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For All Worldwide, A Holistic View

(All chapters are intended for continuing revision)

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Volume III - Chapter Two

Last updated  April 5, 2008


(Suggestions for web pages to be added here and other chapters will be welcomed. Technology packages mentioned here are not evaluated, but are simply reported as some illustrations of what is coming to available.)


Today's digital kids think of information and communications technology as something akin to's what they breathe and its how they live.  --John Seely Brown

The reality of our new students--diverse and technologically savvy--requires new educational approaches. (And) new roles for both students and faculty. The new knowledge media may fundamentally change what it means to be a professor and a student at our universities.  -- James Duderstadt

Unfortunately, the most obvious way to use technologies was to have them teach in the same old way that teachers had always taught, making them substitute teachers…the role of technology (unfortunately) was to deliver education to students just as trucks deliver groceries…the logic was if you deliver instruction, students will learn.  –David Jonassen

It is clear that  judging the new primarily as a substitute for the established order is a common error...New multimedia methods of working with students and content simply have no precedent -           -                              -James Utterback. See: <>

Video games are increasing intelligence and creativity, and players are turning out to be more social and are better problem solvers in other situations.        --Steven Johnson.

Many new technologies to empower education are appearing, and in  time they can be combined into a global education technology system that perhaps will be satellite based. Until then, this chapter can report some of the already existing technologies. Many books on education technology can be found at: <>. Developing world students are already using mobile phones, instant messaging, google, podcasting, search engines, virtual tours, multimedia, blogs and audioblogging, clickers, computer-and-video games, iTunes lectures, collaborative networking, (<>, bookmarking software, photo-sharing technology, e-porfolios, message boards,  streaming video, online newsgroups, wikis, lectures on iTunes, electronic textbooks...and what next will come to add all this and more together?   See: <> Alexander (2006) described a host of new tools for research, collaboration and teaching--too many to describe here--that as they come together open astonishing doors for `social networking,' for bringing learners and teachers together all over the world.  (Luker (2007), for example, reported how "technological advances are beginning  to realize' education's "vision of the triple-play--that is a single Iternet that can  deliver integrated high quality voice, video and data to every user. 

See: Innovate. See <> and later chapters here such as the on free online textbooks, over 175 were already available as of fall 2006. And what next when they  include video games? <> Also Thompson (2007) discussed ways in which Web 2.0 is a step towards transformation of edication. Where Web 1.0 was for reading and accessiing information, 2. enables astonishing worldwide collaboration that is "creative, shared, remixed, repurposed and passed on." It can be continually updated--including audio and video--and it is personal and  can facilitate a new kind of collective research.

However, a first issue here is how to get needed technology in the hands of the world's poorest and most deprived persons, and the most successful current effort is the creation of tele-centers that can be gradually enhanced with the latest global technologies.DRUM BEAT, jJune 18, 2007, reported that two thirds of the world/s 2.6 billion cell phones were in developing countries; in Kenya for example, one in every three persons has a cell phone. For some reports on rural village tele-centers in Africa see: <>. Basic information and resources can be found at:  <>. It appears that the cell-phone--with all necessary added features--may be better for many in the developing world than a laptop computer. Even in industrial nations the cell phone can make it possible to access a distance education course from anywhere. Marc Prensky (check his articles with google) in 2006 has reported how cell phones are already being used for learning in countries that are far ahead of the USA.

Now can the Internet best be used to provide education and job training for the learning deprived--wherever they are? They need a personal instrument to access the Internet and the OLPC MIT-designed computer is a beginning, a Model T (on the analogy of the first automobiles.) It can be used for wireless access where there is no electricity (a wind up handle to empower the battery). Online can be electronic textbooks for all ages (see later chapter), reference, a global virtual library, online guidance and tutoring,  and content. As yet this cannot provide the highest quality education but it is far better than no education at all! Online courses (like the curriculum of MIT that is online free to anyone in the world) can greatly help teachers.   And note <www> that enlists teachers and other volunteers to help develop and evaluate online teaching and learning materials.

