One of the most widely read technology publications in higher education, the EDUCAUSE Review, announced the 10 most read articles of 2008 recently. The collection show an interesting focus on the future of technology in education. The #1 ranked piece, Minds on Fire: Open Education, the Long Tail, and Learning 2.0 by John Seely Brown and Richard P. Adler is a definite read.
Of course, a little self-horn-tooting is also on call for E-Books in Higher Education: Nearing the End of the Era of Hype? which came it at #5 on the list. That article was actually written over a year ago -- and how much things have changed in a year's time. The evidence seems to suggest that we are getting closer to the end of that era of hype, but the "tipping point" is still elusive. Open access course materials are on the rise -- as is the inexorable increase in the cost of traditional printed course materials. We are anticipating several new innovations to hit the market this year, and expect collegiate retailers and academic institutions to take another step (or two) forward in making digital options available for students.
It would be interesting to see some analysis on where the e-book industry currently lies along the Gartner Hype Cycle. In one report from late December, entitled "Emerging Trend: The E-Book's Day Is Finally Ready to Dawn" the executive summary notes that E-book readers and other digital replacements for paper publications have been in experimental development for 15 years. However, given key differences in the latest e-book generation, we expect it will, at last, gradually enter the mainstream.
At the same time, a couple weeks ago Gartner issued another report, Contrasting Findings on the Digital Native, which suggests that the digital native concept deserves critical scrutiny. A far more skeptical approach to assumptions about digital natives is recommended before reorganizing service delivery to accommodate this cohort of next-generation consumers. This conclusion is not new, but it is reassuring to hear someone else say it as well. The data from the ECAR annual student study, now in its fifth year of longitudinal data collection, continues to convince me that while student patterns are changing, most students may be more adept in using technology for communication and collaboration than they are in using technology for productivity or learning. It may be that the current set of college students are digital immigrants like the rest of us.