What Is in the Pipeline? Really! Part 1

By Abram, Stephen | Multimedia & Internet@Schools, September-October 2009 | Go to article overview

What Is in the Pipeline? Really! Part 1


Abram, Stephen, Multimedia & Internet@Schools


MY wife, Stephanie, will be teaching grade four again next year. In a career spanning 30 years, she has taught every grade from fourth through 13th and has written her fair share of textbooks, books, curricula, and websites. She caught me off guard by telling me that all of the students who will be in her class this September were born in the year 2000. I suppose most people who work with kids would have known this, but the date just caught me by surprise.

All things being equal, these kids will graduate high school in 2018 and university in 2022; they will start their careers or postgraduate studies in 2023. If the average age of retirement remains 65, they'll likely retire in 2065!

So I asked myself, what's in the pipeline for them in the next 10 or 20 years? Like them, I was 10 years old once--but that was in 1964. At that time, I could not have imagined the changes I've lived through. In 1964, I was still amazed by color TV!

One of the great knowledge management prognosticators, Professor Nick Bontis at McMaster University, has pointed out that people are overwhelmed by information. My parents grew up in the 1930s, when the amount of all the information that existed in the world doubled every 30 years. By the 1970s, when I was at university, this rate had shrunk to every 7 years. Bontis says that by the year 2010, all the information that exists in the world will be doubling in size every 11 hours. It is not unlikely that the corpus of information that our little learners in grade four today will encounter as adults will be doubling in minutes. That likelihood should provide pause for every educator. What is their world going to look like, and what are the skills, aptitudes, and competencies we need to be facilitating, teaching, and encouraging?

Here, in Part 1 of a two-part series, are some thoughts on where things are and where they're headed.

IS WEB 2.0 NORMAL ALREADY?

I'd say that the answer to that question is yes. Most governmental institutions are moving quickly to adopt the Web 2.0 environments. OK, in reality, and sadly, some schools are lagging. And they're damaging students' progress by doing so. Now more than ever school and public libraries must promote the role they play in the fabric of society. As government services and communications go increasingly more web-based, the role of the public library as a point of contact for all, especially those in the digital divide, needs to be clearly known. The American Library Association is there for everyone again by its creation of an issue brief ("U.S. Public Libraries and E-Government Services"; www.ala.org/ ala/aboutala/offices/ors/plftas/IssuesBrief-Egov.pdf) that discusses the trend toward egovernment and the need for libraries to create a bridge between users and their governments. Schools create citizens.

It was great to see the recent improvements to U.S. government policy in adopting Web 2.0 technologies. The General Services Administration (GSA) has negotiated terms of service agreements with such Web 2.0 providers as MySpace, Blist, Slideshare, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo, blip.tv, and AddThis allowing federal agencies to use the services (http://fcw.com/ articles/2009/04/29/gsa-new-media-agreements.aspx). Agencies that want the services can sign on to the agreement, which is effective now. GSA officials said the agreements resolve legal concerns and conditions that pose problems for federal agencies, such as copyright, liability, endorsements, advertising, freedom of information, and governing law. I am sure more will follow since the basic agreements are now templated.

I was also heartened to see that the U.S. Army (www.wired.com/dangerroom/2009/06/ army-ordersbasesstop-blocking-twitter-facebook-flickr) has ordered its network managers to give soldiers access to social media sites such as Facebook, Flickr, and Twitter. That move reverses a years-long trend of blocking the Web 2. …

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