Magazine article Technology & Learning

Familiar Themes

Magazine article Technology & Learning

Familiar Themes

Article excerpt

Five years ago I wrote my first Leadership Role column for Technology & Learning. This will be my last. Here then, from five years of columns about how to get the most educationally from technology, are five of my favorite themes.

1 Technological advance is relentless and incredible. When I wrote my first column:

* Apple 11 computers accounted for more than half of the computers used in classrooms.

* Fewer than three percent of all classrooms were connected to the Internet.

* Fewer than half of all schools had a local area network (LAN).

* Barely half of all schools even had a single modem.

* Fewer than 30 percent of the highest rated educational software programs were designed to run on Macintosh computers.

* Compaq had not yet entered the education market.

* Microsoft Windows 95 and the Intel Pentium processor were still just speculation.

2 The evolution of technology is easy to understand and predict. Just because it's rapid doesn't mean that the evolution of technology is difficult to understand. In fact, it can be summarized in two basic premises. The first is that computer power will continue to prove the veracity of Moore's law into the foreseeable future. That is, we can expect it to double every 18 months or so. This makes multimedia a key trend. The second is that communications bandwidth will rapidly become affordable and abundant, making interactive local and wide-area communications cost-effective and commonplace. This highlights networking as a key trend.

3 The convergence of computer and communications technologies spells the end of the one-size-fits-all local franchise model of schooling. The government-sanctioned local franchise model of schooling with one government-approved, taxpayer-funded school system per community) evolved to ensure that every citizen had access to a free public education. But it evolved at a time when centralization was required for economic efficiency.

That's no longer the case. Superpowered personal computers change the means of production (it can now be owned by individuals), and high speed networks change the means of distribution (i.e., moving bits costs almost nothing compared to moving atoms). What this means is that teachers and students can now meet with virtual realism in an almost limitless number of configurations. It doesn't discount the importance of physical neighborhood schools, but empowers them to be far more fluid, responsive, and cost-effective. …

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