THE FUTURE OF HIGHER
(All chapters are intended for continuing revision)
Volume III - Chapter One
(Last updated, May 3. 2008)
LEARNING AND TEACHING: A GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE
The goal of providing education for everyone on the planet was established along with the founding of the United Nations. (1948 Human Rights Declaration.) And emerging technologies now make it possible. Wilber (2007) described how the use of `LiveJournal'--a social networking site--already demonstrates how students and other learners can work together on a global basis on academic and learning projects. They can share and connect their texts that use audio and video, that can link to other websites that become "flexible, dynamic and interactive. They can do so with technology they already use for personal and social reasons. One of three teenagers in technologically advanced countries are already doing so. And this current activity is but a primitive foretaste of what will be available soon and that must be prepared for now.
One crucial issue--in seeking to provide education for all on the planet-- is poverty. How are the poorest to fund their learning? One effort <http://www.wikieducator.org/Main_Page> of the Commonwealth of Learning, with Hewlett foundation help, seeks to provide free textbooks on nearly every subject in every major language. Also, since many do not have the funds to attend international planning conferences, many free-to-all conferences are being developed online, virtual conferences in which planners can participate via e-mail from at home. "Online collaboration," it is asserted, "is the wave of the future'" as serious planning takes place in ways that are open to those who cannot afford other ways to participate. `WikiEducator' is an evolving community for collaboration on the best use of OER (Open End Resources).\developing free courses, establishing a network on securing funds and more.. The `Virtual University of the Small Sates of the Commonwealth' is enlarging to help small and often poor countries strengthen their economies, something that is not possible without more and better education.
As we describe the problems of some learners we probably should describe hundreds of different kinds of learners, but one very profound change is taking place that is going to raise entirely new questions. Oblinger (2005) introduced some of them, as did the issue of Educause that invited some of the new generation of `net learners' to report how current education is failing them.. According to a report of the Organizaion for Economic Cooperation and Development 12% of the world's children 5-9 are at work instead of in school, as are one out of four children aged 10-14,and they may be better prepared to enter a time of `visual literacy' than are older people. (Weber 2007)
The June/July 2007 issue of Innovate discussed the Net Generation and new technological tools. Are assumptions based on generalizations that do not sufficiently address contextual differences from one population to the next? One an article described "use of a Web-based communications tool to promote standards-based instruction, foster reflective practice and focused on mentoring and the development of electronic portfolios to help teacher education interns bridge the gap between their training and their classroom practice.
Planning `learning for all' requires more comprehensive research into individual learners and teachers, their institutions and environmental contexts, as well as the forthcoming transformational technologies. Hinrichs of Microsoft reported in Foreman (2204a) that he has been working with government, universities and industry partners to build a research agenda around learning technologies. The `Learning Federation R and D Roadmap, he reported, was submitted as a bill to the USA congress in an initiative called the Digital Opportunity Investment Trust" <http://thelearningfederation.org>.The hope is that, on the model that created Land Grant universities and the G.I. Bill, spectrum option money might be put back into digital education. (Land grant meant they were given aid in the form of government land. Today that could be replaced with grants of wireless space, since the air should belong to all people.)
In the next chapter we will speak of what existing and forthcoming technology--and larger-scale research--can begin to do for global virtual lifelong learning. But first we look at what individuals need--a new generation in many nations and cultures--and what some of their learning problems are. The `mass assembly line' model of learning must go. We cannot yet here cope with the variety of pedagogies, but we can stress the importance of resolving the andm through research. John-Steiner (2002) pointed out that, as a necessary aspect of human survival, "learning is a profoundly social activity. Her research has found three "different types of learning;" observational, innovative/exploratory and institutional teaching (that is `limited to the confines of the traditional classroom that is narrowly focused and largely verbal.) "How would our understanding of learning be transformed," she asked, "if its purpose were joint discovery and shared knowledge rather than competition and achievement?"
Planners for a global learning system need scientifically-grounded answers, for example, on how the Internet and emerging technologies can help solve learner problems and better meet needs. A plan to provide learning for everyone in the world--rather than just improvising--needs scientifically-grounded experimentation; for example with (3.9) an automatic tutor system on the Web that, among other things, seamlessly includes software to help many learners better cope with their handicaps and learning problems. Most of us have some, so this chapter lists some unique needs.
