Vol. 15 : No. 5
Editor's Note: Dr. Jukes, in a keynote address at the TechEd 2001 Convention, Ontario California, presented this research done by Dr. McCain and himself. The InfoSavvy Group is an extraordinary collection of research futurists, with visions of educational and institutional change that are unique, insightful and exciting
Gutenberg to Gates
Jukes & Ted McCain
As Gutenberg's printing press ignited the Renaissance, computers, the Internet and networking are igniting the Digital Renaissance, which will have a profound curricular and pedagogical effect on the near and distant future of education. This will happen whether schools, as institutions, embrace it or not because kids, teachers and parents will be accessing the Internet from home, at night, outside of the purview of the school. They, rather than our traditions, will ultimately influence the direction of the school and its curriculum.
What happens when the people outside of education who are building information infrastructures catch vision of the immense power of new technologies to deliver instructional goods to the DotCom generation? What will education look like as we make a major shift in the who, what, when, where, why and how of teaching and learning which will be a direct result of the arrival of the Internet? This presentation asks participants to reconsider education as we move from Gutenberg to Gates and beyond.
The Low of Unanticipated Consequences
From time to time, someone invents a product with an unforeseen and massive impact on society. This has been true since the Chinese pounded linen to make paper, and unwittingly provided the mass means for disseminating and storing knowledge. This was also true a thousand years later when a Benedictine monk created the mechanical clock to regulate the hours of prayer, and accidentally paved the way for regulation of industrial production.
Then five and a half centuries ago, a German goldsmith and Gutenberg invented the printing press. Who would have predicted the impact of the printing press, which was initially devoted to publishing the Bible? Who could envision that it would someday be seen as a force undermining church authority? Who could have imagined that books, once owned by the few and treasured as symbols of wealth and power, would one day be accessible to the mosses? Who could have seen its ripple effect - the creation of a system of public schools that were organized primarily for the purpose of teaching children to read in order to help students absorb the knowledge that books contained?
The power of Gutenberg's press came from the information access it provided. This began the process of making religious information available to the masses. As Francis Bacon said, knowledge is power. Access to information eventually disintermediated the religious leaders of the Catholic Church.
What is disintermediation?
New technologies permit direct access to the source of information, services, or goods. Gutenberg's press allowed direct access for the masses to information that was contained in the Bible and other scholarly works. This was a highly disruptive technology, because it meant that church leaders were no longer the only means for access to the Word of God. In providing access, Gutenberg's press eventually disintermediated the church leaders.
For the masses Gutenberg's press gave the power to the people, and in doing so, turned the medieval world upside down, one caveat is that this technology took time (300 years) to have a pervasive impact. But in time, it fundamentally changed the relationship between the producer (the Church) and the consumer (the masses). This led to the Reformation and certainly contributed to the Renaissance.
And now it's happening again!
We are living in extraordinary times. The modern world is being turned completely upside down before our very eyes. This has primarily to do with the implications of with the appearance of microelectronics into our world. Microelectronics has led to the world of Gates. His meteoric rise in success simply typifies the astounding shift that is occurring today. The electronic phenomenon of the last 20 years has matured very quickly into an on-line revolution that has fundamentally changed our world. But there is a huge difference between what happened in Gutenberg's time and this time around because it is all happening in fast forward. We're now dealing with an accelerated rate of change - change that is happening not only quickly but also pervasively. In fact, things are happening so quickly that it's hard to understand what's going on or even recognize all of the implications.
Consider for a moment that the microelectronics explosion only happened 30 years ago -that the desktop computer only appeared 20 years ago - that the World Wide Web really only arrived about six years ago - or that wireless is just now appearing!
Even the rate of change is changing. We are beginning to see a major shift in the way that change occurs. We're shifting from incremental to exponential change. This holds profound implications for all of us.
If we are to deal with the profound changes we are experiencing in our lives, we need to stand back and take a longer view of things by considering what's really happening and how we can deal with its effects.
