ONE ANTHROPOLOGIST LOOKS AT THE FUTURE OF
EDUCATION AND TECHNOLOGY

Dr. Charles F. Urbanowicz
Professor of Anthropology
California State University, Chico
Chico, California 95929-0400
PHONE: 530-898-6220
FAX: 530-898-6824
http://www.csuchico.edu/~curban/

e-mail: curbanowicz@csuchico.edu

[This page printed from: http://www.csuchico.edu/~curban/FApril30-98.html]

30 April 1998[1]

INTRODUCTION
CUMULATIVE NATURE OF LIFE
INFORMATION OVERLOAD
EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY AND PEOPLE: PART I
EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY AND PEOPLE: PART II
TECHNOLOGICAL CAVEAT
CONCLUSIONS

INTRODUCTION:

"When you ferret out something for yourself, piecing the clues together unaided, it remains for the rest of your life in some way truer than facts you are merely taught, and freer from onslaughts of doubt." (Colin Fletcher, 1968, The Man Who Walked Through Time, page 109)

 

CUMULATIVE NATURE OF LIFE:

I present a brief snippet from the 1971 film Why Man Creates [BF408 W59, Campus sixteen-millimeter film # 12280 or #12726, or a 1970 Videocassette: BF408 W592 1970]. I truly appreciated the words of C.C. Carter, recently selected as the 1997 California State University, Chico, Employee of the Year when he stated: "How you think about who you are right now has everything to do with what will happen to you in the future" (C.C. Carter, Chico Enterprise-Record, May 16, 1997, page 12A) and what we know and think right now determines our individual futures. We are the result of all of our living-to-date and we are products of our time; as James Burke wrote in his outstanding 1985 publication entitled The Day The Universe Changed:

"You are what you know. ...Today we live according to the latest version of how the universe functions. This view affects our behaviour and thought, just as previous versions affected those who lived with them. ...At any time in the past, people have held a view of the way the universe works which was for them similarly definitive, whether it was based on myths or research. And at any time, that view they held was sooner or later altered by changes in the body of knowledge" [stress added]. (James Burke, 1985, The Day The Universe Changed, page 9)

In addition to being "what we know" I should also like to make the statement that "we are also what we don't know!" Our ignorance and our biases and our lack of knowledge also contribute to making us who we are at any given point in time!

In the Spring of 1997, after extensive on-campus WWW research, my wife and I began (and eventually completed) a 10,000 mile-cross country sabbatical trip and visited 26 institutions in the United States of America that were using various forms of educational technology in their classrooms. In the 28 July 1997 sabbatical report submitted to the Provost (Urbanowicz on Cyberspace: A Sabbatical Report), and in the original sabbatical proposal of 1994, I incorporated the following words of Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980) and I still stand by them:

"The speed of information movement in the global village means that every human action or event involves everybody in the village in the consequences of every event [if they wish to or if they can take part]. The new human settlement in terms of the contracted global village has to take into account the new factor of [potential] total involvement of each of us in the lives and actions of all. In the age of electricity and automation, the globe becomes a community of continuous learning, a single campus in which everybody irrespective of age, is involved in learning a living [stress added]." (Marshall McLuhan, 1969, Counterblast, page 41)

Higher education, and all education (public, private, industrial, and corporate), is changing and the various current electronic technologies are the latest attempt to convey information to the latest group of students; we must always remember, however, to place things into perspective. We should remember that while hindsight is 20-20, foresight (or "predicting" the future) is a 50-50 chance: history provides us with a 1942 statement attributed to Thomas J. Watson, Chairman of the Board of IBM: "I think there is a world market for about five computers." (In Christopher Cerf and Victor Navasky, 1984, The Experts Speak: The Definitive Compendium of Authoritative Misinformation, page 208).

In order to continue placing today into perspective and make some "guesses" about the future of education and technology, slightly more than 20 years ago the "personal computer" appeared with the introduction of the first Apple Macintosh, then the Commodore PET computer came along, and then the Tandy/Radio Shack TRS-80. Twenty-one years ago, however, in 1977, Ken Olson, President of the Digital Equipment Corporation (or DEC) stated "There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in their home" (In Christopher Cerf and Victor Navasky, 1984, The Experts Speak: The Definitive Compendium of Authoritative Misinformation, page 208). In 1995, a survey was conducted by the Electronic Industries Association which reported that personal computers were in 40 percent of American households, computers with CD-ROMs were in 19 percent of American households, and cordless telephones were in 59 percent of American households. Television penetration was at the 98 percent level. (In Peter F. Eder, 1997, The Emerging Interactive Society, The Futurist, Vol. 31, No. 3, pages 43-46).

