Technology in Education: Looking toward 2020

By Raymond S. Nickerson; Philip P. Zodhiates | Go to book overview

2 Education in a World of Omnipotent and Omniscient Technology

THOMAS K. LANDAUER Bellcore

In the next 35 years technology will change human life in many ways. I want to raise questions about how the role of education may be changed by the new ways in which people will interact with the world. I am particularly concerned with a new and rapidly developing kind of technology that I call cognitive tools. A cognitive tool is a technological device that helps people do cognitive tasks, in Ray Nickerson's words, helps them to know, think, or learn. We have grown accustomed to technology that aids physical tasks, and practiced in worrying about implications for unemployment and education. We frequently are told, for example, not to worry about automation because it will free people for the more interesting and challenging mental activities that only humans can accomplish. I believe the next 35 years will see dramatic encroachment on these "only humans can do" domains by machines. Not only will machines replace us in humdrum activities like posting ledger accounts and copying letters, but they also will interact with us intimately in all kinds of intellectual activities, from composing (not just typing) letters to planning (not just drawing) buildings.

These developments will raise three questions especially relevant to education. One is what will education be for when new tools do many of the old tasks for which the "basics," literacy and calculation, are the present tools? A second question, in some ways prior, is what kind of mental tasks should technology help us with, and how? In terms of efficiency, economics, or human gratification, what tasks or parts of tasks are really better reserved for an educated human mind, and which should be taken over by or aided by what kinds of information-processing help? A third question is how win education fit into the new ways of living that will surely evolve as more and more of our

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