New technologies

julie120Julie Adams
Academic Skills Tutor
Staffordshire University
UCISA DSDG (User Skills Group)



Learning Technologies 2015: Panel Discussion ‘The hype and the happening’

The final session of day one was a panel discussion on the role a range of new technologies may have on learning. The panel was made up of Steve Wheeler, Donald Clark, Andrew Jacobs, and Denise Hudson–Lawson.

There was lively discussion and some disagreement amongst the panel over a range of new and emerging technologies. The areas looked at included: MOOCs; artificial intelligence; adaptive learning; touch surfaces; wearables; immersive; presence; 3D printers and gestural computing.

A lot of these were felt not to be of immediate impact for learning and development in general – although I suspect that some may impact on HE in slightly different ways to businesses.

Some of the key points made were about the poor completion rates for MOOCs. There was some feeling that this might not matter if people got out of them what they wanted. But I wonder how those running them would know if this was the case? It was suggested that MOOCs might just need more time to evolve and that they do have a role to play in expanding HE opportunities, especially for those not UK based.

Other areas identified as becoming important were artificial intelligence and adaptive learning algorithms. A comment was that Google search could be considered as sophisticated AI, because of its complex algorithms that ‘learn’ what we want to search for. Getting support within Excel on how to do certain things could be thought of as low level AI. This would seem to fit with the growth of the Internet of Things and smart devices.

Wearables was an area that was seen as having a lot of potential and although not many of us have such devices now this is likely to grow quickly. The Apple Watch was mentioned as something to watch out for! These were seen as having most potential in areas such as health care and vocational training, at least initially. Immersives (including devices such as Oculus Rift) take some of these ideas further and were seen as offering potential for cheap, efficient and quicker training, especially for dangerous situations or vocational training. This may be less applicable to HE, but some FE areas may find benefits in using these – once the price drops sufficiently!

However, the University of Glasgow recently looked at the potential offered by Google Glass – see article in the Times Higher Education section. This showed how the device helped break down barriers between staff and students, so may be an area worth investigating by other institutions.

I found it interesting to compare how some of these technologies mentioned fitted with other recent reviews of technology that may make an impact – such as those shown in the Infographic in the EdTech magazine article ‘10 online learning trends to watch in 2015’. Also, the topics which will form part of the Horizon report for 2015 do include some of these areas – especially wearables (within the next 2-3 years) and adaptive learning and Internet of things (4-5 years). So although these may not impact on us immediately it is certainly worth being aware of developments in this area and how they may impact on our roles in learning and training.


Learning Technologies 2015

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