Technology Makes Choice Inevitable

By Kinnaman, Daniel E. | Technology & Learning, January 1994 | Go to article overview

Technology Makes Choice Inevitable


Kinnaman, Daniel E., Technology & Learning


No matter which way you lean politically, it's time to recognize that technology breeds new choices in education.

Guess what? George Orwell was wrong. Technology is the foe, not the friend, of bureaucratic central control. And that has a lot to do with choice, and equity, in education.

Political battles and the inertia of the education system will affect education choice, but choice is inevitable. There are reasons for this, but they all involve the theme that technology empowers individuals.

Processing Power

The "big brother" future works only if all the processing power is controlled centrally. Thanks to microprocessors, miniaturization, and fiber-optics, it can't be. Distributed processing power is the order of the day, with supercomputing power already on the desktop, and quickly migrating to pocket-size devices and systems for the home.

Super-powered personal computers mean that individuals own the processing power, which translates into choice and empowerment. The development of a data super-highway won't change things. Look at the Internet. It isn't millions of computers connected to a massive data bank; it's millions of individuals connected to each other and to thousands of independent data banks.

The Invisible School House

Distributed processing power confronts education with a major challenge--how to move away from the school-house as the place for education.

Schools have functioned as centralized depositories of teaching and learning resources, but individual processing power and low-cost access to worldwide information networks change that. In short, technology makes education location-independent. It is no longer necessary for students and their teachers physically to travel to the same location for schooling to take place.

Technology makes it possible for students to learn from distributed locations without sacrificing interaction or collaboration. In fact, technology-based curriculum options, such as National Geographic Kids Network, already make it possible to construct new and richer contexts for learning than are possible in the traditional classroom.

The Age of Customization

All of this plays well with futurist Alvin Toffler's claim in a recent interview with Wired magazine that we are "witnessing the demassification of mass society. …

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