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Technological change continues unabated, and with it societal and behavioural change. These factors directly impact how people and systems interact, how spaces are used, and how learning, research and support are delivered.

Today, I attended a presentation from Richard Marshall of Gartner Research. He provided an insight into the direction technology is heading and the changes we might expect to see in the future. My own interest in this is two-fold:

  • How might emerging technologies impact on learning and teaching and the pedagogy of instruction as a facilitated process;
  • How can we mesh the physical learning space with aspects of digital learning.

 Richard focussed on predicted changes and advances in end user technology such as mobile devices, collaboration, social networking, wireless, visualisation, plus many more topics which were intended to prompt discussion on how learning and teaching, research and service delivery might be influenced by predicted changes. The presentation explored how buildings and information services can be constructed to facilitate agility and ease of change while maximising learning and research.

Richard cemented my own stance – something that has frustrated me for some time now. There are many (not all, thankfully) educators who think on #edtech as the integration of tablet devices into the classroom. Yes, it is true this is where we are for the majority, and we still need to learn many lessons from this process. I can see, however, over the next few years, a dramatic shift away from this way of thinking in favour of a more aligned approach to interaction and collaboration which is promoted by improved learning spaces and the embodiment of new and emerging technologies. For example, the use of other portable and connected devices such as smart phones and augmented reality which can interface with tactile display walls and holographic projection systems. It has never been about the actual device used – it is about the agency of instruction and the interaction between learners and a mentor.

Below, I have concluded some (not so random) thoughts which occurred to me as Richard progressed through his seminar.

  • Predicting the future is difficult – but essential if education is to catch up with business and enterprise.
  • Current installation and technological instruction is out of date? What does this apply to and why?
  • Looking to 2018 is predictable – it will be much the same as it is now.
  • Looking to 2020 – we can make assumptions based on trends and advances in technology.
  • Looking beyond 2025 – imagination and realms of science fictions come to play as we see fully integrated ‘smart’ learning spaces.
  • Physical learning spaces and technological infrastructure must support new models of interaction. Do we all interact in the same way? Does this model change? If so , when, why and how?
  • Open access spaces are required, as are partitioned spaces – where does individual study and peer/tutor interaction start and stop?
  • What is the ‘agile’ minimum viable learning space that we require and what represents added value? What is the minimum practical refresh cycle – how can we create spaces, which can be reformed for other purposes in the future? These spaces need to promote learner-centred and teacher facilitated processes.
  • There is a huge diversity of portable devices – and the list is growing. They can’t do everything we want in work, home and play, so people often use more than one device e.g. phone, tablet, laptop. It’s important to consider the right technology at the right time. Throwing tablet computers into a classroom is not a solution to digital learning. It’s part of a bigger process.
  • In 2018, we’ll see similar devices in learning – hybrid devices will be the norm. We’ll start to see the integration of wearable devices like smart watches. Atomic interactions on small devices will allow us to manage ourselves and will mesh with building systems. This will continue into 2020 BUT we will start to see an increase in augmented reality. e.g. holo lens and electronic paper… and as we move into 2025 we’ll see smart paint and holographic interpretations e.g. creating tactile multi-touch surfaces in a variety of places. Smart pills and implanted technologies will become headline news.
  • Simultaneous collaboration spaces where multiple devices connect automatically to displays will become the ‘norm’.
  • Wireless infrastructure with cabled access points will remain – but grow. There are many exciting new wireless technologies due for release in the next few years which will benefit the use of technology for learning, for example, Galileo, 5G and advances in Bluetooth. All other devices connect to the wifi network. Local mesh technologies which interact with the building environment – smart intelligent buildings will emerge as we look to innovate.
  • Media streaming – increase on storage demand and network topology. Increase in internal and external bandwidth to allow 4k streaming in 2018 and 8k streaming in 2025.
  • Today we rely on projection systems which create dark spaces and this can lead to lack of interaction and a more didactic style of teaching. Smart displays and signage – video walls will start to take over and morph into active walls around 2025.
  • Technologies such as surface hubs and chromebox devices become the norm for meetings and collaboration where devices point to a URL without the need for a full operating system.
  • Connectivity and flexibility requires open access to cable trays and technological infrastructure for futureproofing.
  • Complex issues around the digital spaces and physical spaces. How can we manage the technology and provide support to building/technology users?
  • Digital collaboration technologies and the use of social media – we already share files, video/media and discussion.  Do we need to create spaces with no barriers? School policies often present a barrier to learning through online social technologies.
  • Flexible spaces must be self-service without the need for designated people to move furniture/walls etc. This may become automated by 2025 e.g. at the press of a button.
  • Issues around identity, location/presence, access, data, cohorts and activities will always need to be addressed.
  • There are risks – digital vandalism, impact of hacks, acceptable use of virtual and physical spaces.
  • We need to find the balance between all of these things which will happen as a matter of course – and what we actually need.

Posted by Lee Dunn

Academic Staff University of Glasgow and Author of Science Fiction