Technology in Education: Looking toward 2020

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

long to last, or whether it was developed for a different world. I have suggested the possibility that the acquisition of high-powered mental skills may become appropriate for only a small fraction of students. On the other hand, I have speculated that a complementary effect of the same factors may be to make the social and "self fulfillment" functions of mass education much more important. Education always and everywhere has served the politically and economically dominant needs of society, be they the perpetuation of religion, oral history, craft, art, or military skills, or relatively lately, the imparting of "basic" knowledge. Social skills have always been an important component. The development of universal education was probably driven at least as much by the need of industrialized societies for well-behaved workers as by any real requirements for technical training or the desire of the populace to be informed. Thank goodness, the purely disciplinary role of schools seems to be in decline, but the need for inculcation of prosocial attitudes and behaviors is at least as great in our fluid mass culture as it was when social control was lodged more securely in small communities and families.

As the industrial and office life of recent centuries is transmuted into the service and recreational life of the next, the demand for personal adjustment skills, interpersonal relations skills, group and societal process knowledge, shared cultural knowledge and experience (replacing the socializing influence of clan and family) will probably become much stronger. Individuals will need and want to learn such things in pursuit of their own happiness, and societies will need citizens so educated to preserve domestic and international tranquility. These needs will grow as people spend fewer hours in relatively lonely and closely supervised activities on assembly lines and in front of terminals (this is predicated on the assumption that the current growth of individual terminal work will be transitory). Nor should we underestimate or denigrate the likely increase in the future role of schools, or what replaces them, as recreational or "cultural" institutions, in which children spend time safely and happily under adult supervision, places where the individual "life of the mind" can be nurtured, but also places where social contacts are made and the social "business" of life is carried out.

Thus, oddly enough, at least one view of the probable effect of increasing technological power, and an increasingly technological society, is that daily living, and education as its reflection, will eventually become less technical and more social in its goals and content. This suggests that an exclusive or dominant concern in educational research and development on intellectual problemsolving skills or on scientific and technical knowledge might be a mistake. Although these will probably be in great demand over the next few decades, by 2020 the "humane," "social," and "cultural" aspects of education may be in greater need of cultivation.


REFERENCES

Furnas G. W. ( 1985, April 15-18). Experience with an adaptive indexing scheme. Human Facton in Computer Systems, CHI'83 Proceedings, 131-135.

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