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Immediately following ALA, I was extremely lucky to be able to attend The Future of Education: The Horizon Project’s Tenth Year Retreat.

Since I first learned of the Horizon Project, I have been impressed with it. It’s an annual report, with editions for higher education, k-12 education, and museums, about the technologies that are on the horizon. Each report focuses on six technologies over three time horizons as well as naming some contextual themes that are applicable across the board.

Several years after first learning of the Horizon Project, I saw some discussion on library blogs about how libraries weren’t represented, so I decided to throw my name in the ring to see if I could be involved. I was fortunate to be included and the first report I contributed to was the Higher Education edition for 2011. I also contributed to the 2012 Higher Education report. The process of creating the reports, itself, is an amazingly efficient and productive modification of an onlineDelphi study, and I’d be happy to blog or chat about it if you’re interested.

Horizon name badge

The retreat, itself, was for anyone who had served on any of the advisory boards over the past 10 years. It was organized by Dr. Larry Johnson, CEO of the NMC, and Dr. Lev Gonick, VP and CIO at Case Western Reserve University and Board Chair Emeritus of the NMC. It was held in Austin, Texas at the Hyatt Lost Pines Resort. The location was ideal. It wasn’t in the city, so we weren’t tempted away the way we might have been otherwise in the evenings. This meant that for the entire retreat we were all in one space, thinking about the same thing.

The event was comprised of group discussions, nine speakers featured on the NMC’s YouTube channel under 6 minutes with, and the amazing facilitation of David Sibbet, which is hard to understand unless you take a look at his visual representation of the event. Sibbet is a master at visualizing ideas, and I think every one of us probably wished for an ounce of his ability in that area.

At the Horizon Retreat

As you can see, this event incorporated various communication technologies as you’d hope it would. iPads outnumbered all other computers as best I could tell. (I felt a little old-fashioned with my MacBook Air!) They brought in speakers via videoconferencing technologies. Tagging was used extensively.

The pace of the event was quick, as we’d get a little bit of introduction, hear a speaker, have structured small group discussions, bring back the big ideas to the group, and watch as Sibbet illustrated the discussion we were having. The structured group work was built around specific points they wanted us to come to conclusions on–which took a bit of getting used to for me but I ended up really liking it. It reminded me of some of my teaching exercises, trying to make sure we don’t always do the same group work and mixing up the types of interactions.

The main ideas from the retreat are captured in a Communiqué. The ideas in this document are “megatrends” that are impacting all educational institutions (libraries included) around much of the internet-connected world. The executive summary, if you don’t want to pop over there, is:
At the Horizon Retreat

  1. The world of work is increasingly global and increasingly collaborative.
  2. People expect to work, learn, socialize, and play whenever and wherever they want to.
  3. The Internet is becoming a global mobile network – and already is at its edges.
  4. The technologies we use are increasingly cloud-based and delivered over utility networks, facilitating the rapid growth of online videos and rich media.
  5. Openness – concepts like open content, open data, and open resources, along with notions of transparency and easy access to data and information – is moving from a trend to a value for much of the world.
  6. Legal notions of ownership and privacy lag behind the practices common in society.
  7. Real challenges of access, efficiency, and scale are redefining what we mean by quality and success.
  8. The Internet is constantly challenging us to rethink learning and education, while refining our notion of literacy.
  9. There is a rise in informal learning as individual needs are redefining schools, universities, and training.
  10. Business models across the education ecosystem are changing.

There was brief discussion of including a library-related topic as one of the ten, but there weren’t enough library folks at the retreat to get the votes necessary to include it. If you read the communiqué, you’ll note that libraries are mentioned under many of these 10 megatrends. In fact, there was brief discussion of if there should be a libraries Horizon Report as their is a Museum one. I’d lean towards keeping libraries integrated within the existing documents, while increasing librarian participation. I think I can contribute more about libraries to a higher education discussion, and I’d rather librarians be at that table. Likewise, a school librarian could really contribute to the k-12 report. I’d like to see public libraries represented somewhere, though.

And, since we have a library focus here, I thought I’d include Marsha Semmel’s (Director of Strategic Partnerships at Institute of Museum and Library Services) talk.This talk was given to an audience with only about 5/100 librarians, so she was definitely introducing people to standards of the field as well as pushing on some boundaries.

The Horizon Retreat was an amazing opportunity, and I–frankly–was frequently surprised to find myself included at the table in these discussions. I look forward to seeing what else comes of our work over that week. If you’re interested in following along, you can on the (surprise!) wiki!