 Most crucial for success will be the rethinking and redesigning  learning technologies to cope with an upcoming generation that is restless in secondary schools, perhaps because they sense that are not preparing for the future they see emerging, that already begins to exist in global youth digital culture. On one effort to meet this need see <>. Wagner (2005) reported that college faculty, for example, are less and less in touch with their students. The university professor blames the high school for not preparing secondary school students for college, and often that is true but the oncoming generation is busy "getting knowledge--good, bad and ugly--from television, film, music advertisements" and from video games that develop fast, critical thinking...that schools should do but are not. Entering `multiliterate' students may be learning more from video than text. Rock music may provide their emotional drive and educators neglect these facts with dire consequence.

Emerging new technologies are converging--for example in the wireless cell phone--to make possible a unique tailored learning program for each individual. Such possibilities place a burden on universities and global education planning. As for the student, the whole world will be a learning place  wherever he or she is. The time for learning will be anytime and the place will be any place and "the demand will be insatiable. (Hirshon 2005). Broadband in  2008 was revolutionizing education on remote Maldives Atolls where 20 broadband-enabled, child-friendly learning centers were established to create a virtual learning environment accessible throughout the Maldives. Teachers and children could connect to the internet and use a 'smart board' (a touch-sensitive "black- or white-board" sized screen on which a computer screen display is projected and which has points that can change computer function with a tap of the finger).  Most educators can hardly yet imagine the impact of what is coming  For example  Brooks (2004) of MIT said to "watch the multiples in storage capacity," .in just ten years. An individual's iPod that today could store 20,000 books may be able to hold more books than are in the Harvard library. Add to this continually increasing sequencing speed, already in 2004 659 gigabytes of data was sent 9,00 miles in 17 minute  Meanwhile much can be done with existing technology. For example, in June 2004 the Chronicle of Higher Education reported that the African Virtual University was replacing its video broadcast system to 17 countries with high speed Internet via satellite, because "it will take years and years for all these countries to develop a fiber optic backbone." Reading instruments can include a small projector one can read a large page projected onto a wall or screen. (Zacks 2004). And the educational potential of blog broadcasting, creating a personal radio program and broadcasting it on the Internet is yet to be learned, although PBS was successfully experimenting in 2005. .

What electronic tools and systems can improve the quality of learning and what can help bring `learning for all?' Tools alone can never do it alone--even what Talbot (2004) called the blazing-fast Internet of the future." The `content' is crucial but so are the forthcoming new tgools. So we first here look at some of the existing scattered  technologies that can come together in a unified learning system.. <,1240,008689,00.shtm>. Norris et al (2004) anticipate the arrival of `pervasive  mobile information and communications technology--" laptops, personal digital assistants, notebooks and "fused function devices"--and ubiquitous technology. Nokia in the Philippines was experimenting with giving teachers a cell phone that could be used to access science videos. "Once selected, videos are downloaded via satellite  to a TV right in the classroom." However, much more is coming. Oblinger (2005) notes that information technology for learning is today radically different from that of a decade ago and ten years from now it will be drastically different from today; and even greater change may come from what is discovered about how we learn..

When today's primary and middle school students reach college they will not sit still for a lecture, not after growing up "on the images created by Flash, Fireworks, streaming video, Shockwave" and more.   Klemm (2003) describes computer software for community building online, for teamwork and team learning, for document and information management, personal conferencing, creating portfolios and asking questions--all in  he same package. In 2004 there was experiment with blogging as a way to turn a class into a community. (See Downes 2004) 

Is more is yet to be learned about possible education uses for Apple Computer Company's music downloading iTunes, or Mark Cuban's HD-TV system for downloading digital films directly to theaters, homes (and classrooms? Also in 2004 the Nokia company introduced `Bridgeit,' that combined existing mobile products (like a cell phone connected to a computer) and satellite technologies to deliver digital, multimedia materials to teachers and students who otherwise would not have access to them; for example to access a (satellite) library of science videos." There are so many such new technologies that it would be fruitless to try to list them all here.

What tools do lifelong learners need, especially those who are being given `spoon-fed prescriptions' without adequate diagnosis of learning needs? Information age technology should be able, in time, to provide some automated tools to help with organizing—sorting, filtering, storing and synthesizing knowledge--and to facilitate better critical and logical thinking.  However, the context should be a complex ecosystem, a self-sustaining world of hundreds of powerful technologies that work  together as do water, sun and soil. Perhaps, until that happens, the world of learning--K-12, universities and all of all lifelong global education--will be one of chaos as technologies become more powerful and ubiquitous. Meanwhile, hopefully as a first step, free software and support technologies are being developed to empower rural learning centers in the developing world.

