2008 in review: What happened to this year’s predictions?

[Photo by darkmatter]

At the beginning of this year, I released five predictions for global education in 2008. How did I do?

It’s a mixed bag, ranging from being completely off to spot on… with some surprises, too!

Prediction #1:

Largely driven by the moderate success of OLPC, Linux will emerge as the platform of choice for K-12 technology leaders. The OLPC will demonstrate that not only is Linux different, but it can also be used to do new and different things. Instead of using new technologies to teach the same old curricula, new technologies will be used to teach new things.

What really happened: Linux didn’t take off, but the OLPC spurned an entire ecosystem of cheap, portable computing. We’ve seen this in the form of exploding sales netbooks by Acer, Asus and other small-form, low-powered, low-cost producers –as well as products intended to compete with OLPC, including a $98 laptop from China.

Prediction #2:

Web 2.0 will continue to democratize the globalization of higher education as more students and professors embrace open communications platforms. This means university administrations will have a harder time “owning” their global agendas.

What really happened: Web 2.0 technologies are continuing to democratize the globalization of higher education; but there’s little evidence to suggest that administrators are making the most of what is happening, let alone the question of “ownership.” Of course, there’s also the problem that nobody really knows what “Web 2.0″ really is, except as “a piece of jargon.” Some schools, however, have began to experiment with integrating their services with YouTube, Facebook, Flickr, etc., providing some hope that they will be able to leverage the power of Web communities.

Prediction #3:

Because of the influences of #1 and #2, education-oriented open source development will boom.

What really happened: The open source development boom hasn’t happened, but it also does not seem to be lessening. Moodle continues to develop as a popular course instruction platform, and other institutions have copied MIT’s OpenCourseWare program –but, these innovations all predate 2008. With a few exceptions (like OLPC), the open source/open access movement has made little new headway in 2008. Software in higher education, however, remains largely centered on proprietary formats.

Prediction #4:

Chinese orientations toward the rest of the planet will change during the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. The Chinese widely view that the award to host the Olympics is a sign that their country is progressing positively –and of international acceptance. During the Olympics, however, much of the international attention will focus on revisiting the Tiananmen Square Massacre, the government’s treatment of political prisoners, the annexation of Tibet, the mainland’s relations with Taiwan, catastrophic ecological destruction throughout China, and many more sensitive topics. Unless if the Chinese can distract the world with Olympian splendor, they will have to endure international condemnation. What will this do to the millions of Chinese school kids who were drafted into generating national spirit under the false assumption that the world thinks China is doing a great job? Will China reorient its education system away from the West?

What really happened: As expected, China had a hard time navigating the additional attention of human rights and ecological issues. What was not expected, however, is that China would muscle such a huge effort to manage its public relations image. This was most evident in the spectacle of the opening ceremonies, but also with the scandals that plagued the government and Olympic organizers as they tried to manage China’s image.

What does this mean for Chinese education? The Chinese government managed media relations well; and, as students at Anqing Teachers College told me in October, “the successful implementation of the Beijing games is evidence that China is prepared to lead the world.” China is not reorienting its education system away from the West. Rather, it intends to reorient the West toward China!

Prediction #5:

India’s the place to be. As more U.S. companies quietly continue to offshore their creative work to India, India’s knowledge economy will boom. The world will take notice of this in 2008.

What really happened: The jury’s still out. We’ll have to wait and see. In a 2005 report, the World Bank noted that India is in the bottom third of the global knowledge economy, and hasn’t improved much in the previous ten years. Has it changed? We’ll watch this one closely in 2009!

Stay tuned for five new predictions for 2009!