Sunday, June 28, 2015

Six Trajectories for Digital Technology in Higher Education

 Malcolm Brown, Educause Review,  June 22, 2015

When we consider the future roles of digital technology in higher education, it is often helpful to think in terms of trajectories rather than predictions. Predictions are remarkably fragile things. Any unforeseen factor will render the prediction false or off-target, and as those variables increase, so too does the likelihood that the prediction will fail. Predictions also tend to be projections of the current and the known, ornamented with something that provides a futuristic hue. In the case of digital technology, given the acceleration of change—enabled by the very things whose course we are trying to predict—the conundrum of predictions may be at its most acute.
It is thus more practical to work with trajectories. With a trajectory, we know where something is headed, but we cannot say—or we refrain from guessing—where it will end. Working with trajectories is an admission that we cannot foresee the unanticipated factors and developments that might influence the trajectory, accelerating it or perhaps instead derailing it entirely. In this sense, working with trajectories is a more humble and realistic way of facing the future. A trajectory is also far less fatalistic than a prediction. The latter asserts that this is where we will end up, whereas a trajectory shows where we might end up.

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