Cornice avalanche East of Slettningsbu, Norway, April 2012
Tsunamis and avalanches kill. They are so vile and fearsome that I think it is almost in bad taste to compare social and technical phenomena to either of them.
IPPR's use of one of the term in its An avalanche is coming: Higher education and the revolution ahead (written by Michael Barber and colleagues from Pearson) caught my eye, and reminded me of a talk - Universities, eLearning and The Internet Tsunami [PPT] - that I heard at the 2000 ALT Conference by Jack Wilson, then of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
I've only skimmed the two documents so far, but the fact that quite similar things are being said now as were being said 13 years ago probably shows that these kinds of apocalyptic visions are a bit wide of the mark, and that what is really going on is better viewed as a rather slower "tectonic" movement, that peppers the landscape with very big but patchy bursts of change.
I believe that looking back in 20 years we will see that over the previous 40 years technology's impact on learning, teaching and assessment will have been very profound indeed. In effect there will have been several big step changes. But I do not think that apocalyptic metaphors - which in some respects play into the hands of the naysayers - are helpful for organisations needing to take wise decisions about what to do next. Jack Wilson's much more recent talk at the 2012 Sloan Consortium conference - Evolution or Revolution? The relentless advance of online learning - Neither hype nor negativity can stop it [PPTX] - is of a very different ilk.