"On April 1, 1997, 69.3 mil[lion] Americans (26%) were under 18 years old" and they will be entering, or are already in, the school system (The World Almanac and Book of Facts, 1998 edition, 1997, page 376). Late in 1996, Raymond Smith (Chairman and CEO of the Bell Atlantic Corporation) was asked the following question: "What would you tell a young person--let's say a 12-year-old-about education?" and his response was as follows:

"Number one, get a computer immediately. You are already five years behind if you don't have a computer and are not online. It's absolutely vital, and if it isn't second nature to you, like riding a bicycle, by the time you are 15, you are going to live below your potential in this country. If you are not on the computer by the age of eight, you will be tremendously disadvantaged. This is the new core competency, an absolute requirement. And as distance learning, faster computers, faster networks and online commerce come about, this competency will become even more important [stress added]" (Educom Review, November/December 1996, page 16)

 

INFORMATION OVERLOAD:

Neil Postman, an exceptionally astute observer of our times, made an interesting point in 1992 when he wrote the following:

"From millions of sources all over the globe, through every possible channel and medium--light waves, airwaves, ticker tapes, computer banks, telephone wires, television cables, satellites, printing presses--information pours in. ... Like the Sorcerer's Apprentice, we are awash in information. ... We are a culture consuming itself with information, and many of us do not even wonder how to control the process. We proceed under the assumption that information is our friend, believing that cultures [or individuals!] may suffer grievously from a lack of information, which, of course, they do. It is only now beginning to be understood that cultures [and individuals!] may also suffer grievously from information glut, information without meaning, information without control mechanisms [stress added]" (Neil Postman, 1992, Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology, pages 69-70)

We must all learn how to choose and discriminate between various information sources (critical thinking is not a one-semester course but an on-going process) and in an earlier 1985 publication entitled Amusing Ourselves To Death: Public Discourse In The Age of Show Business, Postman pointed out the following:

"I bring this all up because what my book is about is how our own tribe is undergoing a vast and trembling shift from the magic of writing to the magic of electronics [stress added] (Neil Postman, 1985, Amusing Ourselves To Death: Public Discourse In The Age of Show Business, page 13)

Just as K-12 schools will change so will institutions of higher education change and as cited in the sabbatical report:

"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 [stress added]." (David B. Whittle, 1997, Cyberspace: The Human Dimension, page 217)

"Dramatic" changes will come about because the very environment of the next ten-to-twenty years will be radically altered as a result of the electronic revolution upon us. Although I remain positive, please consider the 1996 words of Winn Schwartau, a cyberspace expert:

"Colleges and universities will be replaced with a higher educational database that provides personally tailored interactive instruction and testing [stress added]." Winn Schwartau, 1996, Information Warfare: Cyberterrorism: Protecting Your Personal Security in the Electronic Age (NY: Thunder's Mouth Press), page 660.

All of education is changing and College and Universities must be prepared to change, including 24-hour computer laboratories and multimedia classrooms and totally "wired" dormitories. For information on K-12 school on the World Wide Web please see http://web66.coled.umn.edu/ and for information on 100 wired universities please see http://www3.zdnet.com/yil/content/college/100colleges.html. (The May 1998 printed version of Yahoo! Internet Life had 1998 rankings and at the time this paper/presentation was being completed, this was not yet on the web; however, by going to Yahoo (http://www.zdnet.com/yil/), eventually, you should be able to find the 1998 ratings. In this case, the "printed word" was faster than the CyberWord!)

 

EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY AND PEOPLE: PART I

Universities must change because K-12 education is changing: in 1997 some 9,565 Senior High Schools in this country had network connections, up from 1,736 network connections in 1992 (The World Almanac and Book of Facts, 1995 edition, page 221; 1997 edition, page 251; and 1998 edition, page 217). The same network "growth rate" is evident for the Elementary Schools and Junior High Schools over the same time period and MODEM-usage and CD-ROM usage in K-12 schools is also (understandably) increasing. In an interesting chapter entitled "American Higher Education at the Dawn of a New Millennium" (In John S. Brubacher and Willis Rudy's 1997 publication entitled Higher Education in Transition: A History of American Colleges and Universities, pages 412-422), the authors cite the 1989 words of the then President of Harvard University, Derek Bok on page 416: "media are mere vehicles that deliver instruction but do not influence student achievement any more than the truck that delivers our groceries causes changes in our nutrition" (citing The Christian Science Monitor, February 17, 1989, page 13). While that may have been true in 1989, the "truck" that delivers information to our K-12 schools has greatly changed and the media are now well beyond "mere vehicles" and the "diet" of K-12 education and information that our potential students receive via television and the World Wide Web (and higher education) has changed and is constantly changing.

