The Influence of Technological Change on Teaching and Learning in the Academy

Article excerpt

Education in the health care sciences is changing due to the increased use of technology. The use of computer-based technologies, among other technologies, has expanded rapidly. This expansion has changed not only the way in which health science education is delivered, but it is altering many fundamental structures in the academy. How the academy conducts research and provides service is being affected, in addition to ongoing changes in education. The objectives of this article are to review some of the technological trends affecting health care science education and to project those trends into the near future. Two models for making effective use of technological advancements in educational activity design and implementation are described. The changes brought on by the advance of technology not only affect how teaching is done but alter the ways in which future health care professionals will think and interact. Some illustrations of how these changes might be manifested are provided.

Key Words: Education, Futures, Health education, Instructional design, Internet, Learning, Teaching, Technology.

INTRODUCTION

Once, I had a card to the British Library The British Library was not then, and is not now, open to the public. Only accredited scholars can obtain access. In the British Library is a hand-written copy of the Bible, called the Lindisfarne Gospels. This book, created in the eighth century CE, is both a faithful copy of the Old and New Testaments and an inspired and priceless work of art.1 This treasure of words and art has been preserved for over a millennium and is in impeccable condition. As a card-carrying intimate of the British Library, I could have requested access to this book and perhaps been allowed to examine it. This is the essence of traditional information. It is carefully preserved, and access is limited.

We have all seen the images of great medieval libraries, with monks toiling over illuminated copies of books, preserving ideas, and limiting their spread. In the British Library, there is also a copy of Gutenberg's printed version of Jerome's Vulgate, a Latin Bible. Printed somewhere around 1438 to 1455, this Bible was the great watershed in the availability of knowledge. Due to the technological advance of the printing press, there was no limit to the number of copies that could be made. The rebirth of knowledge in the Western world can be partially attributed to this miracle of production and distribution.

Today, we have the immediate availability of, apparently, any and all ideas, anywhere in the world and at any time. Here in the United States, there are no limits to Internet access, and I now can indeed look upon the pages of the Lindisfarne Gospels without asking anyone for permission.*

However, there is one catch to this electronic access. It is fleeting and dependent on the will of the owner of the content. I wrote a book, and for many years it was a text in my course. It was printed on paper, and there exist hundreds of copies. In recent years, I moved the book to an electronic format. It is now a series of Web pages, and anyone can look at it, at any time.[dagger] However, you the viewer do not own it, nor do you have a local copy of it (except for a temporary and anonymous one in your computer's cache). In addition, I can revise the book at a moment's notice or remove it completely at any time. Thus, in our electronic age, we have created a new, ethereal world of knowledge that is profoundly different from the knowledge systems of the past-open to everyone, but whimsical. These are elements that make the stoutest librarian quake in fear.

Knowledge and wisdom have been, and still are, controlled substances. In past times, the wisdom of the world was kept in monasteries and lamaseries where only trusted clerics were allowed to study the ideas and to talk of them.2 Now, in many countries of the world, computers and telephones are controlled to restrict access to the Internet. …