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The year in review and trends to watch in 2008.

AT THIS TIME OF THE YEAR, many articles, newspaper stories, blogs, and editorials focus on the year in review and projections for 2008. Based on articles in the technology magazines I have read and the blogs I have skimmed, I would like to highlight three significant trends that have implications for higher education and health care.

FIRST, many in the industry touted Apple's iPhone[TM] as one of the best tools of 2007. The iPhone is not without its critics, but as Apple has done successfully in the past, it has brought a new and innovative user interface to the public. The ability to use touch screens opens the door to many applications. I immediately thought of personal health records and electronic health records, where patients and health care professionals could easily touch choices rather than type.

To get a glimpse of some possibilities, check out a video clip from the 2006 Technology, Entertainment, Design Conference (TED) (http://JeffHan.TED.com) showcasing the work of New York University's Jeff Han. Han's multitouch screen is phenomenal and demonstrates how easy it is to interact with an application with touch. Think about what it could mean to future learning technologies. Imagine students interacting with the visible human through touch technology and gaining a different level of understanding of anatomy and physiology. And, imagine they are doing this on their cell phones or PDAs.

THE SECOND trend is the rise in the social networking phenomenon. Platforms like MySpace and Facebook, once popular only with teenagers and college students, now attract their share of older adults. Reports noting this growing trend have spawned new social networking tools specifically targeted to older adults (1-3). For example, LinkedIn, a site with well over 9 million members, is a service to help professionals further their careers through professionals networking. You can join my network if you register (www.linkedin .com/). Facebook, according to CBC News, continues to grow. "Boasting 55 million members, [it] has gone from 60th most visited to seventh in the span of a year" (4). And comScore, "a leader in measuring the digital world.... released the results of a study on the expansion of social networking across the globe, revealing that several major social networking sites have experienced dramatic growth during the past year" (5).

I think we will see more social networking tools being applied to learning and education. These tools will be particularly relevant in that they coincide with the growing phenomenon of Internet access to online course materials (6). As reported by Susan Kinzie, a growing number of universities are making their courses available to the public through Web 2.0 tools such as YouTube and iTunes.

MY THIRD and final trend is gaming. Computer games are big business. Consider the word w00t, Merriam-Webster Online's word of the year: "w00t (interjection) expressing joy (it could be after a triumph, or for no reason at all); similar in use to the word 'yay'" (7). This choice is a triumph for the millions of online garners who use this expression instead of words like awesome and cool (8). According to Merriam-Webster president John Morse, w00t reflects the growing use of numeric keyboards to type words. "People look for self-evident numeral-letter substitutions: 0 for O; 3 for E; 7 for T; and 4 for A," he said. "This is simply a different and more efficient way of representing the alphabetical character" (9). The point is not the word itself but the impact online games have on our society. Note the recent literature in higher education and in health care about the use of games as a learning strategy.

IN THAT SPIRIT, I decided to reexamine the resolution I announced in the January / February 2007 issue of Nursing Education Perspectives to test three different technologies--Skype, social networking, and social writing tools--with my students.

Skype is a voiceover Internet protocol (VoIP) technology that allows people with accounts to use the Internet to communicate among themselves, one-on-one or in small-group chats. Video can be added with one-on-one conversations, so you can see the other person as you talk. Other available options include the ability to communicate via a text chat function, which is particularly useful if you get a bad connection. And, for a small fee, you can purchase a phone card and call international destinations at a reasonable rate.

This last feature has been a godsend for our online program. I have used it successfully to communicate with my instructor from the United Kingdom and many informatics colleagues around the world. (Consider that I teach at a state school where it would hard to make calls to Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, and Beirut without raising suspicion of some covert activities.) My favorite feature for communicating with students is the video connection. How nice it is to put a face to a typed message. And when our interactive video system did not work for a comprehensive exam with a student in Beirut, we used Skype to continue the exam.

Educause recently released its "7 things you should know about Skype" (9) where its value in the engagement of students is mentioned. I also agree with the two major downsides reported (downsides are to be expected with something that is free). With more than 250 million users, the audio can be choppy and inconsistent. And there are many schools that do not allow access to Skype from their campus servers. Although I have used it from our campus, I use it primarily from my home.

