Bryan Alexander and the Dissemination of Academic Information in the Future

Last night, I attended a fascinating talk called The Visible College: Four Futures for Higher Education by Bryan Alexander. You can watch the full presentation here, although I’m not sure you’ll be able to fully hear the discussion. You can also see the twitter discussion here. Bryan Alexander is a Senior Fellow of NITLE, author of The New Digital Storytelling, and (among other things) a Dracula Blogger. He has a varied and diverse web and professional presence, and this was reflected in his presentation. He began his discussion by talking about emergent technology in higher education, and how technology stacks rather than replaces. For example, Word Perfect, Microsoft Word, and OpenOffice coexist rather than replacing one another. He then talked about the Black Swan of technology – that is, something that is extremely unlikely, but has a large impact. A single black swan in a lake full of white swans is uncommon and unusual, but stands out from its fellow swans. We then talked about emerging technologies, and the group came up with four big ones: kickstarter, internet activism (such as the Kony 2012 video and all of the varied rections to it), and spotify. Some others that I thought of, but that we didn’t mention: e-books, and gesture based computing (which did come up later, but not in the context of emergent technologies to watch now).

Then, after some related discussion, we got to the heart of the presentation – that is, four possible futures for higher education. These possible futures were as follows: 1) Phantom Learning 2) The Lost Decade 3) Alt-Residential and 4) Renaissance. The Phantom Learning phase was all about augmented reality. Information would be easily accessible, and viewable as layers through phones, tablets, or some other computing technology. Places (buildings, roads, etc) without layers of technological augmentation would look bare. The Lost Decade is less ideal 0 it is, in fact, the saddest of the possible future. This reality is one in which the United State mimics Japan in the 1990s – that is, achieves extreme stagnation. The job market remains bad, technology doesn’t progress much, and everything remains stagnant. The Alt-Residential reality focused on blended learning and the Maker Culture on campuses. Colleges will promote their physical space, and education will be about mentoring. Finally, the Renaissance is sort of the ultimate positive reality, where simulations are prevalent, augmented reality exists, and information is important and the spread of information is something people take seriously.

All in all, I found this presentation to be remarkably thought provoking and inspiring. I agree with doodle_muse when she said on twitter that, “Today was like Christmas for my brain. Thanks again to @BryanAlexander and @zachwhalen #umwgoth #nerdlife.”

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