2010 Short List: Critical Challenges

  • Budgets are shrinking in the present economic climate, forcing institutions to focus more narrowly on key goals. Across the board, institutions are looking for ways to control costs while still providing a high quality of service. Schools are challenged by the need to support a steady—or growing—number of students with fewer resources and staff than before. In this atmosphere, it is critical for information and media professionals to emphasize the importance of continuing research into emerging technologies as a means to achieve key institutional goals, such as adequately preparing students to be effective in their fields.
  • Current metrics for evaluating scholarly authority do not support emerging forms of authoring, publishing, and researching. Citation-based metrics are no longer indicative of the relative importance of a given piece of scholarly work; new forms of peer review and approval, such as reader ratings, inclusion in and mention by influential blogs, tagging, incoming links, and retweeting, are arising from the natural actions of the global community of educators. These forms of approval are not yet recognized as significant.
  • The demand for personalized learning is not adequately supported by current technology. The increasing demand for education that is customized to each student's unique needs is driving the development of new technologies that provide more learner choice and control and allow for differentiated instruction. It has become clear that one-size-fits-all teaching methods are neither effective nor acceptable for today's diverse students. Technology can and should support individual choices about access to materials and expertise, amount and type of educational content, and methods of teaching.
  • Faculty and teachers do not receive training in digital media literacy, although this is a key skill. Often not seen as a priority for faculty or teacher training, digital media literacy is nonetheless a critical skill not only for students but for those who work with them. Faculty and instructors are beginning to realize that they are limiting their students by not helping them to develop and use digital media literacy skills across the curriculum. This challenge is exacerbated by the fact that it is not clear exactly how to codify the skills or set standards for their measurement.
  • The public perception of the value of copyright is diminishing. The challenge of providing the broadest possible access to content, without depriving artists, authors, and other content creators of their intellectual property and income, continues to be one of the largest faced by education today. Creative Commons and other alternative forms of licensing are quickly becoming mainstream; new business models must be developed that take these forms of licensing into account.
  • The role of the academy—and the way we prepare students for their future lives—is changing. In a 2007 report, the American Association of Colleges and Universities recommended strongly that emerging technologies be employed by students in order for them to gain experience in "research, experimentation, problem-based learning, and other forms of creative work," particularly in their chosen fields of study. It is incumbent upon the academy to adapt teaching and learning practices to meet the needs of today's learners; to emphasize critical inquiry and mental flexibility, and provide students with necessary tools for those tasks; to connect learners to broad social issues through civic engagement, and to encourage them to apply their learning to solve large-scale complex problems.