Understanding incremental change
Consider for a moment the nature of linear growth. When things grow in a linear fashion, the growth is very predictable. If something were growing in a linear fashion, by a factor of one every 18 months, the linear progression would be 1-2-3-4-5-6. . Over 15 years this means that something would be 10 times as big, 10 times as fast. 10 times as powerful...
Understanding exponential doubling
Now consider linear growth versus exponential doubling. If something were doubling in size exponentially every 18 months, the exponential progression would be 1-2-4-8-16-32... Over 15 years, this means that something would be 1000 times as big, 1000 times as fast, 1000 times as powerful ... an amazing amount of growth, a larger and larger amount of this happens as the power of the doubling kicked in.
Now consider linear growth versus exponential tripling. If something were tripling in size exponentially every 18 months, the exponential progression would be 1-3-9-27-81-243. Over 15 years, this means that something would be almost 20,000 times as big, 20,000 times as fast, 20,000 times as powerful ... and once again, a larger and larger amount of this happens as the power of the tripling kicked in.
Why is this important?
Exponential growth just hints of things to come. Consider some of the exponential growth patterns in our world. Consider Moore's Law, which states that technological processing power and speed doubles every 18 months. Consider Gilder's Law of the Photon, which states that bandwidth speed and capacity triples every 12 months. Consider the growth of the Internet, where the amount of traffic is currently estimated to triple every 12 months. And finally, consider what futurist George Gilder calls the Age of InfoWhelm. He estimates that the amount of unique new raw data is doubling every 18 months and projects that it will be doubling every 2 weeks within a few short years.
Exponential growth explains why the World Wide Web suddenly exploded into our view -why it fundamentally changed our world overnight- why it caught so many of us off-guard ... It was because the WWW was a development unlike anything we've ever experienced before.
So where are things going?
The exponential nature of our world tells us that we ain't seen nothing yet - that the changes in the next five years will absolutely dwarf the changes of the last 10,000. So how do you plan for environment of accelerating change? We believe that if we are to survive in the culture of the 21st Century, we must attempt to perceive the future from current trends, the biggest of which is technological convergence.
Technological convergence happens when what have previously been separate technologies fuse together to create powerful and unique new devices. What's happening right now is the fusion of four powerful and distinct technologies. These devices are television, interactive real-time communications devices, computers, and networks. This is a fusion that is so powerful that we've been compelled to give it a name ... synercation.
Synercation is the synergy of interactive communication systems. The significance of synercation is that the power of the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Consider the effects of technological convergence. We have the content and presentation of television, the interactivity of communications systems, the processing power and speed of computers, and the global reach of wired and wireless networks. This has created a radical new means of communication. It must be noted that the power of synercation is that it's not just broadcast, it is interactive in nature.
Synercative devices are a disruptive technology - technology that is a great challenge to the status quo. Synercated devices are disrupting the established ways of doing things. They're having a far more pervasive impact than Gutenberg's press, but this impact has been compressed into six years.
It is not an exaggeration to suggest that synercative devices are turning everything in our world upside down, which has led almost overnight to a fundamental change in the way we do business, and changing relationship between the producer and the consumer. Power has shifted from producer to consumer. There are five reasons for the shift:
The real significance of Gutenberg's press was that it provided widespread access to information to the masses. Access to information had real power. Gutenberg's press upset the status quo. In much the same way, synercation has resulted in digital and information services now being readily available to the masses/consumers.
For example, consider the types of services provided by WebMD (www.webmd.com.) There is a growing body of medical information on the Web that comes from credible sites. These sites allow an uneducated person access to information that was previously available only to someone with a postgraduate medical degree. As a result, the power of information is now in the hands of the patient. Since the very latest information on a variety of health issues are widely and readily available to the patient, not just the doctor, this changes the way that doctors deal with their patients.
In the same way, consider mySchwab.com (www.myschwab.com). myschwab.com is a major money management firm (Schwab) which has created an alliance with a new media player (Excite). At the mySchwab.com web site, a subscriber can personalize the information they want to see: my business, my sports, my news, my weather, my travel. And soon, as the model develops, it will also be my bills, my medical records, my favorite music or just about anything else that the consumer desires.