To participate in social bookmarking, I decided to use the tool deli.cio.us in my courses. I set up my account and started to save bookmarks on this service. Since I use Firefox as my browser, I was able to get an add-on deli.cio.us tool that quickly allows me to tag my bookmarks. Next, I asked students in my classes to set up an account on the platform and join my network where they could see all my URLs and examine those that were listed under the tag for the course. For example, the telehealth course that I teach is NURS6284, so I tagged all pertinent bookmarks as 6284. I then used concepts from the class, or titles from the modules, as secondary tags. Since all URLs that you save on deli.cio.us are public, I saved my personal ones (family web pages, recipes, etc.) as private, unavailable to my students and the public.

Here are some insights derived from using this tool with various classes.

* This was a year of frequent travel for me. I had all my URLs accessible at all times and never had to worry about the bookmark being on my desktop computer at home or work.

* Although everyone set up accounts and used it to access the URLs for the class, only about 40 percent of my students shared their bookmarks and added to those for the class. I think this is fairly typical of students. There are always some who find all the interesting websites and share them with their classmates.

* Students who are busy with family, work, and going to school do not always take advantage of new tools unless it is required for the course or has outstanding benefits. After the class ended, I did hear from one student who regretted not using deli.cio.us when she made her first business trip and did not have access to the URL for our course management tool.

* Those students who did contribute and are now converts continue even after graduation to be part of the network and share bookmarks.

* Finally, I had an interesting encounter with a person from the recording industry who saw the bookmarks I posted to the network. Since I used my last name as my user ID, this person Googled me to find my email and said he wanted to read some of my articles on Web 2.0. A colleague described this encounter as cyberstalking, but I chose to interpret it as being part of the social networking world. Now I am now part of his network and am reading a lot of fascinating information about Web 2.0 tools from the perspectives of business, advertising, and the recording industry.

Incorporating social writing tools, like blogs or wikis, into my classes is a work in progress, l have been experimenting with Google Documents as a means to share documents that can be edited in a collaborative style. This has been helpful for working with students on their research projects and for working with them on publications. This is an easy tool to use and simple to set up. Check it out at http://docs.google.com/.

Looking forward, here are some topics that I will be covering in 2008. I am calling this my Things to Watch list: the YouTube site for intellectuals; M-learning tools; educational games; data visualization; tools like Twitter, NurseSpace, and Smilebox; geotagging; socially centered virtual worlds; and scholarly mashups. As always, if you have some great things to watch that you want to share, send me an email: Diane.Skiba@uchsc.edu.

References

(1.) Perezm J. C. (2007, December 21).Year end--Social networks struggled, thrived in 2007. Network World. [Online]. Available: ww.networkworld.com/ news/2007/122107-year-end-social-networks-struggled.html.

(2.) Shields, M. (2006, October 5). Older demos get social. MediaWeek. [Online]. Available: www.mediaweek.com/mw/news/recent_display.jsp? vnu_content_id=1003221208.

(3.) Holahan, C. (2007, March 14). Social Networking goes niche. BusinessWeek. [Online]. Available: www.businessweek.com/technology/content/ mar2007/tc20070314_884996.htm.

(4.) CBC News.Technology:The year in review. The rise and rise of Facebook. [Online]. Available: www.cbc.ca/news/interactives/who-tech-yearinreview2007/.

(5.) comScore (2007,July 3 I). Social networking goes global: Major social networking sites substantially expanded their global visitor base during past year [Press Release]. [Online].Available: www.comscore.com/press/release.asp?press=1555.

(6.) Kinzie, S. (2007, December 31). Internet access is only prerequisite for more and more college classes. Washington Post, p. A01.

(7.) Merriam-Webster Online. (2007). Merriam-Webster's Word of the Year 2007. [Online]:Available: www.m-w.com/info/07words.htm.

(8.) Bennett, S. (2007, December 14). W00t:There it is! Newsweek.

(9.) Szep, J. (2009, December II ,). "w00t" crowned word of year by U.S. dictionary. Reuters News. [Online]. Available: www.reuters.com/article/internetNews/ idUSN1155159520071212?pageNumber=1&virtualBrandChannel=0.

(9.) Education Learning Initiative. (2007, December). 7 things you should know about ... Skype. [Online].Available: www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/EL17032.pdf
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Title Annotation:Emerging Technologies: Center
Author:Skiba, Diane J.
Publication:Nursing Education Perspectives
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2008
Words:1751
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