Envisioning tech’s future: the kids are all right

Update, July 11, 2010: Part II of this study — on creation, design and digital optimism — was posted on July 8.

Kids these days. They want their computers to know what they’re thinking, display images in 3-D holographs, and convert images of food into the real thing.

Um, come to think of it, those are all pretty good ideas.

"I'd like it if my computer could convert images of food and make them real." - Joanna, Age 10
I'd like it if my computer could convert images of food and make them real. - Joanna, Age 10

Those and other brainchildren of kids ages 12 and under are reported in this summary (PDF) of recent research by Latitude Research and ReadWriteWeb. In this study, researchers asked kids to illustrate their “future requests” for computer and web technologies. The results were innovative — I really like the idea of turning on-screen images of food into the real thing — but also, according to RWW’s report, “surprisingly down-to-earth.” Only 4 percent of the ideas were beyond the realm of possibility for today’s developers.

Even bigger than the practicality of the ideas was the possible shift it signals in the future of technology.

“For kids today,” RWW reports, “true synchrony between physical and digital worlds is becoming an expectation rather than a novelty. And the demand for it is expanding beyond the realm of visual media.” What’s more, says Jessica Reinis, who headed up the study, the future of technology could be “a shift from smartphones that can go anywhere to The Internet of Things which is everywhere.”

The two opportunities cited in the study’s summary document offer some insight into how today’s educators may need to adjust for these future college students. Those opportunities are:

  • Create Action, Not Just Information. “[T]oday’s kids will continue to break down the digital-physical divide. This generation will expect to use realtime technologies that anticipate and assist action; they will demand more applications for The Internet of Things (when objects are connected to the Internet via RFID tags, sensors and barcodes), optimized for everyday life.” Institutions of the future “will need to reach beyond merely delivering information to sensing and organizing information — then converting it to intelligent action automatically.”
  • Offer True Interactivity. The technology and media developers of tomorrow “should construct ways for people to interact not just with the technology but with the actual story being told through the device.”

These two points are opportunities indeed for higher education. Will we seize them?


Author: andrewcareaga

Higher ed PR and marketing guy. Communications director for Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) in Rolla, Missouri, USA. Slow runner, mediocre guitarist, lover of music and puns, and an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan. I blog and Tweet about #highered, #music, #gocards and #random stuff.

3 thoughts on “Envisioning tech’s future: the kids are all right”

  1. Andrew,

    Thanks much for covering the study! Great that you pulled out the opportunities—we’re really hoping to get some additional discussion going around them to see what people have in their own minds for specific applications/innovations.

    Kim from Latitude

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