As a result of synercative devices, consumers now have direct access to the source of goods and services: news, books, stocks, banking, businesses, and encyclopedias, disintermediating what had previously been the middleman. Consider for a moment the trading of stocks. Until only a few years ago, you had to be a member of a specialized club known as brokers to buy and sell stocks. Not anymore! Synercative devices have allowed the consumer to disintermediate the brokers. And it's the very same for selling cars, houses, insurance... The Web has broken business wide-open and had a disruptive/disintermediative impact upon those businesses amongst many, many others -and this has happened in just six short years.
Consider the way businesses operated in the past. Industrial Age businesses and institutions such as banks, insurance companies, department stores, drug stores and the like placed constraints on consumers by setting the hours/days for access to their services. People whose schedules didn't fit missed out. Today it is very different. Synercation is facilitating access to on demand digital services there available 24/7/365. People don't want a bank; they want access to their money when they want it. People don't want a newspaper; they want access to their information when they want it. They don't want access to stores; they want access to be able to purchase merchandise when they want it... and with the emergence of the WWW and synercative devices, they can now have it whenever/wherever.
Currently the services are still primarily tied to the desktop, but as we become comfortable with the desktop it is about to change radically once again due to the rising power and freedom of wireless services. Consider the service known as Vindigo (www.vindigo.com). Vindigo is a geographical tool and wireless survival guide to New York and several other cities in the U.S. Using a hand-held device such as a Pilot; consumers are able to access the latest information services, movie schedules, restaurants menus, theater reviews, and travel directions that they need. All are accessed and automatically updated daily and wirelessly through the use of a technology known as hot synching.
For most of us, this is a stealth trend. The availability of such devices and services really hasn't reached the personal radar of most people. This is primarily because the power and potential of wireless technology has been vastly underestimated. But not for long. A recent report in Time magazine suggests that wireless access to the Internet will pass desktop access to the Internet by the end of 2002. When we look at today's technology and services, as clunky and hokey as they may now appear, we must understand that they just hint of amazing things to come because of the nature of exponential growth. Things will happen much faster and more pervasively than any of us could ever expect. And for us as consumers, the bottom line will mean anytime, anywhere access to digital services.
The goal of technology is the transparent use of the device, where the main focus is on the task, not just a tool. Consider a pen. The only time we ever think about a pen is when it doesn't work properly or we can't find it. Once we have become pen literate, most of us are completely engaged with the task not the tool. Now consider where we are with new technologies. How do we communicate with new technologies? Up to now, this has mainly been through text output. We have communicated primarily by means of keyboard or mouse input. Being keyboard and mouse literate is critical. Being keyboard and mouse illiterate is a major obstacle to the easy use of technologies. That's because keyboarding is an unnatural act. For many, it's hard to learn to keyboard quickly and accurately. The natural means of communication is through speaking, listening and viewing, not typing and reading. Today, this is particularly a problem because more than 75 percent of the World Wide Web is a text-based. We must get beyond this focus on text-based environments if technology is going to be used by more people. There is hope...
I am writing this handout using a piece of software from IBM known as ViaVoice. ViaVoice is voice recognition software. After a short training period, I am now able to speak through a microphone directly to my computer at 100 to 150 words a minute and with more than 95% accuracy. While this technology is still very new and not perfect by any means (consider the difference between "recognize speech" and "wreck a nice beach") it is maturing quickly, and is now appearing in new devices.
Consider as an example the new DoCoMo 3G celleputer (www.ntt.com). This device has high-speed wireless access to World Wide Web and e-maiI. At the same time, the device can be used to download money from an ATM in the form of e-cash or to upload e-cash to your child's version of the device. In the near future, it will also be able to be used to purchase items from a store, a pop machines, or publisher. But this same device also has a digital camera and a projection unit built in. It's able to hold video clips and e-books - to capture and play MP3 music downloaded from the Web, and to recognize speech. This latter feature will allow us to move from e-mail to voice-email. How long will it be before it will translate our words into Japanese, Spanish, or French? This is the type of technology that we have been referring to. Technologies that allow for natural communication and make us all like Captain Kirk.
