Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

The Future of Computers and Learning

Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

The Future of Computers and Learning

Article excerpt

This paper, like the others in this issue, is intended to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Technological Horizons in Education Journal. It focuses on the future of computers in education. My desire is to consider all levels of education, because I regard the problems to be similar from young childhood to lifelong learning. Thus I am not considering only schools and universities.

I start with a brief discussion of the present problems of education, independent of computers. It is important to examine this problem before considering solutions. Then I look quickly at the problems of current computer usage in learning modes. Then I ask how computers could lead to major improvements in learning. The directions proposed are unlike the approaches popular today.

CURRENT PROBLEMS OF EDUCATION

It seems reasonable to begin a discussion of the future of computers in education with considerations of the current problems of education. Then we can direct our use of technology to improve education. I do not mean to imply that there would be universal agreement on these problems, or that this list is exhaustive; but these serious problems deserve careful preliminary consideration in restructuring our educational systems. They are worldwide problems that affect all levels of education.

I begin with what I regard as the root of many of the grand problems of today: the problem of population. The number of people on earth is growing rapidly with no sign that we will be able to stop this growth. Indeed, many powerful people and groups encourage this growth. Educators often do not see this as an educational problem, but I believe this view to be wrong.

World Population: The Grand Problem

At the beginning of this century, the population of the earth, after thousands of years of development of civilization, reached one billion people. At the beginning of the new century we will have about six billion people on earth, and this number continues to grow rapidly--presently at ninety million people per year. A scenario from the United Nations gives the world population in 2150 as 694 billion, based on current growth rates in the different parts of the world.[1] This is very unlikely, but it shows the serious nature of the problem.

I regard this rapid growth of population as the root problem on earth today, not just for learning but for many other aspects of modern society. Attempts to control population in countries such as China and India have met with only partial success. In most of the world there is only an inadequate attempt at population control.

A rapidly growing population means that with today's methods of learning many people will receive no or inferior education. Schools and other educational institutions cannot handle, in their present mode, even in highly developed countries, the ever increasing numbers of students, and they change only slowly. Very few of the people on earth receive an adequate education even today.

How has our education system changed as population has increased? Unfortunately, it has changed little in this century, in spite of the six-fold increase in population. Classes have grown, particularly at the college level. But the educational materials have varied only slightly, and our major learning problems remain unchanged.

Universal Education

Increasing population is not the only problem contributing to greater numbers to be educated. A greater percentage of this growing populace needs education. This is partly because of the rise of democratic states, and partly because our society changes rapidly. We also have rising expectations for schools, assigning new tasks.

We increasingly see education as a critical component of democratic society. For intelligent decisions in democratic society we need an educated population. Furthermore, we increasingly see the need for lifelong education. …

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