The fact that very few young people read books much any more (statistics in McLemee 2004) is in part the result of overpowering technologies, such as gaming, and is also a cause for the increasing use of gaming in education. Bartlett (2004) reported that in the USA, students `are becoming more difficult...less respectful and more demanding.' On the other hand, Foster (2004) reported on video games used in political science and health care education. There may be a significant gain for learning in the face that many youngsters today are becoming gifted at multi-tasking, doing many things at once. Nathan' (2005) research exploration of student society found that too many on campus students are so busy, have jobs to pay their bills, are so adolescent in seeking time for fun, and so narrow range in their interests that college level teachers are often terribly frustrated. Learners online may be even busier, with full-time jobs and families.
Twigg (2003) proposed that "we need to individualize student learning and standardize faculty practice." rather than the other way around." That is especially true if Information Technology is used to provide adequate education to everyone in the world at affordable cost. Perlmutter (2004) proposed that a new generation of students who misbehave in college classes need knowledge broken up into packages that their short attention spans can absorb. In this volume, however, we will for discussion, propose far more than that. Perhaps this online book should have started here with a rising generation of people, on every continent, who now must have more adequate and lifelong learning. Alexander (2004) speaks of them as `swarms' of student as wireless devices make them nomadic.
Also there is a continuing worry that injustice; poverty and lack of educational opportunity may breed many new terrorist movements. Already in the world’s poorest nations more than half of the population is between ages 14-28 and this means that there may soon be hundreds of millions of desperate, fatalistic, angry young people--empowered by technology--a ripe ground for the growth of terrorists and other serious problems for the planet. The desires and anger of a coming generation have been fired up by what they see in films and on TV. New kinds of electronic and distance learning for all may be one of the antidotes, but not just any kind of education or current `western’ styles of education.
As planners define and explore possibilities for providing essential basic learning (and essential skills and information) for all, they must define quality in ways that serve individual and social needs. They should focus on the next generations of individual learners, teachers and education planners who are moving into the educational arena. Dede (2004), Professor of Learning Technologies at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and others are describing an `instructional revolution' that is reported in the next chapters here; one that awaits not only cheap and more powerful learning tools, but also the retirement of the `baby boomer' generation that is wedded to instruction has it has been done now for centuries past.
So, ironically, it is not merely the illiteracy of the poor that we must worry about; but also the vast ignorance of many teachers and experts who really do not know what to do with a changing generation and an ignorance exposed by the knowledge educational technology explosions. Planning for a global learning system must be transdisciplinary and science-based, examining of best practices in every culture, including a new technology culture. Oblinger (2003) noted the importance of understanding different kinds of learners and the difference among generations. "The learning styles, attitudes and approaches" of 14-18 year olds--now early in the 21st century--are quite different from those 18-24, and ":adult learners differ yet again." Educators and faculty represent a different generation from the next generation of learners in their values, for example, in their multitasking ability to do instant messaging, homework and watching TV all at once, characteristics that may be essential for coping with a confusing mass of information in global society.
Central to the older generation's problem is the focus on a narrow view of literacy as the ability to read and write text. where for many in the world "the multimedia language of the screen has become the current vernacular." For the oncoming digital generation Daley (2003) has also observed that film, TV, computer and videogames, art and music "constitute the current vernacular." The "grammar of these technologies" has "invaded our collective thinking, sound, color and design doing much more than provide illustrations to enlarge and enrich printed texts. (3.7) "The multimedia language of the screen enables new modes of thought" and will require a major paradigm shift, a fresh perception of the world of learning..
Here in 3.1.we note in passing some personal needs that individual learners have, although there is no space or possibility here to list thousand kinds of needs. Then in (3.2) we will list a few present technologies that may yet be combined and included within a comprehensive system that can help meet some of those needs. (One place to pursue some of this further is with MERLOT: <http://www,merlot.org>. Here in (3.8) we will be more futuristic about technologies now seen on the horizon). In (3.3) we will point to the uniqueness of each individual and ways technologies can now help educators deal with the unique needs of each individual within the social context of learning.. Unfortunately, it may be a long time before the needs and wishes of the underserved may also be met. Many of the poorest want credentials to become highly paid professionals in the developed world, where many of them may first need skills for rebuilding their own neighborhoods and local income-producing activities.