Planners at the 2004 IEEE conference on "Crafting Learning Within Context" planners examined "various forms of contexts such as those embodying problem-based, scenario-based, cognitive, meta-cognitive, social, linguistic, cultural, artifact, and authentic task elements" and how such learning experiences--"enabled or mediated by technology" take place. <>. Many experiments and research projects are reported in  The International Forum of Educational Technology and Society: <>. When learning becomes internally generated rather than externally motivated by teacher, required textbook or curriculum, a very different educational dynamic comes into place."

Jonassen’s (2000) report on computers that facilitate thinking and learning said that such tools need to be seen in a historical context. Donald (2001) has reminded us that “when combined, the conscious mind and its symbolic technologies generate a powerful chemistry.” We should look back a the birth of art, science, mathematics “and the great institutional structures  that humans have built.” It is important not to limit ourselves to `writing’ but recall the great imaginative leaps of geographers who created maps, the mathematical innovations of the Arabs, the clocks of medieval Europe and the calendars of the Aztecs. “Such technologies have allowed humanity more than once to break the mold and think what was previously unthinkable. Word processing, computer-assisted design, graphics software and outlining programs are helpful, but Jonassen proposed technology to help learners go far beyond that.

New technological tools must also be examined in a practical context, especially learning from feedback and previous mistakes. Ehrmann (2002) pointed out that “history has exhibited a grim cycle,” in which educators have moved from one new technology to another before the job of implementing and learning from the first was complete. “To put it metaphorically,” he said, “you must have yeast to bake bread, but if you buy only yeast, you’ll never produce bread.” The receipt, for example, requires more than hardware. It must also include staff development, course designs, new materials, organizational partnerships and new coalitions. Also those complex receipts are not `quick and easy’ but take time. Often, before new programs have a chance to work—and their outcomes to be evaluated—users are distracted by new technology.  So Ehrmann urges a long term focus on goals and outcomes in such areas as “skills of enquiry and research; the ability to apply learning more effectively; skills at working in teams, communities and organizations; skills in designing, composing and  creative work.”  Also, planning should  “emphasize  forms of instructional material that most faculty members find quick and easy to create, adapt and share;” to “match the needs of students.” Collaboration between vendors and educators will in time bear fruit. See <

Comprehensive new technologies can greatly help learners on campus, and some are even more needed by a billion learners who can never be on campus. People at every level of education---teachers, learners, planners and administrators--need to view the Internet as a new ecosystem as well as a facility, a tool; one that can be changed to help anyone and everyone, cope with overload and confusion. Smarr (2002) told of 500 computer freshmen at the University of California, San Diego that were given Hewlett-Packard hand-held `Jornadas,' equipped with wireless cards so that they could access local and wide-area networks to bring them information they needed immediately. For immediate feedback from a large on-campus class, the teacher might use a Personal Response System (PRS). (Discussed elsewhere here.)`


Dertouzos (2000) pointed out that for all the talk about convergence, the tools  that learners and teachers now have are not really working together. He wrote: “the personal computers, laptops, hand held assistants, printers, Internet-savvy phones, music storage drives. . .software upgrades. . .trendy handheld personal digital assistants that overlap each other’s functions…” and much more.  It is as if to write we had to keep going back to first grade to learn to use a new kind of pen.  The tools and electronic packages now available,  he reported, are often bulky, slow, irritable, and often incomprehensible, with manuals that are written for computer engineers, not learners and teachers and all this is unnecessary. Worse, he says,-speaking of what we here refer to as a `kludge’--“imagine the mess you will be in when there are 10 times as many of these creatures biting at you in the next ten years.” 

