(Looking Back and Looking Forward takes a look at the articles and posts I found interesting from the previous week, along with reflections about how the trends they point to might shape my thinking about education and technology.)
Ah, Newton. We hardly knew you.
And 30 years on, it becomes ever more clear what a game-changer you were. The first great handheld computer (PDA)? Check. Handwriting recognition? Check? Innovative? Check? Way ahead of its time? Absolutely check.
But that’s the thing about great ideas in technology. It’s not just about the innovative idea or the technology or the execution. The timing has to be right. For everyone.the market ecosystem.
Which is why we shouldn’t be surprised that Web 3.0 didn’t take off when Tim Berners-Lee outlined its capabilities (via his description of the Semantic Web) in 2001. We simply weren’t ready. I’m not entirely positive we’re ready now, by the way, but it looks like we’re going to dive into the trough of disillusionment just the same.
One thing we do seem ready for is more robots, especially with current labor shortages in many industries. Of note, orders for robots increased 40% in the first quarter of the year. And don’t forget about the folks in R&D at Dyson. They’ve recently revealed details about a top-secret project to develop a range of domestic robots. I’m hoping there’s one that will pick up our plates from the coffee table, take them to the kitchen, and load the dishwasher while we continue to watch our favorite TV shows without interruption.
So, is the world ready for the metaverse to become the next great thing? Certainly not in the near future. The barriers for the average user remain way too high. And there are other issues that will have to be worked out, such as how to deal with sexual assault in a virtual environment (see here also).
By the way, I know browser technology is nothing new, but after all these years two platforms have emerged as the definite leaders.
Over in education, the wailing and gnashing of teeth you may have heard last week was due to the latest statistics on U.S. public school enrollments. A 3% decline between fall 2019 and fall 2020, the largest single-year decline in total public school enrollment since 1943. Yes, there are certainly a number of challenges facing our schools, their design, and their funding. But I do wonder if, at the foundation of the decline, lies the simple fact that we are no longer clear about the purpose of education. Perhaps that’s why we’re banning books in schools, such as Maus of To Kill a Mockingbird or The Bluest Eye.
In higher ed, one piece of good news is that the government is forgiving $5.8 billion of loans to Corinthian College students. At the same time, however, we’re still having trouble delivering higher education to populations that need it the most.
Finally, and getting back to innovation and when/how it can succeed, I enjoyed this article about the importance of standards and academic rigor in our offerings. Ultimately it’s the only way to build long-term credibility in the marketplace.