Even in the developed world some psychologists see the forthcoming generation of students as being very different from the juvenile and college-age experience of middle aged and older faculty when they were in school; needs often seen in past categories: anti-Vietnam war protestors, civil rights activists and so forth. Even many younger faculty members are going to be puzzled by the expectations of mobile and digitally-literate secondary school students. They are different, in part, because of their heavy involvement in electronic games, TV, films and a global music and entertainment culture. Nicolescu (2002) pointed to the example of those playing computer games who learn to alter games as they play, transforming the aesthetic and sometimes the intentions of a game. "The marvel of auto-didacticism is the extent to which at least in the digital era, learning turns into networked dialogue..." among learners who "dedicate themselves to projects they are working on. The development of the LINUX operating system is an example of this growing and important shift in how ideas and information are exchanged." Gee (2003 and 2004) has proposed that video games are creating entirely new kinds of learners. Many games require new ways of learning and thinking. Often, he reports, games have a better theory of learning embedded in them than the schools those young people attend. Is it any wonder then, he has asked, that so many by high school "don't much like school?" Is it a co-incidence that so many boys concentrate on athletics, neglecting the well-rounded development of their full potential?
Ironically, the quest for `well-rounded' learners is now seen as limited, that the learners who work hard and are highly motivated to learn are most often those who find something exciting that they want to devote their life to, as seen for example in those youngsters who devote their summers to a math camp, to a music camp, an outer space camp and or to technology that can transform the world. The `MIT Education Arcade' has been seeking to `change the way the world learns' by integrating new game technology. It replaced the already in 2003 concluded MIT-Microsoft `Games to teach' project that conducted successful experiments in classrooms.
Education planners and teachers of future generations must face the variety and complexity of a billion young people in so many different cultures and nations! There are vast cultural as well as individual differences. Most opinions of educators about what the real needs are and how to meet them are not founded on adequate research and experimentation. One thing that is sure, however, is that to make nearly everyone in the world literate is going to be financially feasible. Also, higher education can never again be adequate until learning programs for children are drastically changed and improved. Ayres and Grisham (2003) have noted how the new ways youngsters are learning--video games and media saturation as examples--may involve "cognitive change that may transform part of our world."
For purposes of discussion in this volume let's assume two beginning technologies. First, every learner can in this century have an affordable hand-held device for two-way connections to all kinds of learning, `anywhere, anytime, anything. "The basic affordable instrument used in teaching can be browser-based, as easy to use as the telephone." Dearne (2002) also reported demonstrations in Australia of such a dedicated instrument that requires no knowledge of computers. Learners of any age and level of education can work at their own pace to meet unique needs although various current prototypes provide just glimpses of what is to come. Second, everything needed can be available to all online. In 2005 Purdue University, which had made lectures from many courses available for study on videotape, began providing podcasts of some. Affordable? Arthur C, Clarke reminds us that the computer that originally cost $100.000, then $10,000 and now $1000 is now available for $100 in experimental models. Soon it can be $10 in a ceel phone type learning instrument..
Many current technologies already may help in some situations—and forthcoming problems and difficulties may not be resolved just by combining them into a new system, although many will be included. Here we glance at a few specific individuals and their problems and needs. Learners may have one or more of these problems whether in school, or if a business is paying for updating education on line, or if they are engaged in full-time distance learning at home. In any case, wherever technology makes it possible, they need a learning program tailored to unique individual needs Delbanco (2005) laments the lack of effort to take account of "the differing outlook of students."
(1) Low Expectations. Amos, at sixteen, is not much interested in education because he lives in a slum with open sewers and little economic opportunity. He sees no job that he could get with the education available at the ill-equipped school that is accessable to him. He does not have the vision, nor does available education offer it, to develop the creativity and imagination to make possible the original thinking, the ability to understand and to find ways to solve local and personal problems. And Amos, as he falls into petty crime, is smart enough to see that solutions would require fundamental changes in society! A peace corps worker explains the low expectations of Amos by saying: ”How interested would you be in having an automobile if you had to build it yourself without instruction, tools or whatever else was necessary? The same is true in building a life.” Sally needs hope for a good job before she will take schooling opportunities seriously. Ben, in a depressing ghetto, dreams of fleeing to a place where he can develop his artistic talent. Art and music can help sharpen perceptions and enhance brain performance, Restak (2001) said, but today’s macho culture often frowns at efforts to develop artistic gifts that can help learners better meet the requirements of a forthcoming age of creativity. Surveys show that a majority of parents are too satisfied with an education for children that has the goal of minimum competency in math in math, reading and writing. With that background, Ben is being pushed into vocational school to learn computer skills. He hates the idea but his family and advisors say that the highest priority is getting some sort of decent job. No one has thought to point out the possibilities of computer art. Reba is also an especially gifted student. Researchers may in time find that everyone is gifted; for example some people with IQ in the 30's, who cannot even feed themselves, have been found to have exceptional artistic gifts. Meanwhile, all over the world there are people like Reba with outstanding talents and gifts who have never been discovered, or who live in situations where their talents have not been developed.
