Figure 8.7.d.1 Games designer at work

I am in the process of finalising a second edition of Teaching in a Digital Age. (For more on this, see Working on the second edition of Teaching in a Digital Age: some lessons learned about open publishing.) 

For the former Chapter 7 (now Chapter 8), on Pedagogical differences between media, I am adding a new section in three parts on emerging media, in particular serious games, virtual/augmented/mixed reality, and artificial intelligence.

This is my draft of the conclusion to the emerging technologies section. The only other major change to come will be a section on open pedagogy. I will post my draft on that topic in the next week or so.

The aim is to complete the second edition by October 5 in time for its launch at Contact North’s Global Online Learning Summit in Toronto. Maybe I’ll get a chance to talk to you there!

8.7.7 Conclusions Comparing the three emerging technologies

Section 8.7 has looked at three very different emerging technologies: serious games; immersive technologies; and artificial intelligence. Each has the potential profoundly to influence teaching and learning in a digital age.

Both serious games and immersive technologies such as virtual and augmented reality will be extremely valuable in ‘niche’ areas of teaching and learning. They both have the potential to develop some of the higher order learning skills of problem solving, analysis, intuitive thinking, and creative thinking, and also can be used to develop affective skills, such as empathy.

However, neither is likely to be a ‘core’ technology that will be extensively used across all forms of teaching. Also both need significant investment of time and possibly money if they are to be of good quality for teaching purposes. In particular, they will need a multi-disciplinary team approach to design and development.

Therefore it will be essential to choose the right kind of project, such as topics that are difficult to teach using other methods, or projects aimed at learners who struggle with more conventional teaching methods. Above all, it will be necessary to identify and exploit the optimum educational affordances of these two technologies.

Artificial intelligence is somewhat different to the other two emerging technologies. Artificial intelligence to date manages well the presentation and testing of content acquisition, comprehension and understanding, but so far has not shown much promise in supporting the development or assessment of the higher level cognitive skills needed in a digital age. However, by focusing on supporting learners’ comprehension and understanding, AI can free up human teachers and instructors to focus their time on the development of these higher order skills. Again, this emphasises the importance of teachers and instructors moving their focus away from content delivery – which AI can increasingly manage well – and focusing more on teaching methods that support higher order skills development.

Furthermore these three technologies are not really separate and unrelated but will become increasingly integrated. AI applications could improve the power and range of both serious games and virtual reality. Games can be designed within a virtual reality. The extent to which these technologies become feasible in education will depend heavily on applications outside education which can then be carried over and adapted for educational purposes.

Again though we come back to three critical issues:

  • what are the educational goals of the application?
  • to what extent does the application help with the development of higher order cognitive and/or affective skills?
  • what are the costs and organizational implications of such applications within education? Lessons to be learned from the use of emerging technologies

New technology developments show no sign of slowing down. Over time, other new technologies will emerge beside the three technologies discussed in this section. Educators will continue to be challenged to incorporate these new technologies as they emerge. In responding to this challenge, the following needs to be considered:

  1. New technologies are not necessarily better than existing technologies for teaching. They may however offer new opportunities for teaching differently, and may enable new or better learning outcomes, as well as improving on existing learning outcomes, within the right learning context.
  2. Old technologies rarely disappear completely as a result of popular new technologies. Older technologies become more focused and find a niche that they serve best.
  3. Most educators will be best served by not jumping on the latest technology bandwagon, but should wait a couple of years for a particular technology to reach at least the Gartner ‘slope of enlightenment’ before experimenting with the new technology.
  4. More important than the general characteristics of a new technology are its design and application in education; in other words, how does it perform as an educational medium? Being a big success in the financial sector for instance does not mean a technology will be automatically appropriate for education. Indeed, the technology may need to be heavily adapted or modified to be useful in the educational sector.
  5. Given the rate of change and the number of new technologies entering the market, educators need a strong framework or set of criteria for selecting and evaluating technologies, not just emerging technologies but also existing technology. A means of choosing between media and technologies is offered both in Chapter 7, Section 4 (the SAMR model) and in the following Chapter 9 (the SECTIONS model). These (or other) decision models are essential to protect educators from technology hype or jumping on the next bandwagon. Chapter 9 offers one such model or framework for choosing between different media and technologies.

Over to you

  • Anything you would add or disagree with?
  • Are there other emerging technologies that you would have chosen over these three?
  • How do you think teachers/instructors should react to emerging technologies? Ignore them? Wait for others in education to try them first? Or should they jump in and try a new technology as soon as possible?
  • Some institutions such as UBC and Drexel University have set up emerging media labs to encourage faculty to experiment with new technologies. What other methods could be used to encourage teachers and instructors to experiment with new technologies?


    • Many thanks for this, Almohaya. It is indeed an interesting development. However, I don’t see it so much as a new emerging technology as another step in the development of open educational resources and MOOCs, but it is still valuable for that. I will provide a text change in the MOOC section of my book to link to this development.

  1. Hi Tony. Thanks for sharing your work. I am responding to the last point about “what other methods could be used to encourage teachers and instructors to experiment with new technologies?”

    I think it is important for teachers and instructors to experience the benefit of technology in education settings, through this means, they will have more ‘confidence’ in using technology in their classrooms and teachings.

    Teachers have been trained in particular ways, often with very little training on how to ‘actually’ use technology with pedagogy (I have researched reasons why this is so and will be happy to share my findings). Teachers have been and are using technology for mainly admin purposes and to create educational materials (typed question papers, worksheets, and so forth). As a means to change and encourage how teachers and instructors to use new technologies, particularly gaming, initial teacher education courses need to include ‘learning design and new technologies’ in their curriculum as a subject on its own so that the necessary attention is given to technology and pedagogy, as well as gaining the necessary tech skills to build games and programs, than (only) exploring and using technology throughout subjects.

    In some teacher courses, education and technology (EduTech) as a subject is offered as an elective, but should be a compulsory component. Then, there are cases, where pre-service teachers in initial teacher education courses have never ever used a computer – but I am sure they would be open to learning, and can draw on their prior knowledge of playing ‘games’ as children.

    • Excellent comments, Widad. I agree: in the past I have found that Faculties of Education often are resistant to taking ed tech seriously, mainly for ideological reasons, assuming incorrectly it can be used only for behaviourist approaches to teaching. It is often only after formal qualification in teaching that most teachers get any training in the use of technology for teaching. However, I think that is changing and I’d like to hear from others about this.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here