Remember when distance learning meant an education through the mail. The mail system has been around since the pony express. When these distance courses were first offered by accredited colleges, could they have been considered as an emerging technology at the time? The technology was around long before it was ever directly applied to the provision of education. In this it could be argued it is not the technology but the application of the technology that defines it as new.
The beginning days of distance education consisted of reading books and writing papers, sending them off and getting graded papers sent back to you, via the mail. It seems archaic now but at the time it was revolutionary, especially when combating the barriers of distance, economic limitations and other barriers. It offered people opportunities they would not have otherwise had; however the quality of the education was always in question. It was after all completely text based. Sometimes the college would send a video tape or cassette adding audio and visual. Each tool was used separately and inconsistently to augment learning.
As technology has developed one on one telephone conversations were added as a common tool, giving real time discussion options, then telephonic conferences which added real time group participation. This was never a feasible option when limited to mail correspondence. All of these advancements in technology added to the learning experience; however they were not new technologies. The telephone existed long before it was ever used for telephonic conferences, remember the “Party Line” that rang into every house on the lane, hoping to reach the correct party. In my area locals still had to share telephone lines with their neighbors as little as 30 years ago. Albeit the “teleconferences” that took place back then where usually nosy neighbors listening in whenever the phone rang.
With the advent of live video came an interactive visual component and people assembled in small groups to participate in this “almost like being there” environment. All of these techniques and technologies are still used in education today. They are not “new”.
Is emerging technologies then not based on new technology but rather based on new applications of old technology? According to Veletsianos’s research one definition of emerging technology states that technology doesn’t have to be new per-say, simply not widely used in the application in question. Therefor emerging technologies in education is any technology not traditionally required for education. This definition matches my early experiences and understanding concerning the evolution and my participation in distance education.
It also matches my personal experiences in instructional design and e-learning. When I worked as a music/art/computer teacher for a private no-profit school, I was required to design my own curriculum at zero cost to the school. If not for emerging technologies my success in completing this task would have been null. I used a video camera and a digital camera in my daily curriculum, add clay for stop motion and video for playback observations, all of which added depth to the learning experience. In that learning environment this technology was not traditional learning tools. Without a budget for traditional materials for art or musical instruments, I used e-learning for art and music class, both with programs for drawing, music theory, and pianos you played using the keyboard of the computer as just some examples. I used emerging technologies in my instructional design and e-learning to enrich the educational experience of my students with little to know resources for traditional options found in art and music classes. Veletsianos may disagree and it may simply be that due to the culture of the area I live and work in what is “new” to us has been standardized elsewhere. This is in line however with the concept that emerging technologies, may or may not be new and the idea that emerging technologies are not yet fully understood or researched. By the second statement I intend this understanding and research to be applied not to the greater academia but in the context of the local culture in which the technology is being introduced.
This can be illustrated through comparing developed and undeveloped countries. Can the internet still be considered emerging if the area and culture in question has never had the opportunity of exposure to it? I believe it is. Therefore rural and poor communities, even within our own developed country can experience emerging technologies, not because they are new, but simply because they are new to them.
Read more on this topic here http://www.aupress.ca/index.php/books/120177