(2) Information Overload Frustration. Claire’s school offers instruction in technology, provides her with her own computer and with Internet access to any information she needs or to any course that her school does not offer. She suffers, however, with serious `panacea overload,’ caused by technology that is too complex (designed by engineers and not primarily for learning) and by a volume of online resources that are overwhelming. She paraphrases the Ancient Mariner’s `water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink,’ with her complaint: `Data, data everywhere but never what I need.” Her teachers also are intimidated by the technologies that change often and by a wish for helpful new technologies that are unaffordable. One teacher says: “I do not doubt that the Internet is a tool that can help, but I feel like someone just given a space ship with no help in learning how to fly it!” Like her fellow learners, Clare needs help with web surfing, and other skills in a new kind of discovery-based literacy, and more automated help to search and scan and help to become her own personal reference librarian. Surfing, Brown says, leads to a discovery-based, rather than authority-based literacy and fuses creativity and learning. It supplements traditional forms of reasoning with bricolage, the ability to poke around and find an object, a tool, a document, or an idea, and use it to construct something important.
A majority of online learners in the developing world, when searching the Internet. want data and information that is of interest or help to them personally. It is, however, difficult for learners—without online faculty and library help--to assess the value of data that is not peer-reviewed, and that is scattered through billions of web pages, more and more every day Also a fundamental need is a crucially-important shift away from boring, mass-assembly-line education at all levels. Richmond (2001) has said it well: “The way we think, communicate and learn is outdated. As a result, the way we act creates problems.” We are poorly prepared to address them, he says, because of the way we have been taught to think, communicate and learn. Most `formal education’ still calls for memorization as preparation for tests and passing courses. Learners are tested for `what they know’ (or knew in a vast sea of data wherein knowledge is continually enlarging and changing.) The `semantic web' may be a solution. (Adams 2002). <http://www.w3.org/DesignIssues/Semantic.html> .
(3) Individual Limitations that may cause failure or dropout (The names below are western, but learners in all parts of the world can have one or more of these problems:) Emily has difficulty concentrating. Her world and her mind are full of fascinating diversions. Her teachers do not know how her mind works or what her problems and surprising interests are. Perhaps she has ADD (Attention deficit disorder.) Or perhaps her problems are emotional. Jennie has performance anxiety and mood disorders. . She suffers from stress and is not alone in that. Restack (2001), who discussed many such disorders, said that stress increases among learners because “every one…is caught up in a world more harried and demanding, more so than at any time in human history. Frank reads poorly, and reads as little as possible not because of a handicap like dyslexia or eye problems, but because he has had poor instruction. He needs better reading habits but also he finds videogames and TV more interesting than reading.. He was failing in high school and is in a detention facility with other young people who also could not make it in school for similar reasons. Many, unable to keep up in class, needed to read with more assistance than was available in school and where he now is. Yet he is unlikely` to make it’ in the outside world unless—like most convicts-- he gets help based on better diagnosis of his learning difficulties.
George has poor imaging ability and needs to make better use of all of his senses. He comes from a home and neighborhood culture that lacks art, music, and many other experiences that develop imagination and impower learning art and computers and imaging skills. Hattie has trouble remembering and needs memory aids. She wants to work at a job that will require her to know and remember many small details. Her capacity to do so is undeveloped and her abilities are limited and none of her teachers and counselors know much about current brain research and memory development; and even less about electronic, instantly accessible electronic memory banks that are on the horizon. Irving has great problems in getting organized, establishing and observing priorities, getting his assignments done on time. He keeps failing college and losing jobs because he lacks follow through. He has trouble solving problems, reflecting on information and making decisions. He may need a wireless `virtual organizer' as part of a coordinated technology for learning package.
