The 2010 Horizon Report is full of riches about where education, learning is headed over the next five years in an online world. Here’s some of them.

The Horizons Project, established in 2002 by the New Media Consortium, looks at emerging technologies and trends and what these mean for teaching, learning and education. The 2010 Horizon Report (referenced at the end of this post) is full of riches and possibilities. Here’s what I took from the report as it relates to museums.

Key trends

  • “People expect to be able to work, learn, and study whenever and wherever they want to.”(page 4) For museums this means visitors will learn not only in our physical spaces even though they may be in our physical spaces. They will access content from wherever they are (and it will probably not even be our content).
  • “It does not matter where our work is stored; what matters is that our information is accessible no matter where we are or what device we choose to use.” (page 4) What are museums doing to enable their collection and scientific data to be available on any platform? How are they relating the physical objects on display with information across a range of platforms?
  • “The work of students is increasingly seen as collaborative by nature.” (page 4) The boundaries between visitors and institutions are breaking down – how are we encouraging social learning and collaboration in both our physical and online spaces?
  • “The role of the academy – and the way we prepare students for their future lives – is changing. It is incumbent on the academy to adapt teaching and learning practices to meet the needs of today’s learners; to emphasis critical enquiry and metal flexibility ... to connect learners to broad social issues through civic engagement; and to encourage them to apply their learning to solve large-scale complex problems.” (page 4) I suggest you replace the work “academy: with “museum”! Museums have always been about engaging audiences with big issues. Visitors have expressed an interest in being challenged and having their say on controversial topics. What better way than to harness to power of citizens to work together solving big issues facing humanity – ones that museums have something to say about (climate change, biodiversity and social justice spring to mind)?
  • “New forms of peer review and approval, such as reader ratings, inclusion in and mention by influential blogs, tagging, incoming links, and retweeting, are arising from the natural actions of the global community of educators. These forms of scholarly collaboration are not yet well understood by mainstream faculty and academic decision makers, creating a gap between what is possible and what is acceptable”. (page 5) What are the implications for museum scientific research and publishing – much of which has remained in the same form for years and years? How can we change the ways scientists are remunerated for communicating their work? Or, should we change it?
  • “Digital media literacy continues its rise in importance as a key skill in every discipline and profession.” (page 5) How are we setting ourselves up to keep abreast of these skills? How are we changing the types of skill sets we recruit to our institutions, or change the ways that we work to work within a digital world? As they go on to say “... digital literacy must necessarily be less about tools and more about ways of thinking and seeing, and of crafting narrative.” (page 5)
  • Cost (and time I suggest) is often used as an excuse to do nothing.

Technologies to watch in next 12 months

  • Mobile computing, increasing access to smartphones – “The mobile market today has nearly 4 billion subscribers, more than two-thirds of whom live in developing countries.” (page 9) How are museums setting themselves up for providing mobile content and apps based around their content and collections information? Are we shifting our mindset to one of charging for added content to one of charging for added convenience, thus still enabling us to provide content on our websites for free? There were a heap of papers on the mobile web and museums at Museums and the Web 2010 and I have gathered them here.
  • Open content – more universities are offering their course content online for free as there is a shift in the way academics in many parts of the world are conceptualising education to a view that it is more about the process of learning than the information conveyed in their courses. Information is everywhere; the challenge is to make effective use of it.” (page 13) This has implications for museums’ authority and authenticity –we are no longer the sole expert authority.

Technologies to watch in next 2-3 years

  • Electronic books – easier to access, lessen environmental footprint and allow you to repurpose content in new forms. Is the era of the museum paper publication finished? If we are concerned with our own environmental footprint how much can we make available via an e-book platform?
  • Simple Augmented Reality (AR) – again this technology is now easier to access even on a mobile device: “Applications that convey information about a place open the door to discovery-based learning.” (page 22) Imagine visitors panning across a landscape to see how it used to look in the Jurassic based on collection data and research from across a whole load of museum databases.

Overall, museums as organisations need to be ready and nimble for the next few years with flexible structures, creative recruitment and skill development. The mobile world is already here and I believe has caught many museums by surprise. What I like about the Horizon Report is that it puts technology firmly within the context of learning and communicating – which, after all, is what museums are about.

Thanks to Laura McBride, Education Officer, for alerting me to this report.

Johnson, L., Levine, A., Smith, R., and Stone, S. (2010). The 2010 Horizon Report. Austin, Texas: The New Media Corporation.