Please note that I am well aware of some of the inequities in the educational systems of this nation as pointed out in a very recent USA Today item:

'NEVADA. Las Vegas--Parents of Adcock Elementary want to know why their children are reading from science books that were issued in [19]'63. Page 94 includes a passage that says, 'During your lifetime, man will probably land on the moon.' School officials say the textbooks are old [!!!!], but what counts is the curriculum being taught." (USA Today, April 24, 1998, page 15A)

This, perhaps, is why there is such an interest in home-schooling in this nation! (Human beings have already been to the moon: July 20, 1969, to be exact.) Incidentally, less we mock elementary school officials for their view of the world (the "curriculum" saves all) let us look to "higher education" and the recent Carnegie Foundation report dealing with 125 Ph.D.-granting research institutions in this country. Although I have yet to read the study, it has been the source of several recent articles including USA Today ("Undergrads Neglected, Report Says" by Mary Beth Marklein, page 1) as well as an editorial in the Chico Enterprise-Record of April 27, 1998, page 4B: the phrase "tenured drones who deliver set lectures from yellowed notes" has apparently been an eye-catcher to several readers of the volume, including the statement that these "tenured drones" make "no effort to engage the bored minds of the students in front of them." Although I am tenured, hopefully I am not viewed as a "drone" by my students and colleagues; perhaps a "worker" (or pollinating) bee could be more appropriate!

Another recent article in The San Francisco Chronicle of April 23, 1998, dealt with a particular major university (the University of California, Berkeley), and described the "Hayward Fault" that runs west of San Francisco, from Hayward, through Berkeley, to Oakland, and then to San Pablo Bay and what would happen when a major earthquake occurs. The fault runs directly under the University of California, Berkeley's 75,000 seat Memorial Stadium and when an earthquake strikes, there would be obvious problems (to both UCB and the entire State of California) ("Quaking at Berkeley" by Charles Burress, pages A19 and A24). To quote the article:

"Next to the loss of life, the fear that grips the campus in the event of a major quake is a shutdown of many, if not most, university operations for a year or more. This could lead to a drop in enrollment - or worse [!], the probable flight of many of the top researechers and professors who are the main reason for UC Berkeley's academic excellence [stress added!]" (Page A24)

Enrollment would "drop!" My-my!! Faculty would leave: my-my-my! One must simply wonder what the other institutions of higher education, middle education, and "lower" (?) education would do should that quake strike?! Not to mention the rest of the State of California, the entire West Coast, and the United States of America!

Incidentally, perhaps other institution of higher education in this country also should be showing some signs of chagrin to the citizens of their states; on April 16, 1998, USA Today had an lengthy editorial statement (page 14A) which pointed out that "Tuition at four-year public institutions [in this country] has risen over the past three decades as the school year has shrunk." Their research, based on data collected by the National Association of Scholars, revealed that in 1964, there were 191 school days at four-year public institutions and in 1993 there were but 156 schools days, a decline 35 days (or 18 percent) while "inflated-adjusted" tuition has more than doubled! "The result: Students and their families are paying more for less."

Returning once again to issues of "higher education" and only the State of California, one could read page one of the San Francisco Chronicle of April 28, 1998, the following words:

"In the past 25 years, the proportion of part-time instructors has doubled to more than 40 percent of college faculty. ... In California, 65 percent of community college teachers and 43 percent of California State University's faculty work part time. The University of California does not track part-time teachers per se..." ("Part-Time College Instructors Find Job Full-Time Struggle" by Pamela Burdman, San Francisco Chronicle, April 28, 1998, page A1-A9)

And what will the "new" information technology do to this situation?!

If I seem to use "newspapers" quite-a-bit, especially USA Today, it is because that according to the most recent figures, USA Today has the second highest circulation in this country: 1,591,629; this is only exceeded by The Wall Street Journal with a circulation of 1,783,532. The New York Times comes in a distance third with 1,071,120 and The Los Angeles Times has a circulation of 1,029,073. (The World Almanac And Book Of Facts 1998, page 256) How this might all be changed, as users become more comfortable with the World Wide Web (and such sites as http://crayon.net/ for "Create Your Own Newspaper" AND http://webcrawler.com/WCGuide/news/world_newspapers/ for "Other newspapers around the world" is yet to be seen. Even the Chico Enterprise-Record is on the World Wide Web: http://www.chicoer.com/

Perhaps a major earthquake (or other natural disaster) would really encourage more "home schooling" or private schools in the state and note that a Sacramento Bee article of December 29, 1997 pointed out that there are some 4,000 private schools in California who are "capturing a constant 10 percent of the mainstream kindergarten through 12th grade population" and are definitely a "growth industry" ("Private Schools on the Rise" by Jon Engellenner, page A1 and A10) and these are the children who, hopefully (along with children in regular K-12 classrooms), will know that human beings have already been to the moon! Don Tapscott published an extremely interesting book this year that I think should be read by all who are interested in children, technology, and the future: Growing Up Digital: The Rise of the Net Generation. Tapscott introduces the term N-Gen to describe the children of the digital age (that we hope will choose Chico State as their institution of choice) and one can also get information on the "Net Generation" on the WWW at http://www.growingupdigital.com.

