"The future of our country depends upon making every individual fully realize the obligations and responsibilities of citizenship. Habits are formed in youth...what we need in this country now...is to teach the growing generations to realize that thrift and economy, coupled with industry, are as necessary now as they were in past generations."

Theodore Vail, President
American Telephone & Telegraph Company, 1918

Are You a Teacher?

teachersdeskIf you are a teacher, then no one really has to tell you that the arrival of the Information Age has changed education in a way most human beings would never have been able to imagine – even just a few years ago.

For instance, a whole generation has now sprung up who have never known life without access to an Internet search engine.  The movement to electronic books to help contain and control the astronomical costs of printed textbooks has become of paramount importance to colleges and universities.  And the movement to online education has moved faster than anyone might ever have anticipated, and which has enabled many people to advance themselves through college degrees they’d never have been able to get otherwise.

But what about the plague of plagiarism by students of all ages that has been made so easy and possible by the Internet or by the sales of term papers online for use under another’s name? 

The field of education, in particular, is confronted by many fascinating issues as a resultcomputerapple of the coming of the Information Age.  Our whole mode of learning has altered – hours that used to be spent in libraries doing thoughtful research and analysis is now handled in a split second by interconnected computers.  And the knowledge resources available through the Internet now make serious education accessible in the most remote places in the world.  That’s rather wondrous.

It’s also quite a literal statement.  For instance, when I visited Antarctica – and one certainly can’t go much further than going to the farthest ends of the Earth – I found myself sending e-mails to colleagues about the journey, letting them know first-hand what the experience was like.  And it was possible for me to do online research on the penguins of Antarctica, even while approaching the Antarctic Circle. 

penguinsIf that does not clearly define and depict the degree to which the Information Age has expanded its reach and encompassed the world, it’s hard to imagine what else could!

So with an educational resource like this now in existence, how is the impact of the Information Age and its ramifications being approached by educators? 

Is the educational community seeking exciting new means to educate Citizens, young and old, or is high technology merely becoming the new substitute for lazy teaching like the teachers I once knew who “taught” by filling class time through the daily “application” of a film projector?  Or is it both?

And how are the new tools being taught to students?  Is there a clear distinguishment between the ocean of data now surging about through the many networked connections made possible by the Information Age and that of actual knowledge?  Can students understand the difference between the two? 

And where does truth reside?  When I was young, I was told again and again that just because something was in print did not make it true.  Do young people today understand that “just because something is on the Internet that it is not necessarily true?”

And what has been the impact of the Information Age upon the attention span of human beings who now communicate with “tweets” and who jump about from website to website at a high rate of speed as their mode of information ingestion? 

Indeed, does a website like this one – dedicated to intelligent thought about our movement into the Information Age – contain “too much information” that visitors perhaps no longer have the patience to read? 

The point to be made is this:  When education – at least as we have known it – essentially consists of transferring the knowledge, skills, and habits of a society from one generation to the next, how is education and the application of teaching to be organized in the Information Age in order to have a positive, formative effect on the way new generations think, feel, and act? 

Should we challenge ourselves to consciously work towards creating a new mode of education as our solution, or do we let the evolution of popular culture interacting with high technology lead the way towards new forms of learning and human interaction?

colorfulglobeIn short, what will education mean in a world being pulled closer and closer together through all of the interconnections between computers and information and people around the globe that simply increase in number and in functionality with each passing day? 

If the world becomes one place with a single economy as a result of the Information Age, how will humans relate to one another?  What will be our standards of ethics, morality, common manners, and decent behavior?  How will we maintain our distinctiveness as different peoples and cultures while interacting as a single global society?

In no field are the questions and issues regarding the coming of the Information Age more numerous, with greater impact, or with longer term effect than in the field of education.

So do teachers and professors now believe the Information Age is real?  Do you?  Really?

If so, then what are you doing to make the Information Age your ally?  What are you doing to leverage all the resources now in existence because of a phenomenon like the Internet?  Where, do you think, as a result of your efforts, your students will be going and how will they be living when they leave your classroom and take their place in the world?

Education may well have the most to gain and the most to lose with the coming of the Information Age. 

As we complete the move onto the new technological/economic/social platform for human existence that now cannot be stopped from completion, how are we going to teach ourselves – young and old – the ways to live our lives productively and happily in that new, currently unknown world? 

If that’s not a challenge to think about, then nothing is…



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