Welcome to the first blog from the AMEE e-learning committee.
Technology is developing at a phenomenal pace, from sophisticated multi-user games to informal social media. The amount of potential educational content available to everyone is immense and most of it is readily accessible, especially by mobile devices. However, the latest technology and content does not guarantee effective learning. We believe that medical educators need to appreciate the potential of new technology for teaching and learning, but to be critical about the advantages and disadvantages.
If we want to consider the challenge for medical educators it is important to be aware of the emerging trends in the use of technology in education. The New Media Consortium and the Educause Learning Initiative bring together a group of experts each year and they produce an annual report. The Horizon Report 2012 for higher education identified six trends that they considered to be the most important drivers of innovation in the next five years. 
1. Increased mobility. People expect to study and collaborate whenever and wherever they want. No longer are learning opportunities limited to the campus or workplace.
2. Moving to the cloud. Learners want to store information that can be easily accessed from different devices in multiple locations. The use of online data storage is now becoming cheaper and more readily available.
3. Collaboration. There is increasing emphasis on creating opportunities to allow collaborative learning, with active sharing and creation of new knowledge. The numerous general and professional social network sites and online document sharing sites provide ideal collaborative learning opportunities.
4. Changing roles for institutions. Institutions have started to rethink how library services are provided, with increasing e- access to both journals and books. The report also highlights the need for institutions to develop the skills of learners so that they can effectively find and appraise the enormous variety of information sources that the internet can provide. This has obvious implications for future teaching staff development.
5. Providing online learning opportunities. There is increasing connectivity to the internet through wi-fi networks, allowing mobile devices to be used as an integral part of learning activities, such as during workshops and seminars. This blended approach can both motivate technologically-savvy learners but also create a deeper learning experience. Recording lectures for later access also has several advantages, including allowing learners to revisit content for revision or clarification and for sharing across different institutions.
6. Interactive learning. Educators are beginning to encourage learners to take advantage of the vast range of learning resources, from multimedia to people, that can be found on the internet. An exciting aspect is the opportunity to actively create a global perspective by linking learners across the world to become a global learning community.
The Horizon Report 2012 targeted six new technologies, dividing them into three “adoption horizons”: one year, two to three years, and four to five years in the future.
1. The near-term horizon. Not surprisingly, the almost ubiquitous mobile apps and tablet devices are discussed.
2. The mid –horizon. Game based learning is considered to be emergent, as well as learning analytics. There is increasing interest in the educational value of games, from virtual patients to simulations, and these are becoming accessible through mobile devices. Learning analytics provide a “fine-grained” understanding of the learning behaviour of students, such as how many times they visit a particular web page or the library, how long they spend looking at the resources and what actions occur after using the resources.
3. The far-term horizon. The sci-fi spectre of gesture based computing is a possible future scenario, in which individuals will receive relevant information and learning during actual procedures, such as when checking a patient’s blood pressure or making a particular visit to a patient.
There are plenty of challenges for all us who are interested in using technology in medical education! Future blogs will consider many of these issues and we expect to have several guest authors. We also welcome the opportunity to share our thoughts with all members of AMEE who are attending AMEE Conference 2013 in Prague. There will be an open meeting on Monday 26 August from 1245-1345 hrs. We look forward to meeting you.
On behalf of the AMEE e-learning committee