Next, consider Ananova (www.ananova.com). Ananova is BBC's virtual newscaster - a digital personality, who reads the news on request, while speaking with inflection and using gestures. With many of our TV anchors now getting on, imagine the notion of a virtual presence, perennially young and ready to read the news whenever you are.
Although this technology is still new, consider the effects of exponential growth will have on such services and imagine where this will go. Meanwhile, Sprint is developing its own version of Ananova, known as Chase Walker. Also a virtual presence, Chase Walker exemplifies some of the elements of artificial intelligence, interactively answering your questions and chatting with you. While it's admittedly clunky now, you can't just see it for what it is today. In an age of exponential growth, you must try to visualize where this might lead tomorrow and to consider what implications such technologies might have for you personally and professional.
Today the multimedia revolution allows us to listen and view. We are on the cusp of adding interactive video, which will allow truly natural multimedia based communication. This development alone will bring a revolution to all of us. But, this is just the beginning. The problem for us is that it may be difficult to imagine or to accept that this might be in our future. But for our children, charter members of the Millennium Generation, understanding and integrating these technologies into their lives is a natural act because these devices are part of their native language. We are about to break the communications barrier.
Henry Ford said you could have an automobile in any color you want as long as it's black. In those times, whose comfort was it anyway? In the industrial world, producers, publishers, and broadcasters set the agenda and timelines. The mindset of mass production was that one size fits all, even if it didn't do that very well. Now synercated technologies are facilitating mass customization. Mass customization allows the product or service to be customized to the specific needs of each customer. You can have your car with whatever features, upholstery, or point that you want. You can have clothes custom made to your body, not some %%average" figure. You can progress through material at you own pace. You can link information together in any way that you want. You can follow you own cognitive links and learn when, where and how you learn best. As David Thornburg says these new technologies " allow people to move through conceptual space at the speed of light, and the speed of thought. "
Mass customization and new personal comfort allow us to get outside the traditional box of thinking about the possibilities. We don't have to conform to someone else's preconceived ideas of the order in which to process information, or how long it should take to understand something. But in order for this to happen, comfort with technology is critical. You can't overestimate the power of this aspect of synercation.
A profound shift is taking place. It used to be power was in the hands of the producer. Now that power has shifted to the hands of the consumer. As an example, consider publishing. In the old days the publishers controlled the sources of information, the photographs, what was reported, where it was reported, and how it was reported. The consumer was not actively involved in this process - the consumer was largely expected to adjust to the whims of the publisher. If breaking news happened after the newspaper had been set, or if a game went past the deadline, it was too bad - you just had to wait until the next day to get the details.
Now, primarily because of the growing power of technology, the information is available anytime, anywhere for anyone. The power has shifted from the publisher to the consumer.
Just like Gutenberg press, this is once again upsetting the status quo. We now have a brave new world with brand new rules that are challenging the traditional assumptions about the established ways of doing things. As a result of this shifting landscape, many are bewildered, many are bankrupt, and many more are benefiting. But what implications do these developments have for education?
Instruction will not be exempt
Synercation meets learning. These new developments are already having a profound impact on learning outside of formal education. Kids and working people alike are already comfortable with on-line learning, despite the fact that the on-line world remains largely text and graphics based, and despite the fact that it is further limited by existing bandwidth. In spite of this, increasingly people don't wait to be given the information. Increasingly if they need it, they'll use new technologies to find it.
Considering the future of education
How do we do our jobs? Why are we successful? What gives us our edge? It's our ability to communicate. It's our ability to interact. Until now, there has been no serious alternative to what we do and how we do it. But that's about to change. Let's consider how the five aspects of synercation will impact learning ...
Synercated devices provide opportunities for new experiences. Learners can access information from more than one source and from more than one perspective. Reality can be augmented by access to virtual experiences and virtual expertise. Consider for a moment how many elementary students are hindered by a teacher who doesn't have a strong science background. And then consider the growing wealth of information available on the World Wide Web. Learners can access things that augment the classroom experience. But it won't stop there ...