So many educators, overwhelmed with available technologies, are at the stage of automobile users when motors were put on wagons to replace horses. Yet it would be possible now, with available technology, to have  a virtual adaptable `learning appliance” that could bring together and simplify the use of all of the tools needed for a learner. It could automatically connect to `fused databases,” provide connections to electronic textbooks (3.7) and automated tutors.(3.9) It could be tailored to the unique needs and interests of each individual student and could be refigured for each course or discipline. In  (3.8) we will discuss some hoped-for futuristic technologies. Meanwhile what could be brought together in such a `learning appliance’  might be astonishing if its developers would review, combine and build on  all software packages and electronic learning and teaching tools that already exist somewhere in the world. <

A `virtual learning appliance' for the individual can become as easy to use as the telephone and could be the first step towards taking learners anywhere through holographic virtual reality telecommunications. We begin to see all the ingredients are now available, including Open Source software like Linux, `very  Thin Clients' systems on chips, cheap wireless networks, affordable flat screen, and so forth. Helpful in South Africa (Weaver 2005) is an increasingly profitable free and  open source software industry that is making it possible for Africams to develop their own unique software instead of importing so much at great cost.

 Jonassen (1999) reported that new tools, properly used, have the potential to  change the learner’s perception of the whole lifelong learning enterprise.  However, rather than using technologies just as `delivery vehicles’ they can now be used as tools to explore knowledge, for knowledge construction, to support learning by doing, to support collaboration and critical discussion and reflection, for a richer and larger view of learning-in-community and for  more. Note: <>, review of possibilities. Only a few are mentioned here:

  • `Moodle' <> is an evolving, free open source `learning appliance' for the teacher--kindergarten to old age--and is available in 34 languages. It is suitable for use in resident classes and in 100% online classes. It's available features include online testing and grading and an astonishing variety of resources and features that an instructor can adapt and change. Also see conferences on <>..  Alexander (2004) uses  the phrase `m-learning' for the wireless, mobile technologies affecting the learning environment and pedagogy. Ironically, he reported, the USA lags behind some other parts of the world in `device ecology," including use of GPS--global positioning--to and explore a city--at some historical period, as if really there. Dede (2004) tells of MUVES in which learners enter virtual worlds--online environments--in which "participate in activities as simple as Instant Messaging and as complex as constructing fantasy lives."  Lefrere (2003) proposed use of Instant Messaging to add multi-media contributions to a learning conversation. It can provide `automatic notification" and support for  collaboration of individuals separated in space and time with speed and a heightened sense of community. Already, he has pointed out, "face-to-face interaction between people in different locations becomes increasingly viable and commonplace." IM can create and maintain a sense of social connection that can enhance the quality of online learning  Foreman (2004) tells of `modding' in which an individual learner or group can make improvements and changes in learning technology. Then there is blogging and wiki and Games that teach.

Information and communications technology will affect all of lifelong  teaching, research, outreach, academic structure, teaching roles and culture, financing and management, and will likely reshape the entire global education enterprise. However, at least for the near term, meaning a decade or so, it appears that too much  teaching will continue to exist in  present form. Meeting the challenge of emerging competitors in the marketplace, however, will demand significant changes in how we teach, how we conduct scholarship, and how our institutions are financed. Students themselves may well become partners in the creation of the global virtual learning system. For instance, since there was a need and market for courseware, the New Brunswick (Canada) Multimedia Learning Technology Center of Excellence has been teaching students to create  (Kiger 2002) the technology,  virtual reality, game design, computer animation, and other technical skills. It also taught students how to use those skills to design online courses. There are no tests or exams. Instead, in order to graduate, students show competency by actually producing a viable product. They are divided into entrepreneurial teams, which are legally incorporated as companies, and assigned to work with private-sector clients, who provide guidance and are committed to purchasing the finished product. There was a shift from watching to learning by doing.

Reformers in universities, secondary schools and primary schools are too often like an automobile designer who would want to keep wagon-type wooden wheels. As in the past, the education day is divided into classes on different `subjects.' Instead, young learners should spend much time working on projects that require learning from many `subjects,' where they can learn from each other and from what they do. "Instead of dividing the day into hour long slices" of classes for lectures and labs, learners should be allowed to stick with a project "for extended periods of time, enabling them to follow through on the ideas that arise in the course of their work. (Resnik 2001). And especially when they find something that excites them, and their imagination, they should be allowed to pursue it to the extent of their curiosity and interest.