In February 1997, The Wall Street Journal provided an interesting perspective on our near future:

"A population burst unlike any since the heyday of the baby boom has entered the American system. And although its members are still children, their impact on business and society is already immense. ... The annual number of U.S. births started rising around 1980, ending the baby-bust years. In each of the years from 1989 to 1993, U.S. births exceeded four million for the first time since the early 1960s. Today there are roughly 57 million American under age 15--and more than 20 million in the peak years between four and eight. ... 'Technologically, this generation is going to make the Gen-Xers look like fuddy-duddies,' says Frank Gevorsky, a 41-year-old social historian at the Discovery Institute,a Seattle think tank. He predicts that within five years, members of Generation Y will be producing term papers with full motion video. 'They're on fast-forward,' he says. Generation Y was born into a world so different from the one their parents entered that they could be on different planets" [stress added]." (Melinda Beck, 1997, Next Population Bulges Shows Its Might. The Wall Street Journal, February 3, 1997, pages B1 + B2, page B1)

Perhaps this is why an anthropologist is so interested in technology: individuals, or children, from "different planets!" What an opportunity for cross-cultural research! And the video games that children (and young adults are playing with today are something else): Minoru Arakawa, of Nintendo of America, made a statement which appeared in USA Today on June 23, 1997; discussing the activities of Nintendo, which began in the old days of 1979, the following question and answer appeared:

"Q: How do those older games from the '80s compare with games for the current system, the Nintendo 64? Arakawa: It's like a university compared with elementary school. The graphics are so much better. The sound is much better. Everything is much better [stress added] ("Nintendo Plans Zelda 64 For Next Big Play" by Mike Snider, USA Today, June 23, 1997, page 10B)

"Everything is much better" and this is what our future (and current) students expect (and will expect) when it comes to educational delivery systems; and please remember: this is the environment where the "new faculty" of the future will be coming from, into the K-12 and university classrooms. The faculty-of-the-future will expect to have classrooms that are thoroughly up-to-date and wired with the latest technologies.

The distinguished anthropologist, Gregory Bateson (1904-1980), once wrote the "unit of survival [or adaptation I add] is organism plus environment" [stress added] (Steps To An Ecology of Mind, 1972, page 483) and I strongly argue that if we, as individuals (and as an institution) are to survive we must (a) be aware of and (b) adapt to the ever-changing electronic world around us by applying all of the most appropriate technologies to the classroom situation, be it lecture-discussion, laboratory work, computer interaction, or.... We must be open-minded and we must continue to adapt or we shall perish. As Charles Darwin (1809-1882) once wrote, borrowing from Herbert Spencer (1820-1903), the eminent sociologist of the time, there is such a thing as "survival of the fittest" and as an anthropologist looking at the future of education and technology, I find (and often see) an organic (and clearly Darwinian) metaphor applied to technology and computers: "From Pong to pow: Video game evolution" (by Kevin Maney, USA Today, April 23, 1998, page 4B), or the "evidence of a pattern of predatory behavior by Microsoft toward what would emerge as a major rival ("Microsoft Subject of New Antitrust Probe" by John R. Wilke, The Wall Street Journal, April 24, 1998, page A2), as well as:

"What is a Digital_Nervous_System? Today, how your company manages information may be the one factor that determines its failure or success--or runaway success. Of course, how well you manage information depends on the technology you use. ... A Digital_Nervous_System. It's how information becomes intelligence." (Paid advertisement in Time, March 9, 1998, pages 50-51)

And finally, for now:

"We can't guess what kinds of dialogues will evolve among humans and machines in the next century. But it's certain that we'll all soon be spending a lot more time chatting with computers [stress added]." ("Let's Talk" by Neil Gross, Paul C. Judge, and Otis Port, Business Week, February 23, 1998, pages 60-72, page 72)

Clearly Darwinian ideas are active at the end of the 20th century in education and technology and for an interesting analysis of "Darwin & Cyberspace" please see "Charles Darwin in Cyberspace: Electronic Evolution and Technology" by Kevin Weherly, 1996, Chico Anthropological Society Papers, pages 43-53 and available at http://www.csuchico.edu/anth/CASP/Weherley_K.html. I shall end this section with this (rather lengthy) 1998 summary on evolution (and the future?):

"A few billion years ago, the Earth was a big sterlie rock covered with puddles of chemical soup. ... The first steps in the story of evolution took a billion years. The next step - nervous systems and brains - took a few hundred million years. The next steps, including the development of language, took less than a million years. And the most recent steps seem to be taking only a few decades. The process is feeding on itself and becoming autocatalytic."