Karla, like many of her fellow learners, jumps to easy conclusions before taking account of all the facts; a problem called `premature closure.’ This is common when there is so much to consider and many of the facts are uncertain or ambiguous. Like most learners in today’s busy world she needs help also in `thinking about her thinking,’ in self critiquing, in `getting the `big picture’ and in “effectively selecting the best strategy.” Jonassen (2000), discussing learner needs in the context of `constructive learning,’ might suggest that she most needs `critical thinking skills, including the ability to evaluate data so as to recognize fallacies and errors, verifying arguments and hypotheses, judging; skill at analyzing content, recognizing patterns, classifying into categories (such as plant-animal classifications), identifying assumptions, stated or unstated, including presuppositions and beliefs that underline positions, identifying central ideas, finding sequences, and so forth.
Louis does well when working alone but wants to enter a profession where teamwork, connecting, working at relationships, cooperating with and listening to others are crucial. He functions poorly in classroom teamwork yet is productively involved in teamwork in athletics and a rock music group.. A unique characteristic of the web --Brown (2000) has said—is that it can “leverages the small efforts of the many with the large efforts of the few.” The present education system where individuals compete for grades, is too often not preparing a new generation for the teamwork that is going to be so essential in many if not most areas of work. (See `collective intelligence' (2.4)'
Mary is extremely intelligent but needs thinking skills, reflecting on what she is reading, “elaborating on information, adding personal meaning, building on an idea, adding details and illustrations, modifying and changing ideas, shifting categories of thinking.” Jonassen might suggest that she needs and could learn skills in logical thinking, inferring deductively from generalizations or principles, identifying causal relationships, summarizing, thinking analogically, hypothesizing, planning, and so forth. She needs education that takes more account of individual differences in how learners think, a problem complicated by the fact that she is a female in a male-dominated situation. She needs individualized help that forthcoming technology can provide. (3.5).
Ned needs to study a foreign language. He lacks an ear for languages and needs the chance to ask more questions and ask for more explanation than the rest of the class needs or wants. His need is complicated by the fact that he comes from a different cultural and religious background. He needs individualized online electronic tutoring.(3.9). Opal is a night person who does her best writing and study at midnight and who finds morning classes difficult. To support herself she works from 2 p.m. until midnight at a restaurant and her local teaching institution can do little to adapt to her situation. She needs online education that is available anywhere, anytime.
like many is terribly busy and simply does not
know--and has no way of knowing--what he needs and what is available to
him. Perhaps he feels threatened by pressure from other students in
class or because of his race and ethnicity. He needs online technology
that tests more than his I.Q., talents and progress in a given course.
is physicaly nandicapped and needs special technologies if he is to get skills to
support himself. (I.e., see
Thomas is a retired senior citizen. He has limited discretionary income and wishes to enrich his life. He cannot afford expensive elder hostel trips and commercial lecture tours. Alternatives do not exist nearby, yet a world of skill training and information can be given to him online. (3.4.4) Uriah is scared of math and science yet needs such courses to advance in his career, and his country needs people with such skills even more. He can thrive when there is a global learning system. Van is angry over great injustice and no one `important’ seems to listen or care. So he is tempted to join a terrorist cell and drop out of the job system altogether. Yul needs mentoring and counseling which is unavailable anywhere near him.
Zachary is brilliant but is always too hungry to do well in his studies. He walks five miles back and forth to the university because he cannot afford the ten-cent bus fare. He takes home food scraps from other student’s plate’s home with him at night because sometimes that is the only food his younger siblings will get that day.
The above `cases’ suggest a few of the varied needs and thousands of problems that learners may have, whether in school or learning online. They are listed here as a reminder of what a global virtual learning system will encounter. In the next chapters we will discuss how some emerging new technologies may help education planners deal better with many such problems, although in many cases personal needs cannot be met adequately until more powerful technologies arrive in the next decades. (3.8).
Restak (2001) said that learners need an active and challenged brain, a rich memory and learning to “increase mental prowess.” (3.5) He said: “we all know people with high I.Q's whose adult accomplishments are less than impressive. A more realistic goal is to enhance” mental functioning, cognition; that is “the ability of our brain to attend, identify and act.” This involves thoughts, moods, inclinations, decisions, alertness, concentration, perceptual speed, learning, memory, problem solving, creativity and mental endurance. Society not only fails to find the talents and gifts of many learners, but also does not yet know how to turn many more of them into creative adults.