While these new ways of doing things are powerful in and of themselves, exponential change tells us that much more will arrive very soon. New technologies will allow us to have truly interactive on-line multimedia learning experiences complete with the power to follow cognitive links. As an aside, when I was a child, I had my knuckles rapped by Miss Jones, my classroom teacher, because I had the audacity to read page 58 while the rest of the class was only on page 56 - I got it doubly hard because I had skipped page 57.
Today if someone was to tell me that I had to wait to find out, I would simply go out and find it for myself. For today's learners, it doesn't really matter where or who they get from as long as they get. Whether it's from the Internet, a chat line, or some other digital service they will find out what they need, when they need it. As new technologies continue to grow in power, access to new on-line experiences will redefine instructional delivery.
Consider for a moment the barriers to learning. How many of you know a student who couldn't or wouldn't attend school because they were having a bad hair day, they couldn't find the right clothes, were dealing with personal issues or were upset about their complexion. Complete freedom means being able to learn wherever you are. This includes learning a home, learning in the community, learning in the workplace, learning while traveling - all the while connected through your own wireless, tiny, pocket technology. Complete freedom means the ability to learn any time. Some of you may notice that teenagers occasionally like to stay up late at night and would prefer to sleep until noon. Yet, we continue to have early-morning classes, many of which contain students who were there in body but certainly not in mind. Synercative learning allows for learning when it is best for the learner. Whether this is at 3:00 p.m. or 3:00 a.m., it really doesn't matter.
Transparent communication allows for natural input. For students, using these new technologies is just like us using a pencil. For us, the pencil is transparent. For them the technologies are transparent because they are completely comfortable with them, so using them allows us to engage them in their comfort zone and native language. If truth be known, there are many students who are anxiously waiting for the CD or Web version of school so they don't have to put up with the perceived indignities of life at school.
Beyond this, consider for a moment interactive chat lines. How many of you use them? Oops, wrong group! It's not in or for our world. Now ask your students how many of them use chat lines and are involved in on-line communities. You'll be absolutely shocked at how many are completely comfortable operating within online communities and use those communities when they need assistance or advice.
Should is a powerful and devastating word. Have you ever heard a teacher say, "You should be able to keep up with the rest of class. You should be able to understand this. You should know this."????
Consider math. In many cases, it's not that students can't do the work, it's that they can't do it fast enough to keep up with the teacher, or the class, or the curriculum. In the traditional educational model, time has been the constant and thus learning has become the variable. It's just like a 100-year dash. Not everyone can run 100 yards in under 10 seconds, but given enough time, most people can finish 100 yards, whether they run, walk or wheel, it. The problem with the current educational system is that there is simply not enough flexibility to customize learning to the needs of each individual.
But new synercative technologies can empower individuals to learn at their own pace so that students do not have to be intimidated by the fact that others learn at a quicker rate or seem to know more. Synercation allows the learner to use all of their intelligences to learn information in a different sequence or a different manner than the instructor. As a result, the learner is not constrained by the assumptions or training of the instructor. What's more, learners are able to make links to alternative learning experiences and alternative learning contexts. They can learn at their own rate and wherever they feel most comfortable, whether that happens to be at home, at school, or somewhere else.
In the past, all of the power was with the teacher. They were in control. They brokered the sources of information. They defined where instruction was presented, when it was presented, how it was presented, and how learning was assessed. The learner was not actively involved in this process. The learner was required to follow the lead of the teacher.
But now, we are beginning to see a power shift to the learner, who has direct access to sources of information and instructional services. This shift is leading to the disintermediation of traditional classroom educators/institutions. Increasingly, the learner decides when they want to learn, where it's presented, and how it's presented. The learner becomes actively involved in the process. This is a radical shift in thinking away from of the traditional teacher /learner relationship and educational delivery systems must now increasingly adjust to the consumer
Just Iike with Gutenberg's press, it's happening again. Modern Iif e is changing profoundly and quickly, upsetting the status quo. As a result we now have a brave new world with brand new rules that are challenging the established ways of doing things. There are equally profound implications for learning.
