On April 8, 1997, my wife, Sadie, and I left Chico in our Volkswagen camper for a 10,000 mile, forty-six day cross-country trip, returning to Chico May 24. This institution invests in all of us, and a sabbatical should be beneficial for all: it was rewarding for me, and the information I gathered will be incorporated into my classes and has already been shared with some campus colleagues. I believe in the words of the 1933 Nobel Laureate Erwin Schrödinger (1887-1961):
"...it seems plain and self-evident, yet it needs to be said: the isolated knowledge obtained by a group of specialists [or an individual researcher] in a narrow field has in itself no value whatsoever, but only in its synthesis with all the rest of knowledge and only inasmuch as it really contributes in this synthesis something toward answering the demand `who are we?'" (Cited by Harold J. Morowitz, 1979, The Wine of Life and Other Essays on Societies, Energy & Living Things , page 171.)
I visited twenty-six institutions that use various educational technologies, and, while California State University, Chico, is a leader in certain areas, there are other institutions that are also outstanding: Virginia Tech (Blacksburg) has some exceptional facilities; and, although I visited Fort Hays State University the day after the Wildcats defeated them in baseball, this did not deter various gracious individuals from showing me their outstanding high-tech facilities. Other institutions using cyberspace for education and training for students, staff, and faculty that I visited included the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, the University of Maryland at College Park, and the University of Wyoming, Laramie. Education will change as a result of new and developing technologies, and we all should be aware of the potential benefits (and problems) of various delivery systems. It is dangerous to concentrate all resources on a single educational mode, yet we should consider the following:
"Colleges will not, of course, disappear--but over time they will be dramatically altered in nature as students and professors adopt cyberspace as their primary window into the laboratory of life. The distinctions between academic and applied research will become blurred as academic and commercial researchers begin to tap into the same sources of information and exchange in cyberspace." (David B. Whittle, 1997, Cyberspace: The Human Dimension, page 217.)
"Dramatically altered" is definitely the operative term when it comes to institutions of higher education as we approach the twenty-first century.
Additional places visited included Cahokia, in Collinsville, Illinois. The archaeological remains of this impressive city, built by Native Americans between 800 A.D. and 1300 A.D. had a population of 20,000 at its zenith. Our highlight was a climb to the top of "Monks Mound," 100 feet tall and 790 feet by 1037 feet at its base. In comparison, Butte Hall (while also 100 feet tall) is only 150 feet by 89 feet. We visited the Foxwoods Casino and Resort of the Mashantucket Pequot Nation in Connecticut: with almost 300,000 square feet of "gaming space" and 55,000 visitors a day, it is the world's largest casino. Finally, in Tennessee, we went to the Rhea County Courthouse, location of the Scopes Trial of 1925. We trod the steps that Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan walked, and it was quite an experience, especially after participating in Theatre Arts Professor Randy Wonzong's 1996 production of Inherit The Wind at Chico.
The sabbatical was a positive experience. Although cyberspace may allow one to travel electronically almost all over the planet, there is no substitute for on-site fieldwork.