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Planning, Forecasting, and Inventing Your Computers-in-Education Future 

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Preface

Planning, Forecasting, and Inventing Your Computers-in-Education Future

Great deeds are usually wrought
at great risks. (Herodotus)

It would be a “great deed” to substantially improve our educational system. I strongly believe that our education system can be a lot better than it currently is. Indeed, I predict that during the next two decades we will substantially improve our educational system. In this book, I enlist your help in making this prediction come true.

This book is mainly designed for preservice and inservice teachers and other educators. If you fall into this category, you will find that this book focuses on your possible futures of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in education. It has two major goals:

  1. To help you make and implement some ICT-related decisions that will likely prove very important to you during your professional career in education.
  2. To increase your productivity and effectiveness as you work to improve the quality of education being received by your students.

A second audience for this book is people (stakeholder groups) that represent schools, school districts, and other educational organizations. This book is designed to help such audiences carry out long-range strategic planning for ICT in their organizations. The goal is to help improve the productivity and effectiveness of our education system as it works to improve the quality of education of the students it serves.

Formal school-based educational systems have existed for more than 5,000 years. During this time the goals of education have changed to meet the changing needs of our societies. Many of the changes have been driven by changes in technology and science.

For example, the development of reading, writing, and arithmetic by the Sumerians a little more than 5,000 years ago led to the development of schools and formal schooling (Vajda, 2001). Gutenberg’s development of the movable type printing press about 550 years ago began to open up the possibility of the general population receiving sufficient formal education so that they could effectively use the three Rs (Printing Press, n.d.). The Industrial Age that began a little more than 200 years ago prompted a large increase in public school education in Great Britain and later throughout the rest of the world.

You know that at the current time science and technology are moving at an unprecedented pace. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is one of the most rapidly changing areas of technology. Over the past several decades, capabilities of ICT hardware systems (computer speed, primary memory size, storage capacity, bandwidth) have been doubling every 1.5 to 2 years. Current estimates are that this rapid pace of change will continue for at least another 15 years or so.

Notice how we have “slipped in” a forecast or prediction for the future. Suppose that this forecast proves to be accurate. Then today’s toddlers will reach adulthood in a world where ICT systems are perhaps 100 to 1,000 times as powerful as they are today. What might this suggest we should be doing during the years of formal education these students will be receiving? Will schools be the same 15 to 20 years from now as they are now?

It is easy to make forecasts or predictions about the future. However, it is not so easy to make predictions that are backed by careful analysis of current situations, trends, an understanding of change processes, and so on.

Here is a quote from one of the leading gurus of business management during the past half century:

Renowned management consultant and author Peter Drucker says: “Thirty years from now the big university campuses will be relics. Universities won't survive. It's as large a change as when we first got the printed book. Do you realize that the cost of higher education has risen as fast as the cost of health care? ... Such totally uncontrollable expenditures, without any visible improvement in either the content or the quality of education, means that the system is rapidly becoming untenable. Higher education is in deep crisis... Already we are beginning to deliver more lectures and classes off campus via satellite or two-way video at a fraction of the cost. The college won't survive as a residential institution.” (Forbes 10 Mar 97)

Notice the 1997 date on this prediction. If you have been paying attention to higher education in the past half dozen years, you will have seen a number of things going on that are consistent with this forecast. The most obvious change that is going on is Distance Learning, with more and more higher education opportunities being made available through this teaching and learning environment. But there are other important changes going on, such as higher education students now making more use of the Web than “traditional” libraries as an information source, and most college students both owning and regularly using a microcomputer. In addition, most institutions of higher education are facing steadily growing financial problems and there is steadily growing competition for students and grant funding.

What do you think might happen in precollege education during the next couple of decades? ICT has proven to be an aid to solving problems in every academic discipline. It is obvious that ICT is a powerful aid to helping to accomplish a wide range of educational goals. Moreover, ICT has created new challenges or goals in our educational system, such as that of providing students with appropriate education in this new field.

Whether you like it or not, your professional career in education is being affected by ICT, and the affect will grow over time. You can view the rapid growth in the education-related capabilities of ICT as providing you with both major challenges and major opportunities. In either case, you can think about doing some planning for what now exists and what will exist.

This book is about forecasting and inventing your personal future in the field of Computers and Information Technology (ICT) in PreK-12 education and in teacher education. In this book, the word “your” covers the reader and any organization that the reader happens to be involved with. This book will help you to plan for some of the ICT aspects of your future as a professional educator.

David Moursund
Winter 2004