November 24, 2017

Scanning the Horizon | Office Hours

If you are on the fence about emerging technologies, take a look at the new Horizon Report (www.nmc.org/horizon; see also LJ‘s summary). The 2011 report not only pre­sents technologies to watch but offers a road map for planning and an ongoing dialog about change in education, learning, and libraries. Supported by research and evidence, it points the way to the future.

This rich trove will spark your thinking, as it did mine. Here are some of my observations and ideas.

Conversation-based reading
Reading becomes social. While the ebook market continues to steamroll past libraries, the report offers an intriguing concept: “What makes electronic books a potentially transformative technology is the new kinds of reading experiences that they make possible” (p. 8). Reading can remain a solitary, enjoyable activity for all, but some may choose to experience a more conversation-based form of consumption of content.

I’ve long included “context books” in my teaching—notable titles centered on social issues, learning, and technology outside our field to illustrate LIS concepts and expand students’ purview. This semester, I used the highlighting feature on my Kindle to clip passages in Peter Morville’s Ambient Findability and Nick Bilton’s I Live in the Future. Those thought-provoking bits sit on a web page devoted to my reading (bit.ly/e6I351). I can choose to tweet those highlights and 140-character commentary to my classes via a hashtag. I can display highlights and commentary of selected context books within my course sites. In turn, students will be able to comment on the passages, as well as retweet them to ­others.

The Kindle’s new Public Notes feature further expands the possibilities by incorporating annotations from everyone who opts in: authors, commentators, fans, etc.

Group reading/thinking/tweeting/sharing will come next, with streams of insights flowing from various devices into a larger conversation. Eventually we may see LIS classes engaging directly with authors, other students, practicing librarians, and scholars to discuss and debate a work via these new channels for reading.

Expanding readers’ advisory
A lively class discussion this semester yielded an intriguing “what if” scenario that marries social reading with augmented reality (AR), another emerging technology the report identifies. AR adds a layer of digital information “over the real world, creating a reality that is enhanced…” (p. 16). When all you see on the subway, bus, or in the café is a nondescript ereader, the traditional conversation-starter, commenting on someone’s book, hits a snag. What if the devices could someday create a zone where the current title on one reader displays on someone else’s device (“Three people in this café are also reading The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest”) or floats above readers’ heads when viewed through a smartphone app? Imagine the possibilities for readers’ advisory in this world.

Social reading offers all sorts of potential for libraries. Couldn’t we organize these kinds of reading groups as well, possibly aggregating highlights and comments into a virtual readers’ community? Imagine a portion of the library’s web presence devoted to gathering and sharing ebook highlights, comments, and discussion among group members, library staff, and authors. Of course, the site would be optimized for the device of the user’s choice.

Upending education
Social reading and the other technologies identified have potential for education. New models and new delivery methods are already trumping the status quo. Learning does not have to wait until everyone is assembled in a classroom at an appointed day and hour. Lines between face-to-face classes and online courses are beginning to blur. Students will carry their course content with them on tablets and mobiles.

Creativity in learning objects and media of all kinds will usurp mind-numbing lectures. View the University of Bergen’s takeoff on Dickens, “A Plagiarism Carol (bit.ly/fUvIfB),” which teaches students about academic integrity through an entertaining video story. The best avenues for learning remain discussion and exploration facilitated by a guiding professor, working with such new technologies.

Imagine an interactive Flipboard style tablet app that affords professors and students the chance to craft their own textbooks related to a course from websites, open access articles, and social sites. I’d much rather have my research articles there for active comment and expansion than mired in the peer-review process and copyright. Imagine how we might teach the reference interview or an introduction to classification via a game-based system. Imagine student projects focused on creating AR environments for information sharing and exchange. The first steps might be basic apps that offer location-based help throughout the library or the community itself. The next would be info-rich digital space anchored to geographic location curated by librarians and created by users.

Explore the Horizon Report for yourself. What can you imagine?

This article was published in Library Journal. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Michael Stephens About Michael Stephens

Michael Stephens (mstephens7@mac.com) is Associate Professor at the School of Information, San Jose State University, CA

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