What will learning look like?
There are many questions to consider. Who will provide instructional services in the future? Can schools move quickly enough to catch this wave and not be engulfed? In answering these questions, it's critical that we recognize that the real issue is not technology, but the mindsets that operate behind the technology.
Consider the music industry. Why has Napster been so successful? (For those of you who have been on another planet for the last few years, Napster is the Web based service that allows an individual to search the Internet for a specific song by a specific singer or group, and then download it -at no cost - to a computer) Napster has been successful because it provides enhanced access along with complete freedom as to how the music is presented. No longer must the music be presented in the format provided on the CD. When downloaded to a computer, the music can be burned to a CD or hand-held device, complete with a mixture of performers in a customized song order. All this from the comfort of a living room, office or bedroom. It is this personal empowerment that typifies synercation. Naturally, this development has been a great upset to the established way of doing the music business and a dangerous challenge to the monopoly of the big five music distributors.
So you might ask, why didn't the music distributors see it coming? The reason is that there has been long time stability in the music industry, which led to a well-established mindset for how things got done. This long-standing stability led to resistance to new ideas. How do we know this? Look at the reaction of the music companies. First they ignored Napster. What possible threat could there be from a 19-year-old kid and a simple piece of software? Then, when they were suddenly confronted with the fact that thousands of individuals around the world were sharing and exchanging millions of music files, all at the same time, and without paying the producers, the music industry tried to shut Napster down. As David Thornburg says, they were caught with their paradigms down because didn't grasp the implications of synercation on the music industry. But for the consumer, when they discovered what the technology was capable of doing, they were hooked and the genie was out of the bottle. There was no putting it back in.
For the consumer this distribution model provided too much power, too much freedom, too much access and too much comfort. Any attempts to shut them down will only results in 10 more services being there to take their place.
And that's not all. There's more to this story. Well-established mindsets also lead to opportunities for others who are able to think outside the box. That's where Napster came from.
They simply moved into a gap left by the slow-moving music industry. The key difference was mindset. The developers and promoters of Napster understood the vision of empowerment that came from an understanding of the new technologies and the implications of exponential growth. They understood that they had to move quickly or run the risk of being left behind. In reality, the story of Napster is a drama of a mindset that is playing out right before us.
The clash of mindsets was between those who did not see the future, and thus tried to shut Napster down; and those who understood where things were heading and used Napster to enable the change. Suddenly, the Bertelsen Group (BMG), the third largest music distributor in the world, broke with the rest of the big five and announced that they would use a partnership with Napster to provide online music sales. (Note, this was not done for altruistic reasons. They did it because they understood that kids were willing to pay up to $15 a month for the right to download a wide range of music.) Right now, most people in the music industry think that all this will do is augment the traditional methods of music sales such as CDs.
BMG understands that while this may be the case in the short term, this will inevitably lead in the longer term to a complete and sudden shift in the nature of music distribution. Not replacing distribution, but redefining it, and leading to a digital Renaissance in music distribution. BMG just wants to be there first.
So what? At this point, some might ask what this has to do with education and educators? Let's ask some simple questions about education. Do we have a long-term established mindset about what education looks/should look/will look like? Are we quick to embrace new models of education and technology? Does the slowness of the system provide opportunities for others with different perspectives on how to effectively provide instructional delivery? Will synercated technologies significantly impact our business?
It may be a surprise for some of you to learn that this is already happening. We're already seeing the results of our slowness to respond. Over the course of the past few years, hundreds of interactive, on-line multimedia sources and electronic encyclopedias have appeared. Companies such as Classroom Connect, the Discovery Channel, the Sylvan Learning Network, and CNN (amongst many others) are already providing on-line and virtual learning experiences to learners. Consider that the University of Phoenix, an all but virtual university, is now in 43 states and counting.
