Technology in higher education: revolution or evolution?

Every generation experiences a technology evolution. Imagine how the telephone changed communication behavior, or how the television changed the way we receive information and entertainment.

Are we approaching a technology revolution in higher education?

The 2012 Horizons Report shows that higher education is really at a tipping point with technology, and it articulates the trends that I’ve observed growing over the past few years. Institutions are facing new economic challenges to reach more students while controlling costs. Accredidation measures are being challenged; how do you accurately measure student success? And, institutions need ways to provide meaningful engagement to their students. But do they have the right tools do this and do the decision makers and instructors understand the abilities and limitations of technologies?

Combine the challenges with the emerging trends. Trends in behavior like the expectation to access anything, anywhere, anytime. Or, the movement of content from a concrete ‘thing’ like a book to a more abstract ‘place’ like the Cloud.

And how does this movement of content facilitate the creation of a more collaborative environment?

Henry Ford was once quoted, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said
faster horses.” Tablets, apps, analytics, gaming, these technologies aren’t meant to just build a better “horse,” rather they allow for a complete transformation of content. ipads aren’t intended to replace backpacks by simply allowing students to download textbooks. They’re designed for web use, and interaction, so the content created must be designed for interactive use.

But, is the market (students and instructors) ready to change from being consumers of educational content to active participants?

According to the report, mobile apps and tablets are two trends on the immediate horizon. Are students ready to give up a physical book – manual notetaking and highlighting in favor of using interactive content that provides a more (digitally) social environment?

Are these technologies revoluntionary – radically new ideas that will disrupt the market or are they simply a natural evolution in response to growing challenges, behaviors and needs?


Johnson, L., Adams, S., and Cummins, M. (2012).
The NMC Horizon Report: 2012 Higher Education Edition. Austin, Texas:
The New Media Consortium


3 thoughts on “Technology in higher education: revolution or evolution?

  1. The Henry Ford quotation is an interesting one. Sometimes to achieve innovation you need to ignore the customer? Well, not entirely. People probably wanted to “travel faster” — and the train gave them that capability. What they couldn’t imagine, though, was owning a personal train of their own (a car). Just like we did not imagine, in 1975, owning a library of our own (the computer).

  2. Here’s my personal opinion to your question: Is the market (students and instructors) ready to change from being consumers of educational content to active participants?

    I believe that students are already active participants of technological/education content, whether they know it or not.
    Even though they use social media and Web 2.0 tools for personal use, they are still learning a lot just in understanding how to mainipulate and interact with the technology itself. Any time we can connect something educational to a child’s personal interest, he or she is more likely to learn something or make a sound connection to the educational ideas being presented to them. So, I hope that designers, researchers, and educators can garner knowledge on the newest technologies to figure out ways to connect them to learning in the classroom.

    Teachers are another story. I think there is a real need for teacher professional development regarding the use of social media and Web 2.0 tools for teaching and learning purposes. Sure, some teachers (those allowed by their districts) probably have and know how to use social media/Web 2.0 tools; however, I am convinced there is a big gap between their knowledge of using them for personal use versus for educational use. I can’t speak for all teachers; nor have I done enough research to back my opinions; but I don’t think I’m too far off base in how I feel.

  3. I think, piggy backing off of Emily, that teachers do have a lack of knowledge when it comes to the use of social media and Web 2.0 as a teaching and learning tool. I do feel that perhaps it has something to do with the age range because future teachers today are developing their skills in teaching techniques including those skills in technology use.

    I also wonder if this movement towards active participation will be more excepted by younger generations of students. Thing about my 4 year old cousin who knows so much about the operations of ipads, computer, cell phones etc. it interesting to wonder about what their college setting will look like 19 years from now. What impact does this have on students today? Are we the ones that step first into the active aprticipant environment to pave way for future students?

    I think students and teachers are starting to step through the door of becoming educational active participants and what we will discover will impact the future of education.

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