Technology and Higher Ed: Learnings and Takeaways from Educause 2017 and EdSurge Live

educause logo PowellNote: This article is Part 3 of a multi-part series.

As I discussed previously, the recent Presidents’ Forum in part, and Educause 2017 in large part, focused on the topic of emerging and rapidly evolving learning technology. This week, I use an experiential learning framework approach to report my learnings and related reflections, i.e., what does this mean for higher education today and in the future? What do we do? What actions or follow-up are needed to advance these ideas?

Educause provided a wealth of informative and engaging ideas on multiple topics and areas, including:

  • The kickoff presentation by Michio Kaku, a theoretical futurist, physicist, and author focusing on popular science
  • Learning engineering and learning science technology and practices, especially related to persistence, retention and student success
  • Top IT issues for 2017
  • The essential and evolving nature of cybersecurity
  • The challenges of “focus” as presented by Dr. Katy Milkman

While attending Educause, I also had the opportunity to listen in on an EdSurge conference on artificial intelligence, hosted by EdSurge Editor Jeffrey Young and featuring Dr. Candace Thille from the Stanford Graduate School of Education and ‎Civitas Learning Co-Founder & Chief Learning Officer Dr. Mark Milliron. Noteworthy takeaways from each program included the following.

What Will the Next 20 – 50 Years in Education and Technology Look Like?

Dr. Kaku expanded our thinking by presenting pictures, videos, and images of the future. To understand the future, he said, one must understand the context and history from which we emerge into the future. For example, he spoke of the future as the “fourth wave” of technological advancement, consisting of artificial intelligence (AI), biotechnology, and nanotechnology. The fourth wave he proposed was preceded by the first, steam power; the second, electricity; and the third, high technology. But what is this new wave of AI, bio-tech, and nano-tech?

Dr. Kaku provided multiple examples of ways in which the world will be transformed. One that struck me as very probable was the ability to engage in the Internet via “contact lenses.” Imagine seeing the world and relationships through the integration of human eyes and the eye of the Internet? Everything and everyone is an open book! Imagine the impact on education.

What about jobs that will be replaced due to technology? Dr. Kaku spoke of the impact and change on the labor market, proposing that repetitive jobs and “middlemen” positions (like stock brokers, cashiers, etc.) can and would be eliminated and replaced by robots. The interesting question he posed was “What is it that robots cannot do?” He identified four areas — intellectual capital, knowhow, imagination, and innovation – and emphasized that “intellectual capital is the primary competency for jobs for the future.”

Digitization of our world and our lives was also a focus for the future. Dr. Kaku reported that digitization occurred first in the music industry. Transportation (with self-parking, self-driving cars—cars are becoming robots) was the next area of digitization and one still currently new to many of us. Close on its heels is the digitization of medicine and healthcare.

Think of IBM’s Watson and all it is already doing or has done to diagnose illnesses. Watson is able to absorb more information and call upon it to address and identify symptoms, their causes and their cures than a human person can assimilate. Dr. Kaku projects that robotics (as seen in transportation and emerging in healthcare) will be “bigger than the auto industry!” He also noted that with the impact of digitization, three words will go away in the future reflective of these three trends: “computer,” “traffic accident,” and “tumor!” Imagine a world where these words and their realities are extinct, so to speak!

So what do all of these technological changes mean for us in higher education? What is the relevance? What is the impact of this rapidly changing technology on learning and education? In my next post on the future of higher education, I will address the potential implications in three areas: program currency and relevance; preparing students for the future; and the changing role of faculty.

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