"And now we are beginning to depend on computers to help us evolve new computers that let us produce things of much greater complexity. Yet we don't quite understand the process - it's getting ahead of us. We're now using programs to make much faster computers so the process can run muich faster. That's what so confusing - technologies are feeding back on themselves; we're taking off. We're at that point analagous to when single-celled organisms were turning into multicelled organisms. We are amoebas and we can't fugure out what the hell this thing is that we're creating."

"I cannot believe that we are at the end of this story - we are not evolution's ultimate product. There's something coming after us, and I imagine it is something wonderful. But we may never be able to comprehend it, any more than a caterpillar can comprehend turning into a butterfly [stress added]." (Danny Hills, 1998, "The Big Picture" in Wired, January, Vol. 6.01, page 38)

 

EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY AND PEOPLE: PART II

"We used to educate farmers to be farmers, factory workers to be factory workers, teachers to be teachers, men to be men, women to be women.' The future demands 'renaissance people. You can't be productive in the information age if you don't know how to talk to a diverse population, use a computer, understand a world view instead of a parochial view, write, speak [stress added].'" (In Byrd L. Jones and Robert W. Maloy, 1996, Schools For An Information Age: Reconstructing Foundations For learning And Teaching, page 15)

I work with the philosophical position that education should be "fun" and we must be sure to include "play" time when learning about the new technologies (in the classroom or the institutional office situation) we all need the chance to experiment and take risks in a "safe" environment and this is a point I made in a paper with Ms. Kathy Fernandes, in September 1996 on this campus (http://www.csuchico.edu/~curban/TLPatCELT.html). From play can come perfection (as well as the all-important serendipitous discovery) and children, and adults of all ages, are playing more-and-more on the web, both in school and out-of-school.

In June of 1996, a proposal was made for something called CHICO-L (which would be an automatic message-delivery system to interested educational subscribers). A check of WEB66 in June 1996 revealed that for California alone there were 142 Elementary Schools on the WWW, 199 Secondary Schools on the WWW, and 59 School Districts on the WWW. An experimental CHICO-L began in February of 1998 and at that time Web66 revealed that 360 Elementary Schools in California were on the web, as well as 434 Secondary Schools and there were 115 California School Districts on the WWW (and 42 Educational Organizations and 5 sites listed as resources). A check of WEB66 in April 1998 for California Schools revealed that there are now 410 Elementary Schools on the web, 471 Secondary Schools as well as 123 School Districts, 39 Educational Organizations, and 5 sites listed as resources on the WWW, representing a 262 percent increase in just about two years, decidedly better than the American stock market over the same period of time! The World Wide Web is surely with us and more and more individuals of all ages are becoming web-literate.

 

TECHNOLOGICAL CAVEAT:

Note that even though I am an advocate of using the latest technology in the classroom I am well aware of some of the excellent points made by Clifford Stoll in his 1995 publication entitled Silicon Snake Oil: Second Thoughts On The Information Superhighway and his following words:

"Today, however, the bargains are on paper, not on disk. Don't believe me? Spend seventy dollars on an atlas at your bookstore. While you're paging through it, notice its precise colors and logical layout. Now think of the hundred dollars you've saved by avoiding those map-making CD-ROMS, with cruder resolution and no topography. Twenty years from now, you'll still read that atlas and dream of faraway places; the software will be long since obsolete and unusable [stress added] (Clifford Stoll, 1995, Silicon Snake Oil: Second Thoughts On The Information Highway, pages 140-141)

Stoll's words came home with a vengeance this month in a Business Week article on April 20, 1998, entitled "From Digits to Dust: Surprise-Computerized Data Can Decay Before You Know It" and the following was pointed out:

"...at Pennsylvania State University, all but 14 of some 3,000 computer files containing student records and school history are no longer accessible because of missing or outmoded software. ... The Information Age is creating a digital dilemma. ... Under less-than-optimal storage conditions, digital tapes and disks, including CD-ROMS and optical drives, might deteriorate about as fast as newsprint--in 5 to 10 years [stress added]. (Marcia Stepanek, April 20, 1998, pages 128-130, page 128).

