Monday, January 21, 2013

My Predictions for the Not Too Distant Future

     In the early 80s when my career shifted sharply to computers, I made a number of predictions. Some of these were recorded in my monthly newsletter, Microcomputer Update for the School Environment (MUSE). One of these has already arrived: the proliferation of hand-held computing. Today these are called smart phones. Another prediction was the application of computer technology to the diagnosis of disease. This is in process, and has a long way to go to reached maturity. I believe that much health monitoring and diagnosis will become automated. Blood work will be done by computers much more rapidly, efficiently and inexpensively. Ray Kurtzweiler, author of The Singularity is Near, even believes that tiny implants will monitor our health status continuously.
Below I have listed my current predictions:
(1) Libraries will be loaning books via the Internet where they will be read on e-readers like the Kindle. The actual buildings will be used mainly as community centers as humans will always have a need to interact. Magazines, periodicals, and newspapers will be delivered electronically to e-readers, TVs, and computers. Many trees will be spared!
(2) Computerized instruction via the Internet will replace many classroom bound courses. Instruction will be monitored by frequent quizzes designed to assess learning rather than impose grades. Advancing to the next unit will occur when mastery occurs. This concept is not new, it used to be called computer-aided instruction (CAI).
(3) Robots will take over many domestic and industrial tasks. This trend is well underway. Many jobs will become obsolete as workers are replaced by robots that work continuously and efficiently. The new human work force must be technically skilled to maintain, repair, and improve the robots.
(4) The social and economic ramifications of technology will be considerable. The need for menial labor will decrease. The need for highly skilled, technical labor will grow enormously.
(5) There is a danger that society can become so reliant on technology as to become complacent.Each generation must strive to preserve and apply the knowledge needed to maintain our high level of technological development.
(6) Technology will create more leisure time as fewer workers will be needed in manufacturing, education, finance, medicine, the judicial system, transportation, and agriculture.
(7) The need for entertainment (theater, sports, hobbies, etc.) will grow as society seeks new ways to occupy its time. Participation in sports will grow as a means of providing an outlet for the need to accomplish, especially to those who have lost the opportunity to be productive.
(8) A three-tier economic system will emerge: (a) those who have the ability to maintain our level of current technology now and in the future will have the highest priority and income, (b) individuals responsible for organizing and implementing leisure activities for the masses whose jobs have been replaced by technology will have the second highest income; included here are entertainers and sports figures, (c) the "non-working class" will receive monetary support similar to social security. They will have the most time to devote to leisure activities. They will be offered many opportunities to pursue sports and hobbies on the local, and state levels. Some will graduate to the national level where they will enjoy higher economic rewards. The boundaries between these tiers will not be rigid as individuals will be encouraged to improve their status through education and skill development.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Electronic Library is on the Horizon

I believe libraries are in for a monumental change – a transition that has already started. I first talked about this change nineteen years ago in my newsletter, MUSE. Now, the advent of e-books has allowed the loaning or selling of books over the internet to be read on electronic devices (e-readers, tablets, laptops and desktops.) This technology has many advantages:

1.Books can be read on light-weight devices (e-readers or tablets). An enormous number of books can be saved on one e-reader; students will no longer have to lug around heavy books.

2.The size of text on e-readers can be changed instantaneously to accommodate the vision of the reader.

3.Optional, lighted displays allow many e-readers to be read under all lighting conditions.

4.The reader may have the option of listening (text-to-speech.)

5.Definition of any word can be accessed instantly; no need for dictionaries.

6.Many devices allow for animation to supplement textbooks.

7.Revisions/updates of textbooks can be delivered electronically – no more replacing worn out or out-of-date books.

8.Electronic storage of all literature and audio/visual media in a minimal amount of space negates the need for physical storage - no need to use space to stock shelves.

9.Fast retrieval of any book or other media at any time over the internet or local area network.

10.Library research can be done rapidly over the internet at any time from any place. Accessing cross-references is immediate.

11.Space occupied by school libraries can be used for additional classrooms or multipurpose rooms. Public library buildings will be used as meeting places for town activities and offices.

12.Schools can realize significant budgetary reductions over time due to lower prices of all texts, more space availability, and reduction in staff.

Sales of e-readers have risen dramatically (Nook, Kindle and others.) Many public libraries have started loaning books via the internet. The efficiencies and economies of electronic libraries are too real to ignore. It is only a matter of time that K-12 schools and colleges will follow suit.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Some Thoughts and Trends on the Integration of Technology into Education
I have taught computers/software (Windows and Mac OS) at the K-12, college, and corporate levels. Earlier, I was a science/math teacher in grades 7-9. I served as the computer coordinator in a public school system in the 80's and 90's. I am currently retired, but continue to keep abreast of trends in technology.
What follows are my observations and recommendations regarding technology integration into schools. Also, included are my predictions on how technology will impact education now and in years to come:

1. The three primary uses of technology in education are: (1) a tool to facilitate student research and writing, (2) an instructional delivery system for students and faculty, and (3) as a records storage and management system for teachers and administrators.

2. Generally, the younger the teacher or administrator the more open they will be to technology integration.

3. Full technology integration into K-12 education will occur ultimately over time as younger teachers and administrators enter the workforce. Having grown up in the Information Age, they will be thoroughly familiar with computers and will advocate their use in education.

4. Teachers should expect and not be intimidated by students whose facility with technology exceeds their own.

5. Integration of technology is more likely to succeed where the board of education and administration are firmly supportive.

6. Schools and colleges should seek the least costly purchase of hardware and software that will meet the goals of their technology plan. Budgetary constraints can be a major deterrent to integration. Costs can be reduced substantially when:
a. the bidding is open to all providers of hardware.
b. schools use fast-speed internet and the cloud in place of expensive,
hard-wired local area networks (LAN's)
c. on-line instruction for certain courses is implemented
d. electronic libraries and e-books are implemented (see #10 below)
e. most record keeping and office procedures are performed
Regrettably, 6c, 6d, and 6e could result in savings due to reductions in staff.

7. Teachers should have input in deciding the kind of instructional software they would like to use. Some of these programs can be developed at the local level and be designed to correlate with the school's curriculum objectives. Publishers of software should never be the primary drivers of curricula.

8. All students should have access to technology for reading, writing, and research while at school and at home. Schools should loan computers to students who do not have them.

9. Courses consisting of on-line instruction (usually supported by seminars) will increase over the years, especially at the high school and college levels. This will allow more students to meet graduation requirements at their own pace. Motivated students could graduate from high school or college in less than four years.

10.Eventually, libraries will become completely electronic: loaning books and textbooks as downloads to student computers (tablets, laptops, or desktops.) They will also dispense on-line learning. The use of physical books will decline resulting in substantial reductions in costs. Textbooks will be updated continuously via the internet rather than being replaced periodically. Electronic libraries will require much less space.

11. Instructional software should utilize the principles of programmed learning where possible and be available at school and at home. These programs would evaluate student progress continuously.

12. Feedback is the mother of progress: All teachers should have access to a classroom management system that tracks student attendance and academic progress. These systems should automatically calculate a student's progress as each mark is entered. Students and parents will be kept informed of progress continuously via the internet rather than periodically with report cards as is often the current practice.

13. Professional staff should realize that technology is progressing at a rapid pace and that upgrading of our skills is ongoing and necessary.