There are now estimated to be more than 5000 on-line degrees available from universities and colleges around this nation to learners. Virtually all of them require little or no attendance on campus. Do you think that this figure will go down or up over the next few years?
For people who work at the post secondary level, this development has been very disruptive. Synercative technologies and the services they can provide are seen as a serious threat to the longstanding monopolies that most colleges and universities have traditionally had. For many post secondary institutions, this is seen as a great threat to the status quo. Can K-12 education be far behind? There are many who say that this will never happen because nothing else has been able to move K-12 education out of its traditional roots. But this is only the beginning. Let's consider for a moment where this is heading.
Imagine for a moment...
What if Napster puts K-12 education in its sites? What would happen if we moved to a model of peer-to-peer learning? What would happen if we moved to a model where learners searched on-line for learning resources using a Napster-like service? What would learning look like?
Let's consider for a moment students who comes home with their homework. Imagine that they need help in writing a report, understanding the Declaration of Independence, comprehending osmosis or interpreting the artwork of Picasso, but they don't have immediate access to the expertise of a classroom teacher. Imagine that instead, they log on to a Napster-like service and do a global search for expertise in their desired area from all of the users and resources organized by this service
The search provides a list of free and for-fee sources of instruction from around the world. The student identifies an appropriate resource and downloads or runs an on-demand on-line digital lecture. The student listens, pauses to take notes, replays parts that they don't understand, or jumps back or ahead to increase that understanding. (As an aside the kinds of services that this could provide have profound implications for the voucher debate and it doesn't stop there ... but that's for another day and another time.)
Now let's consider using Ananova as a tutor. How about a student with math homework who needs help understanding trinomial equations. The student calls up an Ananova, an on-line interactive virtual math tutor and asks questions of her. Ananova responds with a detailed explanation complete with facial gestures, and then waits for verbal confirmation from the student that the concepts have been understood before continuing. At the same time, Ananova also provides graphical representations of how trinomial equations are used in the real world, and provides connections on the Web to real life illustrations of work that uses trinomial equations. Is this possible? Not just possible, an absolute certainty.
Are there any implications for educators?
Many people think this will never happen. That change is something that happens to steel workers, to farmers, to automakers - that it will never have any effect on schools. Meanwhile, others believe that this will in due course replace the need for teachers. Now we happen to believe that the most powerful technology in the classroom was, is and will remain a classroom teacher - a teacher with a love of learning, an appreciation of the aesthetic, a deep understanding of how children learn. We further believe that we could put a state of the art piece of technology on the desk of every teacher and student in the country, and if that's all we did, the only thing that would change would be the power bill. But we also believe that any teacher who can be replaced by a computer deserves to be.
Do you find it hard to believe that there may be some who actually think that computers could replace teachers? Have you ever noticed that sometimes decisions are made for other than sound educational reasons - reasons such as profit, politics, or philosophy?
One thing is certain, whatever happens this is an in-your-face technology. In the same way that synercation has changed business in the past six years, the interactive power of synercated technologies will compel us to articulate why kids have to come to school at all. Now there many reasons why students should come to school, but we've always taken the fact that students would always come to school for granted. In doing so, we ignore at our peril the potential of these technologies to first augment and then transform our educational models. Our greatest challenge is to see this as an opportunity and not a threat, because like it or not it's coming at us like a freight train.
The genie is out of the bottle
There is in no putting it back because people thrive on what this kind of technology provides. Synercation shifts the power to the learner, allowing learners to make connections freely and be in control of their learning. Be clear that it is not replacing, but redefining instructional delivery. Ready or not, it will lead to a digital Renaissance in educational services.
So what's your response to this?
You have seen the future. What are you going to do about it? Synercation will have a profound impact on learning whether you like it or not, whether you are ready or not. Will you be the first act upon this knowledge, or will you wake up being only spectators as others pass you by with new and powerful services?
Will you boldly embrace the new services that are disintermediating traditional classroom teachers? Will you catch the vision like BMG has, and embrace strategic partnerships by connecting with those who have content for this new medium? Because if you won't, who will? Will it be Bill Gates, the Discovery Channel, AOL/Time Warner, Classroom Connect ... or someone else?