Please don't dispose of your books yet! And others are "questioning" the technology of today (and tomorrow):

"DOES TECHNOLOGY REALLY MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THE SCHOOLS? Linda Roberts, the director of Office of Educational Technology in the Department of Education, says there needs to be a serious effort to do research that will help determine whether computers and the Internet improve student achievement. "It's critical. It's important to collect baseline data and to deliberately track performance... School districts will be called to task for 'What are you doing with your money and what difference does it make?'" (New York Times 27 Apr 98) [from EDUPAGE of 28 April 1998 and see the "publications section" of http://www.educom.edu/]

Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947) once remarked that "it is the business of the future to be dangerous" and perhaps even more dangerous is trying to predict the future: because we can't predict it! By definition, the future is unknowable or unknown: it is "time that is to be or come hereafter; something that will exist or happen in future time." I do argue, however, that we can possibly invent the future; but we can invent the future only if (#1) we know what the present is all about and only if (#2) we know what the past was like that led up to the present. To repeat an opening phrase: Life is cumulative and although it does take a certain amount of time for "science fact" to catch-up to science fiction, from my limited perspective, it does happen! Please recall that Albert Einstein (1879-1955) is clearly associated with the "Atomic Bomb" and World War II and (perhaps) atomic energy, but consider the fact (or statement) of the (then eminent) sociologist Gustav Le Bon (1841-1931) in 1903:

"...the dissociation of atoms...is, on the contrary, a general property of matter, and consequently is one of the most widely diffused phenomena of nature. ... we are immediately led to look upon the atoms that make up matter as immense reservoirs of energy. ... The man [or woman!] of science who finds the mean of economically liberating the forces that matter contains will almost instantaneously change the face of the world. An illimitable source of energy being gratuitously at the disposal of man, he would not have to procure it by severe labour. The poor would be the equals of the rich, and the social question would no longer be agitated [stress added]." (Gustave Le Bon, 1903, "Intra-Atomic Energy" in Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution 1903 [Washington City 1904], page 263, pages 266-293).

It take time for ideas to develop: there must be the correct "evolutionary stew" of all of the necessary ingredients and perhaps with somewhat "equal access" to the World Wide Web, the "information-poor" of today can possibly be "roughly equal" to the information-rich of today. (And then comes the application of that knowledge but that is an entirely different paper and story!)

 

CONCLUSIONS:

You haven't seen anything yet! The distinguished French pioneer filmmaker Georges Méliès made a film in 1902 entitled a Trip To The Moon (TR858 T75, CSUC sixteen millimeter film #04198) and this particular item made quite an "impact" when it was seen by citizens of the times: today we might say...? And what will the citizens of 100 years from today think of the current "primitive" (from their point of view) WWW and "virtual reality" of today? In 1998, we are at the obvious ending of this century, but at the beginning of this century:

"Technology was changing the publishing business, but far more revolutionary changes were underway creating an entirely new medium for entertainment. Pictures were beginning to move. The film industry was being born - and one genius was pioneering the new opportunity, using science fiction and fantasy. He was Georges Méliès, a Frenchman who turned a scientific curiosity into a cultural influence. In 1902 he wrote, produced and directed the first sf film, Le Voyage de la Lune (A Trip to the Moon), a combination of a [Jules] Verne-launch and a [H.G.] Wells-encounter-with monument. Remarkably, his sixteen-minute effort created the basic structure of such films today. He did others, but by 1905 he was no longer alone in this field [stress added]." (David Kyle, 1976, A Pictorial History of Science Fiction, page 44)

Collectively speaking for the species, we haven't seen anything yet!

As an aside, interestingly enough, I have somewhat returned to my "science fiction" roots with this presentation: in 1973, as a newly-arrived faculty member at CSU, Chico, I made a presentation entitled "Science Fiction" for the Anthropology Forum on November 7 of that year and in 1976, on November 11, also at the Anthropology Forum, I presented "Cultures: Fact or Fiction?" Science fact appears to be moving into the "science fiction" phase again, but perhaps it is difficult to separate one-from-the-other anymore!

Once-upon-a-time (in 1741 to be exact), a fantastic patent was given to the following invention:

"An Artificial Machine or Method for the Impressing or Transcribing of Letters Singly or Progressively one after another, as in Writing, whereby all Writing whatever may be Engrossed in Paper or Parchment so Neat and Exact as not to be distinguished from Print." (David Barton, 1998, "Invention Took Awhile To Leave An Impression" in The Sacramento Bee, April 22, 1998, page G3)

Although the "typewriter" didn't really make it's mark until the first machine was manufactured in 1873, look what that machine did to society; and what lies in the future? A late 1997 report by the Semiconductor Industry Association attempted to predict a mere fifteen years into the future, or 2012:

