Emerging Technologies for K-12

The Horizon Report: 2009 K-12 Edition, released in March, identifies six emerging technologies that will have a huge impact on K-12 education within the next one to five years. Collaborative environments, online communication tools, mobile devices, cloud computing, "smart" objects, and the personal Web are the emerging technologies that a group of experts believes will have a profound impact on K-12 education within the next five years or sooner. The New Media Consortium (NMC), has come out with an annual report on emerging technologies in higher education for the last several years. These technologies are described below:

Collaborative Environments
Examples of the tools used to create these environments include Voicethread, which allows users to collect multiple voices and viewpoints in a single package, and Ning, which lets teachers set up workspaces that include Web feeds to pull in relevant resources, chat spaces (synchronous or asynchronous), forums, profiles, shared documents, calendars, music, and many other tools--all with a few clicks.

Online Communication Tools
According to the report, these tools make it easy for students to move past the classroom walls and connect with their peers around the world, as well as with experts in the fields they are studying. Access to these tools gives students an opportunity to experience learning in multiple ways, develop a public voice, and compare their own ideas with those of their peers.

Mobile Devices
Over the past few years, the report notes, smart phones and other mobile devices have become able to record audio and video, store more information, and access the Web--making mobiles function like laptops.

Cloud Computing
This is a term for networked computers that distribute processing power and applications among many machines. Applications such as Flickr, Google Docs, and YouTube use a cloud as their platform,

"Smart" Objects
A "smart" object, as defined by the report, is "any physical object that includes a unique identifier that can track information about the object." The object can connect the physical world with the world of information. Smart objects can be used to manage physical things digitally, track them throughout their lifespan, and annotate them with descriptions, opinions, instructions, warranties, tutorials, photographs, and so on.

Personal Web
This is a term to describe a collection of technologies "that confer the ability to recognize, configure, and manage online content, rather than just viewing it," the report says. Personal-web technologies give users the ability to sort, display, and even build upon web content according to their personal needs and interests.