Blog Pile

Su Horizon no es mi Horizon

Last week was long, I am sure there were 16 days crammed into it. This included flying to Atlanta for the EDUCAUSE/ELI conference, presenting twice on Monday, exiting early Tuesday to hop a flight to Dallas, and being part of a trio running a 3 day workshop. After a late Friday night arrival at home, I am fairly sure my wife stacked me in the back of the pickup truck with the rest of our gear for a weekend escape to our cabin. The computer was not touched until late Sunday.

That’s a roundabout way of saying I was not blogging. Well, I had something itching to blog, then I deleted, then I itched, then I shut the lid on the computer. Sometimes it benefits to let an idea sit and ferment, or die of neglect. We’ll see which is the advisable course.

This has to do with some reaction to the release last week of the 2007 NMC Horizon Report, that was blogged after our presentation at the ELI conference where 175 crammed a room we were told to expect 60. By the time I got to Dallas, I got a report from our office that more than 1300 copies had been downloaded from our site.

But numbers don’t mean much.

There were the 20+ colleagues I rant into at ELI who gushed about how they cannot keep copies of the past reports on their shelves.

But anecdotes don’t mean much.

A few of the folks involved with the project were taken aback some by some backlash on a few ed tech blogs (check Technorati for the most current) — for some people, they felt like there was nothing really revolutionary about the 6 Horizon technologies, that they were not really all that exciting or even were passé. For those individuals.

This is not all that surprising, as some similar things echoed during the work of the advisory board that generated 200+ items we put on the table, and helped vote them down the funnel to a set of 6– people felt like the horizons were not near enough, but they made the same mistake (in my mind) that others were doing… they were confusing their own horizons as educational technology innovators for those of the audience the report is intended for – mainstream technology users and decision makers at educational institutions. That is a different horizon.

If one is looking for futuristic cutting edge technology predictions, take a ski trip down the end of a Gartner Group curve, or any of a number of other future peering technical crystal balls (and really far ones by 2150, “Remaining fideisms have diluted into agnostic mysticism; true fideists dwindle”). The Horizon Report is not trying to predict the wild wooly future, it is trying to outline what is going to be viable on a broader use scale (meaning not just the innovators and early adopters) in the near future.

And the process is not meant to be “right”. Heck, in 2004 the near term horizon included SVG graphics, which was left in the dust by the spread of Flash. But it really was grounded in the information available at the time (hint- this is a place where the web audience can participate, but filling in the wiki for the “Where are they now” pages)

So yes, for those in the middle of the technology game, who are immersed this stuff daily, there might not be anything revolutionary about the list.

  • 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

So the Horizon Report is not an attempt of declaring which technologies are technically viable today, but when these ones might be used broadly at educational organizations. Let’s be real- technologies of wide adoption and use at our organization now include email, web browsers and web search, classroom projection systems, desktop office software, course management systems– hardly anything sexy at all. We’re in the process of analyzing data from a December 2006 survey of NMC member organizations, but I can share now that less than a third report they are hosting blog software or wiki software, and across their population, the estimate the usage of such tools is about the 10% level.

And for anyone who has gotten some idea that their is some dark hand pulling puppet strings on this effort, they have missed the point that NMC provides the process and the summary writing for the report- the ideas, the voting, the decisions are made by the 30 or so members of our advisory board which this year had a more international representation then ever before. And the entire process, the ideas generated, the 12 finalists, are all documented openly in our wiki. In fact, our board never met in a meeting or a teleconference call- all communication and work was done by email and the wiki.

What did not work this year was some experimentation with the reblog concept — the idea of using a system of a web-based aggregator and having people on the project occasionally jump in and mark sites to post to a new blog site… I got the Horizon reblog set up, but never cajoled someone into helping the reblogging. I accept that it really takes a bit of effort to spend time doing that, and after a while, i admit, I dropped the ball myself.

We had some more luck with using a special tag to mark sites relevant to this year’s work, racking up some 230 sites at … though I might have tagged about 80% of them. But using this along with derivative tags when we narrowed down the list like for user generated content or educational gaming saved a lot of time in tracking resources, more so than cutting and pasting to a document or even a wiki page.

I cannot think of a bigger information management saver at a minimal time cost than using a browser bookmark to mark and tag a web resource. Yet, I am convinced, even among people in the educational technology field, that the number of active taggers is rather low. I’d be curious if there is some research on this.

I’m pleased that we got these URLs in the final report– and there is no reason to stop or why more of y’all cannot jump in the tagging. Operators are standing by! Like now. Use hz07 plus/minus socialnetworking, user_generated, mobile, virtual_worlds, educational_games, scholarship.

And this can continue to grow, which is something we are working with our advisory board on– the report comes out once a year, and is well received, but what can be done to sustain more discussion, research, etc to review how these play out– e.g. make it a year round activity, not a snapshot in January.

So I don’t care of people do not agree with the report, and actually I look forward to dissent because that means discussion and thrashing of ideas. This is where the ideas grow. You don’t like the 6- put your ideas on the table. Disagree with the timelines? Show us why. Show us the examples that show the timeline is much closer.

Your own individual techno horizons are likely to be here but not evenly distributed.

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An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at 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.