Technology Adoption and the New Pocket Watch

The ICT Tipping Point

Three years ago, it would have been hard to find two or three medallion schools in North America that publicly supported the adoption of online and open learning solutions.  In 2012, we have witnessed the massive expansion of innovative, open learning platforms such as Academic EarthPeer-to-Peer UniversitySkillshare and edX.  Today, we are seeing a remarkable change-0f-practice, with the real adoption of information communication technology (ICT) solutions by even the most selective institutions.

Perhaps most impressively, Coursera continues to secure some of the most elite and historically staid post secondary institutions.  That is, Coursera announced another 12 partnering universities including perhaps Canada’s leading university; the University of Toronto.  These new partners include some of the “New Ivies” such as Rice University and one of California’s leading universities, UCal Berkely.  These impressive newcomers join early adopters and prestigious Ivy League schools such as the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton University.  Although not close to perfect, the evidence appears clear that we may have reached new heights, if not the tipping point, in the adoption of online and innovative technology solutions within higher education.

In a Student Context – A New Pocket Watch

21st Century Pocket Watch

If we can agree that information communication technology-based change is underway writ large, educators are now being given a gift in that the acceptance and adoption of these technologies by many students under 25 is a natural, comfortable experience.   This is remarkably important for educators as we now often have willing partners in our efforts to leverage these technologies in order to widen access, increase quality and lower costs.  Our students are in fact making our jobs easier in our effort to meet these three broad higher education challenges.

As but one example of this adoption comfort, the next time you have a conversation with a group of teenagers, ask them, “Do you have the time?”   What I find interesting when I ask this question is to observe their response.  Notwithstanding the fact that many young people are no longer even wearing a watch, they quickly reach into their pocket and take out some type of mobile device.  In other words, many students under the age of twenty will seek this information by viewing their cell phone, smartphone or small tablet device.

Mobile Tools

If in fact few people under the age of 20 wear a watch, it does beg the question, Why?  When I asked students or my own children this question, they advise me that a watch is little more than an accessory; a device that is limited to confirming the time.  Yet, they are equally quick to point out that their personal mobile device has much more functionality; one that provides them with the time but also with a richness of information and communicative capacity that keeps them connected.

As I observe these mobile wonder-tools sliding easily into a pocket or purse,  I come to realize that within this disruptive change comes a sense that this too feels familiar.  With the wide adoption of mobile tools, we are in  fact simply seeing the adoption of the 21st Century Pocket Watch.



About kentmacdonald

President and Vice Chancellor Professor, Faculty of Education St. Francis Xavier University
This entry was posted in Leadership and Higher Education. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Technology Adoption and the New Pocket Watch

  1. Pingback: Technology Adoption and the New Pocket Watch | Kent MacDonald « Education and Technology for Future

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