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David Cearley, Gartner vice president, has been analyzing business and technology trends since Gartner started publishing the annual Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends. In the Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2015 the following the top ten technology trends that organizations cannot afford to ignore in their strategic planning processes all rely on some type of interaction with cloud services.

  1. Computing everywhere
  2. Internet of Things
  3. 3D printing
  4. Advanced, pervasive, and invisible analytics
  5. Context-rich systems
  6. Smart machines
  7. Cloud/client computing
  8. Software-defined applications and infrastructure
  9. Web-scale IT
  10. Risk-based security and self-protection

Why is this important for Higher Education and especially Polytechnic institutions like British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT)? We are moving rapidly into a global marketplace that is functioning in the Cloud. Unless we are preparing our students for this type of a future we are robing them of tomorrow.

This means that technology driven institutions like BCIT must not only embrace these technologies we must use these technologies as the foundational infrastructure that we build our significant learning environments upon.

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In the Higher Education blog post Five Ways that 21st and 20th Century Learning Will Differ Steve Mintz, the Executive Director of the University of Texas System’s Institute for Transformational Learning and a Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin, points to the 5 ways teaching and learning in the early 21st century differ from its 20th century.

There is a fundamental presupposition that Mintz did not mention and is essential in realizing the predictions that he has offered. A 21st-century education requires the use of 21st-century tools and infrastructure. The reason he didn’t mention this was that he didn’t need to—21st-century tools and infrastructure are foundational to most institutions in Texas.

Having taught and spent time as an administrator in the Texas Higher Education system I need to point out that the University of Texas (UT) system adopted the Google Apps for Education in various locations as early as 2009 and fully by 2011. Abilene Christian University (ACU), the institution that I worked at, is outside the UT system and it adopted Google Apps for Education in 2007 as did many other colleges and universities across the US. It was this cloud based infrastructure that made it possible for ACU to implement its mobile learning strategy in 2008. By 2010 all ACU students and 95% of faculty and staff had and used an iPhone in the learning environment and by 2011 when the iPad came out that fall nearly 60% of the institutions students adopted the tablet as well. Mobile learning at ACU and all that comes with this initiative was built on a foundation of 21st century cloud based technology.

ACU faculty, students, staff and administrators have a 7 year head start on using 21st-century tools. UT students have 3-4 year head start on BCIT students. Eastern Canadian institutions like Lakehead University adopted Google Apps for education in 2008 which means their students, faculty and staff have a 6 year head start on BCIT. We are seeing a move in K-12 in this province to the cloud through Microsoft’s 365 platform so in the next few years we will have new students coming to BCIT who have this experience. This time frame on the head start assumes BCIT will be moving to a 21st-century cloud based infrastructure soon, but this is unlikely given the privacy paranoia that is preventing our move forward. Building our “own cloud” really doesn’t help because as good as simulations are nothing compares to working with and in the authentic environment.

The bottom line is that in the global marketplace in which we live not using 21st-century tools puts BCIT students, faculty and staff at a huge disadvantage.

Notable Quotes:

“The Victorians were great engineers. They engineered a [schooling] system that was so robust that it’s still with us today, continuously producing identical people for a machine that no longer exists.”

“It’s quite fashionable to say that the education system’s broken — it’s not broken, it’s wonderfully constructed. It’s just that we don’t need it anymore. It’s outdated.”

Sugata Mitra: Build a School in the Cloud

awesome datacenters nowatermark

IDC offers the following predictions for 2012:

  • The world will spend a whopping $2.1 trillion on tech in 2013
  • Tech will grow insanely fast in emerging countries
  • 2013 will be a make-it-or-break-it year in mobile for some vendors
  • Big IT companies will feast on smaller cloud players
  • A lot of smaller, specialized clouds will sprout up
  • Everyone will become an IT person
  • Big data will get bigger
  • The data center as we know it is over
  • Your work computer will be an ID you keep in your head

Tis the season for IT predictions and this years predictions are starting with some tried and try favorites. Cloud and mobile computing have been the “next big thing” for almost five years now and perhaps in 2013 we will start to see some of the earlier years predictions coming true. With the uptake of the iPad and other tablets we may now finally see some of these predictions come true. The ability to use ones own mobile phone or tablet to get real work done is finally a reality and this is will be putting significant pressure on IT departments to keep up.

One of the challenging predictions for IT is that “everyone will become an IT person”. What this really means is people are tired of hearing “NO” from IT and are using tools like Dropbox, Google docs and a wide assortment of free file sharing resources to get their work done without IT’s support. While this is great for the end user because they don’t have to deal with IT and can just get things done, the security risks involved in sharing corporate, government or academic data on some of these networks is significant and we may see 2013 or perhaps 2014 as the year of the renewed security threat.

IT departments that are currently facing this uncontrollable user driven shift only have themselves to blame. Cloud and mobile computing have been significant forces for many years now and there was plenty of time to develop strategies to work with Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) workers. Proper planning and proactive responses to the cloud and mobile trends would have prevented what many will see as a reactive response to this shift. Proactive planning would have also alleviated many of the security concerns that will become big news are a result of the BYOD trends that are driving change.

Perhaps the most accurate predictions is that 2013 will be a make or break year for many companies. IDC has suggested that that mobile phone and tablet companies that don’t attract interest from at least 50% of app developers won’t survive. Apple and Android are the market leaders so it is their lead to loose. Will RIM make it? Will Microsoft’s bet on Windows 8 on the phone, tablet and desktop be enough or is it too little too late? Will 2013 be the year of consolidation in the cloud and mobile space? Regardless, 2013 should prove to be an interesting and pivotal year.

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