"For example, the report predicts that chip makers will exhaust conventional lithography, the process of printing circuit designs on silicon wafers, as early as 2006. Right now, the smallest features on chips are 0.25 microns in width, or 1/400th as wide as a human hair. At the current rate of progress, the industry by 2006 will be approaching features that are 0.1 microns wide, beyond the reach of existing lithography tools. ... By 2012, the SIA's experts concluded, manufacturers should be able to put 1.4 billion transistors on a thumbnail-sized microprocessor, which will operate at a speed of 2,700 megahertz. Memory chips will hold as much as 275 billion bits of data. By contrast, Intel's current Pentium II microprocessors have 7.5 million transistors and run at [only!] 300 megahertz, while the most popular memory chips only store about 16 million bits of data [stress added]." (Dean Takahashi, Chip Firms Face Technological Hurdles That May Curb Growth, Report Suggests. The Wall Street Journal, December 1, 1997, page B8)

Speed and the decreasing size of components are two variables to keep in perspective, especially when one places things into all important "context" and consider a Texas Instrument announcement in December 1997 for xerogel bubbles:

"These 'xerogel' bubbles, made from silicon dioxide, are really tiny--a mere 0.001 microns across. You would need 100,000 of the bubbles to span the stump of a human hair. They are small enough to coat circuit lines, which are expected to shrivel to 0.1 microns by 2010, enabling chips to be crammed with 500 million transistors--almost 100 times today's mightiest chips [stress added]" Otis Port, 1997, "The Secret in TI's Chips: Bubbles" in Business Week, December 22, page 79)

What else? Above I mentioned the 0.25 micron-wide items (pluck a piece of your own hair and visualize 1/400th of its width) and these may be compared with plans for "lines so small they border on the ethereal--just 0.08 microns wide" ("Fast, Cheap, And Cutting Edge" by Catherine Arnst, Business Week, March 16, 1998, page 113) What next?!

"An ultrasupercomputer--300 times faster than any existing machine--will be built by IBM.... The ultracomputer is expected to be able to do 3 trillion operations per second and retain 2.5 trillion bytes of memory.... Current supercomputers have about 10 billion bytes [stress added]." (The Chico Enterprise-Record, July 27, 1996, page 1) AND deoxyribose nucleic acid or DNA as computer, with "calculations trillionths of a second, a thousand times faster than the fastest supercomputer [stress added]." (Michael Stroh, 1997, "The Next Frontier: DNA Computers" in The Sacramento Bee, December 23, pages A1 and A14, page A14)

The latest issue of Wired magazine has an interesting article which is most appropriate to quote in trying to get you to think about the relationship between the "present" and the "future" and looking at the "past" and making predictions (and thinking about the here and now). The phrase below deals with the year 1859, a favorite year of mine because not only did Charles Darwin publish the first edition of what is known as Origin, but Adam Bede was published by George Eliot (pseudonym of Mary Ann Evans Cross [1819-1880]), Charles Dickens (1812-1870) puiblished A Tale of Two Cities, John Dewey was born (he was to die in 1952), Washington Irving died (he was born in 1783), the work on the Suez Canal began, Oregon became the 33rd state of the USA, and the Paris Anthropological Society was founded!

""Let's say it's 1859. I come out of the hills of Pennsylvania. I tell you, 'Hey, guess what I just found? I've got this new source of energy. It's oil. And it's going to dramatically lower the cost of energy.' You look at me kind of cockeyed and say, 'Hey, what are you crazy? The coal guys - they've got the railroads, they've got the distribution, they've got the customers.' The last thing I can say to you is, 'Heck, don't worry about it. See all those horses out there crapping in the street? Sixty years from now there's going to be something called automobiles that will burn this stuff and 80 years from now these guys in Delaware will use it to make something called plastics [stress added].'" (David Diamond, 1998, "Building The Future-Proof Telco" in Wired, May 1998, pages 124-126 and 178-183, page 126)

So how do you "predict" the future? You don't! You invent it!! And you learn to live with the changes that are happening to you (and might be happening to you), and learn to pay attention (adapt!) to the ever-changing environmental situations about you; as Business Week for next week (May 4, 1998), points out:

"Coca-Cola Co. has a bold idea: Why whould the price of a can of Coke be the same all the time? Would people pay more for a cola fix on a sweltering summer day than they would on a cold, rainy one? The beverage giant may soon find out when it begins experimenting with 'smart' vending machines that hook up to Coke's internal computer network, letting the company monitor inventory in distant locales--and change prices on the fly. ... Behind this sweeping change is the wiring of the economy [stress added]." ("Good-Bye to Fixed Pricing" by Heather Green, Business Week, May 4, 1998, pages 71-84, page 71).

What do we mere mortals do with all of this computational speed (and informational overload) and technological changes which will surely be upon us? (Want a COKE? Want to purchase anything via the WWW and be constantly "tracked" or "pinged" along the way? For information on the "wired economy" please see the recent United States Department of Commerce report on the digital economy at http://www.ecommerce.gov/emerging.htm.) We learn to live with it, or we perish: survival of the fittest!

