Waves of the Future: Possibilities for Higher Education #theta2015

Waves of the Future: Possibilities for Higher Education (abstract)
Bryan Alexander @bryanalexander

  • Now always need to assume possibility for a backchannel – need to be prepared to take advantage of this.
  • Battle of the brands – the i-devices, Microsoft’s, Google’s, Amazon’s… But humans like to cut across vertical stacks (giving IT departments many challenges)
  • Post-Snowden: “Humanity has awoken to an Orwellian nightmare with a great ‘…Meh.'”
  • Smaller trends: digital video, cloud wars (a few years ago a frenzy of “What is it, what does it mean, is it dangerous” and then we all just moved there), augmented reality, automation and artificial intelligence. Social media (vs ‘anti-social media’)
  • More: crowdfunding/crowdsourcing; copyright battles; Moore’s law continues to work; office vs web office
  • Design for mobile first. PCs getting crowded out. Mouse and keyboard use declining. 3D printing enormous – may cause decline of shipping containers.
  • Neat image of computing being broken into little pieces that we “smear around our bodies” – devices clipped on shoes, around wrists, in earbuds, glasses, ….
  • Ebooks and print books existing side-by-side – don’t know if this is a plateau (e-textbooks haven’t taken over) or ebooks will continue to dominate
  • Demographics shifting from pyramid (more young, few old) to stack (about the same number in each five-year slice). Economy changing from one job/career to a series of gigs. Inequality on the rise again — huge impact on education.
  • How do we respond to this? What do we prepare students for (other than student debt)?
  • Teaching and learning and tech: blended classroom, gamification, companies starting up to make money in education (“which seems crazy but there it is”), growth of digital humanities research, MOOCs – gone through a media crash but still grow though we don’t know how to assess them or pay for them but we keep making them and people keep taking them. How much reading is being done; (how) are literacies changing?

Which of these trends are most reliable? Which are most unpredictable?

  • What if Open wins? -> rise of the sharing mindset; gig economy, sharing labour as well as content; global conversations increase, more creativity, information cheap, academic content unleashed on the world, industries collapse, authorship mysterious. Some higher costs, tech challenges, outsourcing and offshoring
  • What if Closed wins? (eg if user preference for simplicity and convenience; failure of open business models, closed source outperforms open) -> huge content industries; ferocious IP policies; surveillance and intrusion protection; simpler computational hardware; anti-hacking policies; elaborate identity mechanisms; widespread micropayments; on campus publishers are locked in and powerful, security protocols in place, large role of business
  • What if automation wins? -> tutoring software, commodity AI, boom in CS/robotics departments. News articles are being written by bots – what happens when they’re writing books?
  • What if a renaissance? -> boom in creativity through storytelling, gaming, mobile devices. Games for teaching, game studies as academic field, libraries archive games, ‘gamification’ is taken for granted

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