Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Thoughts on the Horizon Report 2011

The NMC Horizon Report series identifies and describes emerging technologies likely to have a large impact on teaching, learning, research, or creative expression within education around the globe. The following blog post is a summary of the 2011 report (black text) along with some of my own thoughts (in blue italics). Oh, and given this a games based learning blog, pride of place is given to this technology.

Games Based Learning (two to three years away)
Early studies of consumer games helped to identify the aspects of games that make them especially engaging and appealing to players of various ages and of both genders: the feeling of working toward a goal; the possibility of attaining spectacular successes; the ability to problem-solve, collaborate with others, and socialize; an interesting story line; and other characteristics. These qualities are replicable for educational content, though they can be difficult to design well.

The production requirements seen in popular consumer games thus far have exceeded education providers’ abilities to build them. In The NMC Horizon Report: 2010 K-12 Edition game-based learning was also positioned on the mid-term horizon, and that remains the case today, although it does seem to be gaining acceptance.

One of the problems with the interest commercial games and education is that they seem to have overly influenced game based learning design. I agree that designing good games based learning might be a challenge, but central to the design should be that the learning experience is paramount. Throwing in all the bells and whistles like the latest blockbuster Xbox / PS3 game isn’t necessary. And in reality, in the commercial gaming world there is a growing segment of simpler game designs – Angry Birds, anyone?


What determines the design of games like Angry Birds or Wii Sport (two of the most successful games of recent times)? Well, they have to run on low spec devices; they have to be understood quickly; they don’t have to be complex; and (in the case of Wii Sports) they need to get individuals playing together. Sounds like The 6 Key Principles of Collaborative Games Based Learning, funny that ;)

This year, there has also been a great deal of traction surrounding online games and game apps for mobile devices.

See comments on mobiles in UK classrooms, below.

Designing and developing games is another way to bring games into the curriculum. Good game design involves research, creative thinking, the ability to envision both problems and solutions, and many other learning skills.

Have a gander at a couple of game design development projects that I have been involved:


Another area of gaming that is increasingly interesting to schools is simulation-based games. When game design is of sufficiently high quality, it is increasingly clear that these approaches can deeply engage students in learning.

As gaming and the science of engagement become better understood, we are likely to see significant investment in large-scale educational games. The compelling nature of Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) games in particular is attracting researchers and educators who appreciate the revolutionary power of including games in the curriculum.

I agree with the simulation-based games point - I would, wouldn’t I, given that is what we do at games-ED. I  do worry about MMO games, though. As stated above, the learning should come first and the technology second, but MMO do offer a forum to get schools across the world working with each other and that could be very exciting. 

Other Education Technologies
Near-term Horizon (within the next 12 months)
Cloud computing has already transformed the way users of the Internet think about computing and communication, data storage and access, and collaborative work. Cloud-based applications and services are available to many school students today, and more schools are employing cloud-based tools all the time.

It will be interesting to see how the drive for academy status frees up schools to choose IT more flexibly and move away from Local Authority provided solutions.

Mobiles, especially smartphones and tablets, enable ubiquitous access to information, social networks, tools for learning and productivity, and hundreds of thousands of custom applications.

The power of mobiles is without question. But there are a number of issues worth noting in UK schools. Firstly, some teachers are starting to ban them from the classroom. Secondly, at present in the UK smart phones have not become the ubiquitous tool they might have in the US due to their cost, particularly if the user is on a pay as you go contract. In the UK, therefore, the adoption horizon might be two to three years. 


The second adoption horizon (two to three years out).
Open content is the current form of a movement that began a decade ago, when universities such as MIT began to make their course content freely available. Ten years later, schools have also begun to share a significant amount of curricula, resources, and learning materials.

TES teaching resources is starting to do this in the UK. So, it could be argued that, open content is on the Near-term Horizon (one year) rather than two to three years out.

Far-term Horizon (four to five years away)
Learning analytics loosely joins a variety of data gathering tools and analytic techniques to study student engagement, performance, and progress in practice, with the goal of using what is learned to revise curricula, teaching, and assessment in real time.

Being an avid user of Google Analytics, I think this concept could revolutionise how we understand learners’ use of digital resources.

Personal learning environments (PLEs) refer to student-designed learning approaches that encompass different types of content — videos, apps, games, social media tools, and more — chosen by a student to match his or her personal learning style and pace. Despite the use of the word “environment” in the name, the notion of a collection or a physical or online space is somewhat irrelevant to a PLE. The goal is for students to have more control over how they learn, and for teachers to set expectations that their students will be more engaged in understanding and applying their learning strategies.

Further Reading
The full Horizon Report can be found at http://www.nmc.org/pdf/2011-Horizon-Report-K12.pdf

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