lunch I ate fish tacos.

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