(4) Many learners need a more stimulating, challenging environment. Restak also pointed out that if an animal is provided with one—like a cage full of toys--that animal’s brain will show a dramatic increase in the number of nerve cell connections” and it’s brain will be heavier than one raised in a barren cage. And the same is true of humans whose brains are “the gateway for all of our sensations and the weaver of all of our experiences.” It is therefore crucial for every learner and educator to “learn as much as possible about how the brain works and how to create stimulating experiments and environments, on campus as well as for distance learners where they are. All must take account of the fact that the brain has a hundred billion neurons any of which can be linked in varied combinations as seen in practicing music. We will return to the brain in (3.5) where we raise questions about the creation of more stimulating classrooms, campuses and online virtual experiences. Here we note (Bartlett 2002) a study of first year college students across the country which found that 39.9 percent of them were `bored in class.”
(5) Most--if not all--learners need a unique learning plan tailored to the individual, that takes a better account of a different culture and language and of unique talents and needs. In (3.3) we will discuss the bringing together of information about each individual--much like one’s medical history--as an aid in planning education across a lifetime. Isn’t the mind as important as the body? Human society does not give every individual the same medical treatment no matter what the ailment; but in a sense we still line learners up for the same `castor oil’ in many educational institutions. No two people (Jonassen 1999) can possibly have the same set of experiences and perceptions. Why shouldn’t the brilliant and technology-competent student index and insert elsewhere in his memory bank ideas of his own--as well as those from the lecturer--and incorporate her own electronic reading notes and ideas.
(6) Many need totally different ways of learning. John Seely Brown (2000) proposed the need for ”a new learning ecology” as the result of the emergence of an entirely new kind of media-age student. For example, educators have lamented the `short attention span’ that youngsters seem increasingly to have as a result of media and other technologies. Actually Brown has said, as you watch youngsters do three things at once —listen to music, talk on a cell phone and work on a computer—they may be able to do so because of the `short attention span capability’ that enables them in a second to jump back and forth quickly to cope with a complex and confusing world. This may be a new kind of talent, more appropriate for coping with the information age. Students who surf the web in class frustrate lecturers. However, if the learner can do both at once, looking up information on the web pertinent to what the lecturer is discussing, even looking up the instructor’s web page for more information about his ideas, that student may be learning more than the instructor might as yet conceive as possible. One solution was proposed by Aldrich (2003)--in a case study on how to design new learning instruments-- and others who see answers in the way young people increasingly learn from video and computer games
(7) Learners need to see their work result in action and accomplishments. The Web has a bias, Brown says, towards an action-centered style of learning. “For powerful learning to occur both the cognitive and social aspects must be present, with a recognition that “the real expertise is in the community mind, and we are entering an era of a `global community mind." Each of the next several generations is going to be more attuned to the need for global action to solve problems that otherwise will become unmanageable crises. Brown reminds us that it took a generation for electricity to transform much of society. It may take more than a generation for information technology to transform education because so much is still experimental and under development. So educators are slow to develop the `new information fabric’ and learning ecology that the Internet/Web is beginning to make possible. Most educators are still acclimated to the `push’ technologies (radio, TV, lectures and so forth) and do not yet adequately see the potential of their forthcoming interactive form in which we `pull’ out what we need and want instead of passively receiving what is `pushed’ onto us whether we want it or not.
(8) A new generation of learners need help to “become engaged in their own ideal way of learning,’ Brown says. “The Web is the first medium to honor `multiple intelligences.’ (3.3) In coming decades powerful new technology will make it possible to take account of different learning styles. Soon the web will envelop us with graphics, learning games, full motion video and audio and more, so that unique features of eye and ear can also be incorporated into the learning fabric and ecology, he says. This will make possible surprisingly different and more imaginative learning environments. It is hard going, in part, because (Jonassen 1999) people obtain the knowledge they really need, not through memorization or lectures, but “but by reflecting on their experiences and reasoning." Constructivists are educational theorists who “believe that knowledge is constructed, not transmitted. This is a natural process “make sense of their world” by constructing their own representations or models of their experiences.” Acquiring content is not enough. What do distance education students need to learn this way?
(9) Learners have cultural as well as individual differences. We cannot here consider all cultural variations of learners and teachers, but for another perspective on the networking global lifelong learning system-- for all ages- we can look at what is happening and what might be done for some kinds of students in developed and developing countries. Some learners there, still a privileged few, already taking courses from another continent. As is often true of pioneers who blaze the way for multitudes who will follow, these students sometimes find it hard going. They are already moving outside their own nation and culture, beginning to explore a world of courses and galaxies of information. Must they leave unique cultures behind or can they take them along as values to share? It can be possible to be enriched by both local and global cultures.
