Learning In The Future – Exploring Five Themes

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It’s been a trying time of the year; erratic schedules, vacations and finding time to introspect has meant I’ve not blogged over the last month or so. As I get back on track, it’s time to start blogging in earnest again. We’ve gone from attending eLearning conferences to mLearning conferences; it’s just around the corner from mLearnCon 2011. As mobile computing becomes mainstream, it is worth thinking about the nature of learning in the future. As technology permeates our daily lives and goes on to become an essential part of it, the impact promises to be far-reaching. Too many, far too many thoughts run rapidly through my mind when I wonder about the nature of learning in about a decade. Most of these are direct evolutions of technology that we are seeing today. There will possibly be technologies that we don’t foresee that are also bound to have an impact. Additionally, the rapid emergence of nano and bio technologies by the end of this decade will introduce changes that I can hardly anticipate at this point in time. Will they even impact learning? Only time will tell. Given I’m only looking at a decade, it made better sense to organize these thoughts around themes rather than elucidating them individually. Each week I’ll explore one of the themes in greater detail. But to start off, broadly there are four: Mobile – let there be no doubt about it; the future of learning is mobile. Gradually there will a complete shift to mobile based devices used for a whole host of activities; learning will be one of them. The term ‘mobile’ doesn’t just mean the use of mobile phones, but include a whole host of technologies associated with their use – Augmented reality, augmented virtuality, sensor driven technologies (GPS, compass, accelerometer) coupled with an increasing aware and connected objects in the environment (one that IPv6 will help with) mean new ways to interact with and learn about the world. The Semantic Web and Search Agents – The nature of search is already changing with the first semantic search engines appearing on the web. In a matter of time, we will start to see the first personal search helpers that use semantic technologies. As the web goes from existing a collection of documents to becoming aware of and understanding the content actually contained, search agents tasked with collecting the ‘right information’ and ‘making sense’ of it for humans will become a reality. Simulation/Gaming – I’ve written about the growing influences of gaming and simulation on learning in general. I see these influences only getting stronger and stronger with advancing technology. I’ll go out on a limb and proclaim that a time will come when almost any sort of ‘learning experience’ that is possible in the real world will be possible in cyber space in the form of a simulation. Lifestreaming – Persistent and Always On – Twitter, facebook are only the first wave of lifestreaming. Eventually we’ll be casting our lifestream out over the internet for family, friends, peers, colleagues and professional relations. The ability for individuals to dig deep into the ‘data’ of day to day activities offers a unique learning opportunity. Especially so when I could follow and mine lifestream data from ‘experts’ in a particular field to learn about their field of expertise. These four areas are quite broad in application and we will probably see significant overlaps in the areas because of the growing convergence and cross disciplinary applications of technology. More about this in the following weeks.

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