Where is the cutting edge?

A lot of work in educational technology claims to be at the crest of the wave, at least technologically speaking. That is, technologies that are now prevalent in homes and workplaces are being exploited for educational uses. The original design of technologies is often adapted to achieve educational aims that weren’t originally considered. Marconi proved wireless radio communications were possible in the late 19th century, but it wasn’t until the 1950s that HF radios were used to teach school kids in remote locations in outback Australia. The internet is, of course, another obvious example. But is it always the case that educational uses of technologies need to lag behind their discovery for other purposes? One disadvantage of considering educational aims as a second thought is that we are always forced to adapt something that has been designed for some other reason. It may be that we can never really understand the way a technology will be used until long after its invention, but at the very least we could start to look at emerging technologies and their possible educational uses much earlier than we typically do. A list of emerging technologies might include:

  • Podcasts – already being used in some educational settings, but not widely
  • Blogs and Wikis – more widespread uptake for education, but not much written about it yet
  • Voice over IP – probably some uses already. Are there Skype schools of the air? Do students conduct interviews with experts, or engage in teleapprenticeship activities & long distance classroom-classroom interactions using VoIP?
  • Wireless and 3G – as wifi becomes prevalent and technologies like WiMAX sound more plausible, what will this do to student expectations and our expectations of their connectivity? What will it do to our physical spaces, and how are we going to keep up with demand?
  • Multi-touch – more on the cutting edge, the work by Jefferson Han and colleagues on Multi-touch interfaces has some exciting educational applications. Who’s considering them?
  • Roll-up computers – sounds like science fiction, but I first people like Alan Kay talking about this sort of technology in the mid-1990s.