Reviewed June 2014
Stephanie Grimm, Reference & Instruction Librarian
University of South Carolina Beaufort

NMC Report Cover | Image source: NMC

The New Media Consortium’s NMC Horizon Report: 2014 Higher Education Edition presents the findings of a year-long research project to “[examine] emerging technologies for their potential impact on and use in teaching, learning, and creative inquiry.” Eighteen topics are covered in total, including a discussion of each emerging technology, trends that accelerate the adoption of the technology, and challenges that may impede the technology’s use in higher education.

The intent of the NMC report is not to provide a list of cutting-edge apps, software, or devices for classroom use, nor to introduce us to the next Facebook. Specific platforms are mentioned only in passing or to give context and examples for the trends and challenges being discussed. Given the time needed to identify the topics, conduct research, and compile the report, it better serves as a barometer for the larger trends and technologies that are projected to have a lasting impact on higher education. For this reason, some of the “emerging technologies” and “key trends” can sound familiar and not quite “emerging.” As an example, the “Growing Ubiquity of Social Media” is a trend identified to have significant impact within the next two years; meanwhile, social media’s use in higher education will not be news to most readers. Nonetheless, a focus on practice and policy helps to keep these topics from veering into irrelevancy.

For the art information professional, the report’s findings might be considered in two ways. First, it offers a closer look at technologies and trends that have some direct relevance to art librarianship and the studio arts. The most notable examples in the report are 3D printing, and the shifting perspective of “students as consumers” to “students as creators.” The latter concept is familiar territory to anyone working with art students and practitioners, and may be an arena where art librarians can lend insight and expertise.

Second – and perhaps to greater ends – are those topics that are indirectly related to the arts, but which may spur innovation or creative application in art libraries or digital humanities projects. Consider the potential of virtual assistant technology integrated with artistic practice, or the “gamification” of visual research. The “flipped classroom” approach – identified as a “fast-moving” trend – is already being utilized in library instruction, and its methods could be adapted to models of visual literacy instruction or outreach. Within the context of these trends, librarians may also identify opportunities to leverage their subject knowledge and skills beyond the traditional silos of the art library or studio, and to form collaborative partnerships with other academics. Additionally, an awareness and understanding of the “challenges” presented in the report (e.g. the “Low Digital Fluency of Faculty”) will be beneficial, if not necessary in the development of new projects, tools, or resources.

Because each discussion is limited to a few pages, the “In Practice” and “Further Reading” links that conclude each section help to balance the reviews by presenting practical, real-life examples of projects completed or underway at libraries and universities. The report’s great strength comes from these blended discussions and a holistic consideration of each topic, which encompass both the tools and the strategies needed to implement each emerging technology, along with a serious consideration of real and potential challenges.

For those interested in the specifics of how each technology was selected, the full NMC Horizon Reportincludes detailed information on the researchers’ methodologies as well as the major questions at the core of the project.  The 2014 Higher Education Edition, along with reports from previous years, is available for download from the NMC’s website.

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