How do we define “Emerging Technologies”?

I have just read this article about defining emerging technology by George Veletsianos.  It was apparent to me that although people use the term “emerging technology”, it has not been accurately defined.  Even without reading the definition George writes, I have to think back on my many years of learning mathematics as a youth in school, and teaching mathematics in school as an adult.  I have already been exposed to emerging technology… electronic calculators.  The first ones I remember were bulky and slow.  They have evolved from 4-function calculators, to scientific calculators, to programmable calculators, to “pretty print” calculators, to symbolic (computer algebra system) graphing calculators.

Before my time in grade school, they have used the slide rule, and before that some form of abacus (which still has value in elementary school).  Mathematics education has seen its fair share of emerging technologies over time.  That’s how I have begun to define this phrase.  It’s a tool that is utilized in learning mathematics.

Now Georges’ definition:

“emerging technologies are tools, concepts, innovations, and advancements utilized in diverse educational settings to serve varied education-related purposes”

Which has the following characteristics:

  • may or may not be new technologies
  • can be described as evolving organisms that exist in a state of “coming into being”
  • experience hype cycles
  • satisfy the “not yet” criteria of (a) not yet being fully understood, and (b) not yet being fully researched or researched in a mature way
  • are potentially disruptive, but their potential is mostly unfulfilled


With this new definition in hand, I have to reflect on my initial view of emerging technology.  Not only are graphing calculators a tool, but an innovation, a conceptual working framework, and an advancement of previous computing devices.  I can attest to you that if I had a graphing calculator in my algebra, trigonometry, and calculus courses, I would have experienced a greater understanding of the beauty of mathematics. (and have gotten better grades!)

I can now see how electronic calculators fit the definition of emerging technologies. At the same time, I see how the abacus, slide rule, mechanical calculators, computers, internet, and mobile devices fit this as well.

The other reading assignment was a report written by the New Media Consortium that describes K-12 educational trends, challenges, and developments in educational technology.  A great read that offers vast information about the use of technology in school.  I like the links to the wide variety of resources that can be researched and tried in the classroom, plus the designation of educational technologies in terms of long/mid/short-term impact, solvable/difficult/wicked challenges, and time to adoption time frames.  Apparently this report is written yearly and thus can be read to see the advancements of educational technology over time.  Truly a great resource.


4 thoughts on “How do we define “Emerging Technologies”?

  1. I read that same article by George. I liked that you gave personal experiences in your post. Calculators are a great example of emerging technology. I remember those old time calculators and learning how to use the TI-85s (84)? in high school. I’m an elementary teacher and never use calculators; if I do it’s on my iPhone.


  2. Hello,
    I loved how you reflected on the technologies that we had in our day compared today. The bullets on characteristics was a great approach to the topic. The visuals were also great. My favorite point was how the technologies can be both disruptive and unfilled at the same time. When we were kids we had to use paper and pencils/pens, today after the lecture, even I take a picture of the whiteboard as well.

    Another great invention are recording devices, like the Live Scribe technologies.



  3. Gerald, you really helped me rethink what an emerging technology is. After your calculator example, I would also consider all the ways that we show presentations emerging technologies. There were the old slide machines, 8 mm video projectors, laser discs, projectors connected to computers, and AppleTV, just to name a few. It makes sense now that the Horizon Report is printed every year. It has to be with the speed at which technology evolves and the implications those changes have on our classroom practice.


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