And if you think that we're crazy, consider the impact of synercation on businesses in the past five years. Education is next. You have a great opportunity to shape the future. Are you up for it?
Change is hard!
Just like with the music industry, this is a drama of mindset. It's a very hard to change the collective mindset of the school system. It's easy to the complete sense of hopelessness.
We understand that change is hard - that change is messy - that change is uncomfortable! Given this, it's very easy to throw up our hands and walk away with a complete sense of overwhelm and hopelessness. How can we overcome this feeling? Let's digress for a moment. Consider the blue whale, the largest mammal on earth. It's the length of 3 Greyhound buses placed end to end, it weighs more than a fully loaded 747, and it has a heart almost the size of a Volkswagen Beetle. A baby blue whale is estimated to gain 60 pounds an hour from birth to one year old. A blue whale is so big that when it decides to turn around, it can take up to 5 to 7 minutes to turn 180 degrees. Now there are a lot of people who draw a strong parallel between blue whales and schools. Both of them seem to take forever to turn around. From this perspective it seems hopeless, doesn't it? But now it's time to shift our mind set. Let's compare a blue whale to a school of sardines that can have the mass of dozens of blue whales. Unlike the whole, a school of sardines can turn almost instantly. How do they do it? Is it ESP? CB radio? The Internet. None of the above. If you take a closer look at this phenomenon, what you notice is that although all of the fish appear to be swimming together, in reality a small number of fish are beginning to swim in a different direction. As they head off on this new course, they cause conflict, friction, and collisions with the other fish. But when a critical mass of herring is reached (not a huge number like 50 percent or 80 percent of the school, but only 15 to 20 percent who are truly committed to the new direction), the rest of the school changes direction and goes with them - almost instantaneously!
If you stop for a moment and consider some of the recent changes in the world, you'll see that huge swings in direction can happen very quickly. Isn't that exactly what happened in North America with respect to our attitudes toward smoking, and drinking and driving? Isn't that exactly what happened in East Germany and the Soviet Union when the communist governments lost their grip? Each of these changes were overnight successes that were years in the making that took a small group of truly committed individuals in order to make it happen. It's no different when we consider the necessary changes to our schools.
About the Authors:
Ian Jukes has been a teacher, an administrator, writer, consultant, university instructor and keynote speaker. As the Director of the InfoSavvy Group, he works extensively with school districts, businesses, community organizations and other institutions to help shape preferred futures. Ian is the creator and co-developer of TechWorks, the internationally acclaimed K-8 technology framework; together with Anita Dosaj was the catalyst behind the NetSavvy and InfoSavvy information literacy series; and is a Contributing Editor for both the Audio Education Journal and Technology and Learning magazine. His two most recently published books are Net.Savvy: Building Information Literacy for the Classroom, co-authored with Anita Dosaj and Bruce Macdonald, and Windows on the Future, co-authored with Ted McCain. Both are published by Corwin Press.
Dr. Ian Jukes can be reached at The InfoSavvy Group; 5142 Robinson Place, Peachland, BC VOH IXI (250) 767-2971 (office) (250) 767-2945 (fax)
Web site: http://www.ianjukes.com
Ted McCain is the Associate Director, Thornburg Center for Professional Development. He worked for several years in the computer industry as a programmer, salesperson, and consultant before entering the teaching profession. He has been a teacher, administrative assistant, and technology consultant. He is currently the Coordinator of Instructional Technology for Maple Ridge Secondary School in Vancouver, B.C. Ted also teaches computer networking, graphic design, and desktop publishing for Okanagan College. He is the author of five books on the future, educational technology, and graphic design.
Contact: Ted McCain, Associate Director. Thornburg Center for Professional Development 26855 -108th Avenue, Maple Ridge, B.C. Canada V2W IP4 (604) 462-8586
Web site: http://www.tcpd.org
© The Infosavvy Group and Cystar, 2001
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