We have, simultaneously with achievement of a new millennium, achieved the digital civilization. In the past two decades, education has been mesmerized by evolving concepts of virtual reality. Virtual reality as a function of algorithmic creativity is now basically synonymous with the digitized world. This world is configured with a strange amorphous topography, ethernets, glass highways, marauding hackers (the pirates of the digitized world), and even a Digital Divide.
As with all civilizations, to bring order out of chaos, vast sums of money are expended. The 2001 Presidential budget proposes two billion, three hundred and eighty million dollars to build bridges across the virtual reality of the Digital Divide: $2 billion in tax incentives, $150 million for teacher training in the new technologies, $100 million to create Community Technology Centers, $50 million for a public/private partnership to expand low-income families¹ home access to computers and the Internet, $45 million to promote innovative applications of information technology for under-served communities; $25 million to accelerate private sector deployment of broadband networks in under-served urban and rural communities; $10 million to prepare Native Americans for careers in Information Technology and other technical fields.
With this comes information from the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES), that Internet access in public schools increased from 35 to 95%, and classroom connections increased from 3 to 63% from 1994 to 1999. Perhaps, in some ways, our Divide may be less deep than we have projected.
As educators, parents, settlers, inhabitants of Digitalville, we have more than a philosophical concern as to the impact of digital configuration on the human community. A study conducted by the Stanford Institute for the Quantitative Study of Society, published February 23, 2000, was based on a sample of 4,113 adults in 2,689 households. The study found evidence that the Internet was allowing the workplace to invade the home. Also, the study found that age differences in Internet usage indicate increased frequency of use with the current younger population. This points to the sharply increased use of the Internet over time.
Norman Nie, a Stanford political scientist and principal investigator of the study, has strongly suggested that the Internet is leading to a new form of social isolation. "There are going to be millions of people with very minimal human interactionWe¹re really in for some things that are potentially great freedoms but frightening in terms of long-term social interaction." Mr. Nie¹s questions the kind of world we will live in when the Internet becomes ubiquitous. The Stanford study was undertaken to provide information to society to "give society a chance to talk through some of these issues before the changes take place."
As educators, caretakers of human, cultural, ethical, social and individual values and who are also deeply involved in the digital world, we do indeed need to explore this dialog and examine with heartfelt clarity,"QUO VADIS?"
Elizabeth and Don Perrin Managing Editors