One of the clearest indications of the "digital economy" is evident when we look at the California economy: "A booming tech market and stock option culture has helped swell the ranks of Silicon Valley millionaires by 45,000 since 1994, to 186,511 in 1996" ("My Jet Is Bigger Than Your Jet" by Amy Cortese, 1997, Business Week, August 25, page 126). This 414.46 percent increase in California millionaires in a two-year period is but one indication of the EXPANDING digital economy; the immense PROFITS to be made by some will ensure continual growth and change and, yes, "survival of the fittest."

I suggest that we all read printed materials and "surf" the World Wide Web widely and gather as much information as possible and (#1) weigh the information and (#2) make rationale, intelligent, and appropriate choices about how technology may be incorporated into individual classroom situations. All of life is cumulative and we must strike a balance in all that is done.

In the classroom situation (be it K-12 or university-level), (I predict or guess) that educational technologies will not make an impact until every-single-instructor is (#1) up-to-speed with the latest appropriate technologies (and it will happen as those new faculty at all grade levels enter teaching: see the words of Minoru Arakawa above) and (#2) every-single-classroom is set up for all of the latest available technologies, including computers for instructional purposes (with CD-ROMs), Internet access while in the classroom, and as many computers as possible for as many students as possible in the classroom (and perhaps mandatory computers for all students: standard equipment!). Long-range planning, and making the proper allocation of time, is essential for all educational purposes (as well as an awareness of what is happening at other similar institutions at the same time). A strong-support staff for faculty to work with as colleagues is also essential for the future success of higher education and technology in the classroom. An attitude of "we work together" or "I work with them" must be fostered over the "they work for me" attitude. As the late Harlen Adams (1904-1997) was wont to say: "The most important word in the English language is attitude. Love and hate, work and play, hope and fear, our attitudinal response to all these situations, impresses me as being the guide."

My colleague and friend Dr. Claire Farrer made a presentation last week at this very Anthropology Forum entitled "Crayons, Kaleidoscopes, and Ethnographic Fieldwork" and she inspired me to think about "kaleidoscopes" as "screen-savers-for-the mind!" Just as a contemporary computer screen saver gets a machine to "relax" (or the user of the machine to relax), so can a kaleidoscope relax the user and refresh one to go on to different things in the process through life; and the World Wide Web is an example of making serendipitous "connections" and moving around in cyberspace, going from one place to another on the journey that is life.

I stress the need to acknowledge diversity in the world, and the World Wide Web is certainly a "diverse" artifact; and this diversity must be brought into, and appreciated in, the classroom. It is probably true that not every-single-class is appropriate for the new technologies nor will every-single-faculty member be able to adapt to the changing environment around us at California State University, Chico. As pointed out on March 19, 1997 (Chico Enterprise-Record, page 6A), and as I cited in an on-campus workshop in August 1997:

"...universities have a special obligation to respect a diversity of ideas and Chico State's position [is] that new technologies should be used intelligently to enhance student learning and that it is the right and responsibility of each faculty member to determine how best to create a positive learning environment for their students [stress added]."

In the classroom of tomorrow, tomorrow will bring....?

My personal guess on the "future of education and technology" is that it is, in a true Darwinian sense, still evolving. One day, by working with others in a collaborative teamwork environment, we hope to create a Charles Darwin CD-ROM that will "explain" Darwin and evolution to the techno-cyber-savy generation. "Ideas" (and interpretations) concerning technology (and Darwin) continue to evolve over time and there is quite a bit of "folklore" concerning Darwin and the efficacy of certain technologies in a University setting! The translated (or paraphrased) words of the Greek orator Demosthenes (384-322 B.C.) should always be kept in mind by all of us: "Nothing is more easy than to deceive one's self, as our affections are subtle persuaders" or, in yet another translation: "Nothing is easier than self-deceit. For what each man [or individual] wishes, than he [or she] also believes to be true."

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1. © Today's Anthropology Forum is an updated version of an off-campus presentaion on 5 January 1998 under the title of "Twenty-Five/Twenty/Five, or, Hindsight Is Always Somewhat 'Perfect' (But Perhaps We Can invent The Future!" (available at http://www.csuchico.edu/~curban/Jan'98_Millennium_Paper.html). Today's presentation also draws upon some ideas and data presented in an earlier paper (with Ms. Kathy Fernandes) presented at the Second Annual CELT [Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching] Conference on this campus on 20 September 1996 (available at http://www.csuchico.edu/~curban/TLPatCELT.html). Further information about the Spring 1997 sabbatical research may be found by going to http://www.csuchico.edu/~curban/Gaming/GAMING_Nov'97.html (which was a presentation on 9 November 1997 at the Meeting of the Northern California Geographical Society, Chico). To return to the beginning of this paper, please click here.


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