The future is the Web

I'm putting together my invited presentation for Learning Technologies 2010 later this month. I have been asked to talk about the new smart technologies that we will be using in the next year or two. These include touch screen technologies (iPhone, Touchtables, etc), augmented reality (AR) devices (6th Sense, Layar etc) and other emerging technologies such as QR tagging, GPS and wearable computers. I will talk about how I think these might be used to support, enhance and extend pedagogy in the future. It's quite a tall order, but if you know we well, you also know I relish a challenge.

I'm going to use Web 2.0 (and the emergence of Web 3.0) as my starting point. I know a lot of people don't like these terms, but as I have previously commented (see Lost in Translation), even if it isn't the right one, the name evokes meaning and makes the concept comprehensible. At least most of us will know what I mean by Web 2.0 (the read/write Web - connecting with others) and Web 3.0 (The semantic Web - connecting with knowledge content through 'intelligent' search/filtering). I'm starting with them because whatever technology we will use in the future for teaching and learning, we can be assured it will have a social element and that we will increasingly rely upon intelligent (agent) systems to get us from where we are to where we want to be. The future is digital, and the future is the Web.

The future will be interactive. The way we interact with the Web will be different from the way we interact now. We are already seeing signs of shifts in use, moves away from mouse and keyboard toward natural hand and finger movements, such as multi- and pinch-gestures. The iPhone was one of the first handheld devices to capture this, but we already had interactive whiteboards in classrooms that could operate on a touch basis. It's now one small step away from that to interaction in 3-D, where we move around in physical space, and the computer tracks and responds to our hands, eyes and voice. AR tools will recognise what we are doing and then enhance it by adding information to the world around us.

The future will also be mobile. I have already elaborated on why we need to be more mobile and agile in a previous post, but I will emphasise here that learning and working on the move is going to increase exponentially in the coming years. It will increase because we are more mobile as a society than ever before and we need to maximise the limited time we have each day. The demands on an individual's time are increasing to the point that many people now need to learn how to work smarter not harder, by doing more in the down-time that is otherwise wasted waiting or travelling. Increasingly we will see people using handheld smart devices to augment personal reality, access information, communicate, navigate their way through physical space and create and share content while on the move. Many of us are already starting to do this.

Finally the future will be sensory. One of the words we will increasingly hear in 2010 is the word 'haptic.' Haptic - pertaining to the sense of touch - describes the manner by which some new technologies are providing tactile feedback to users through handheld controllers. When it's your turn on Wii sports, your handset makes a small sound, a blue light flashes, and it vibrates. The handset alerts several of your senses simultaneously. Mobile phones also have a built in vibration alert when you want to go silent but still want to know a call or text is incoming. We are witnessing the early stage of haptic consumer technology. It will get better as it becomes more widely available, and more control will become possible using haptic tools. Humans have more than the 5 traditional senses Artistotle talked about. At least three - equilibrioception (balance), proprioception (sense of limb juxtapositions) and kinaesthesia (motion) - are there waiting to be tapped into, to make our interaction with digital media more natural, responsive and effective.

I'm going to try to make some sense of all this for my audience. Together, we will discuss ways in which new smart technologies can enhance education and training, and make learning more exciting and relevant for our students.

Learning Technologies 2010 will be held at Olympia 2, London, on January 27-28.

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geordie_online said…
I am really excited by the concept of augmented reality. Allow the learners the ability to use technology to find out more information about the learning environment around them will bring huge benefits. Using the camera from a mobile phone, or in the future some sort of head up display in glasses or contacts, to search for further information on the topic or the lecturer. There just needs to be a simple of tagging the extra info.

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