(10) Where education opportunities are limited, learners need help to improvise; for example in order to use educational technologies where they lack connections to electricity, telephone, radio, television and so forth (2.18) and also those—whether online or on campus--who find available technology unmanageable and not yet helpful in their own situation. Are places like Afghanistan and some African countries a special case or an illustration? At the British Open University an African student in the 1980s might have spent 80 percent of study time with printed materials that came through the mail (Mason and Kaye 1990) but at the turn the century post offices were often becoming very unreliable.
The forthcoming automated systems that can provide basic learning at low lost will have serious limitations, but it at the beginning the only way to provide education for a billion people who lack other opportunities. And once in place, the quality of the online learning can grow.) Most distance online and mobile learners will increasingly need help in finding the right electronic resources. Already in the 1900's students were able to access the catalogs of many educational institutions in the world. We will in (3.2) discuss smart search methods with capabilities for evaluating alternatives.) And note: " The MERLOT Africa Network (MAN - http://man.merlot.org), a research network of US and Sub-Saharan African (SSA) higher learning institutions and organizations to conduct multi-cultural educational research."
In the next chapters we turn to some technologies (and many more to come) that may help learners cope with a few of the problems listed above. However, what educators now have is still very primitive and what is needed is comprehensive electronic learning system. (3.7). Whether academic structures and systems are to be redesigned, transformed, restructured, or whatever, more coordinated and larger-scale planning is needed in order to cope with `social hurricane challenges’ (1.1) while planning how to provide badly needed skills, information and essential learning for a billion new distance learners. Perkins of Harvard (2002) wondered what can be researched to make learning easier? Answers would deal with complexity and whether the conditions around the learner provide "trials, feedback, models, tips" or other supports. At a conference in Portugal on `the future of the university’ there was uproar because its planners had made the mistake of leaving out the theater arts and university museums where some of the most creative new learning skills were being demonstrated. The December 2005 issue of Educause discussed five crucial technologies: wireless (including ultra wideband and free space optics), portals (providing personalized access), gaming, collaboration tools ("new lifestyle devices") and outsourcing. Visser (2003), who grew up in South Africa, has pointed out that existing educational institutions,--"society's only protected place for nurturing learning and growth-- have become a system that reinforces the inequities in society;" a system that maintains silence about a failing system in situations where learners in gang-ridden neighborhoods, for example, are taught only to pass standardized tests and "come out feeling angry, defeated and destructive. Planners must not make the mistake of leaving the world’s poverty and terrorist-breeding areas out of the discussion! Adequate planning must involve the rest of the world too. Global planning groups (3.10), and a conference--such as we have asked you to imagine--should be linked on the Internet to any other planning groups on education futures. All possibilities should be available online to faculty, students and others everywhere, all over the world, sharing ideas and dreams, and receiving wisdom about possible ways to redesign education.
Such continuing online planning might proceed on the model of the April 2000 World Bank online symposium that involved over 4500 people in 123 countries, working over a draft of a world poverty report in advance of publication. Or the Global Knowledge 97 conference in Toronto (2.4) that linked over a thousand people in developing countries to workshops on 160 global problems. Those two highly significant online conferences opened entirely new doors to planning how to cope with crises and `social hurricanes.' Importantly, this is a way learners and faculty can listen and make suggestions as much as they wish. Note also, concept mapping <http://www.downloadjunction.com/product/software/33664/>.
But planners must do more than theorize about redesign and the potential of new possibilities, more even than share best practices. They must set up demonstrations of existing new technologies and brainstorm on how to improve and expand them, taking in account the specific needs of individual learners such as those listed in this chapter. A technology experiment worth watching is a new kind of math instruction technology that uses streaming video, online animation, individual feedback, help and diagnosis "for a generation raised on video games." It represents college and schools cooperation.
Mayer (2002), the former head of UNESCO, stressed the need--in learning systems that focus on 'what to know' and `'what do do'--to know more about `what to be;' the ability "to transform knowledge into personal knowledge, to reflect and to elaborate on one's own answers, to behave according to one's own conclusions elaborated from thought." At present, learners are too much mere receptors of information as they have little opportunity to think and to argue in favor of their own ideas. On technology n Asia see: <http://www.iosn.net/education/>.
What we discuss here in Volume Three is intended to help begin a global brainstorming process.
The Future of Higher (Lifelong) Education: For All Worldwide: A Holistic View