Over the longer term, technology will drive very significant restructuring of institutions through what John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid term the 6-D effects of demassification, decentralization, denationalization, despecialization, disintermediation, and disaggregation. Perhaps we should also add a seventh “D”, democratization, since digital technology can provide unusual access to knowledge and knowledge services hitherto restricted to the privileged. Like the printing press, this technology not only enhances and broadly distributes access to knowledge, but in the process it shifts power away from institutions to individuals...but individuals within `communities of practice' that can often be online.

Brown (2001) urged educators to note a new level of initiative among students themselves in `role playing electronic electronic games which can "be a means to build a networked learning environment and to leverage the skills of 31st century students." He has pointed out that it is important to separate the content of a game from the social context that emerges around the learners. Education planners must anticipate such forces, develop appropriate strategies, and make adequate investments in learning technologies. Procrastination and inaction are the most dangerous procedures during a time of rapid technological change. All higher education institutions have been `places’ were collective memory (libraries and museums, for example)  facilitated the bringing together of many minds and external memory technologies. Pencils and books have always augmented the process--but the curriculum can no longer be designed for paper and pen alone. Donald (2001) clarified this with the analogy of the grand opera and film (3.4) that have greater possibilities—largely unexamined—for stimulating and enlarging the collective memory and thinking processes in virtual higher education.  Also there are possibilities for programming memory and for technology to enrich various kind of educational experiences in virtual space.

Newsweek magazine, MAY 23, 2005, described an astonishing `epic-creating game Spore'--designed by Will Wright--that connects physics, chemistry, geology and astronomy in a way that enables learning, developing creativity without the `sense of wonder' being lost. Weigel (2005) objected to the traditional classroom model, showing how emerging new technologies can make possible a `learner's capabilities' approach that fosters "(1) a critical thinking capability, (2) a self-confidence capability --in collaboration gpoups, (3) a peer learning capability and (4) a knowledge management   capability. In 2005 this is perhaps illustrated by the discovery that multiplayer video games (Johnson 2005) are becoming `mentally enriching.' Cognitive benefits of such games include improved "pattern recognition, system thinking, even patience." Research with PET scanners in the early 1990's had already studied brain activity in such games, an more recently James Gee at the University of Wisconsin found that "even fantasy escapist games are embedded with one of the core principles of learning intelligence. See Van Eck (2006) on digital game-=based learning as having `arrived.'

So perhaps if there could be international agreement---on standards--among countries on some of the basic `dedicated technology’ for `discovery base learning" for online and telecommunications, it could be mass-produced with adaptations to include what is needed for  many fields of study; for example, searchable reference books, music composition software, or procedures for scientific experiments. Such can be facilitated through partnerships, involving universities too, such as Co-Lab for ATM research.


Planning for the developing world, a strong case can be made for free software--also called open source software--for use in developing countries. Meanwhile,  Buckley (2002) has pointed out that educators now can have pedagogies “founded on an understanding of the cognitive development of learning…and the appearance of very learning-centered instructional technology.” Emerging new technologies begin to help resolve some of the randomly selected student needs and problems listed below. Perhaps it is easier to see how existing technologies help facilitate learning in music, in learning a foreign language, and can be of remarkable help to impaired people. But what now are some of the possibilities—with technology soon or now available--to help learners (and faculty) cope with some more troublesome needs? Since technologies and learning programs keep changing--and new ones appear to replace them--we will not report specific products-- but  in  this chapter suggest how some technologies can help with the needs and problems some of the learners introduced in the last chapter.

 For example, Amos--as described in the previous chapter--is typical of hundreds of millions of learners. He lacks access to constructive educational resources in his developing world slum. Yet the skills he needs are or can be made available on the Internet. First, basic education skills—as from the UN Food and Agricultural Organization—are being provided on CDs that a farmer can listen to while plowing a field. In (1.9) and (2.18) we described the kind of `tele-centers’ and lifelong `electronic community learning centers’ that are being created in many developing world and poverty neighborhoods. Electricity can be provided from rechargeable batteries and generators, and perhaps soon can  be powered with hydrogen fuel cells being developed in India. (Hoffman 2001,  Stipp 2001) Local centers for lifelong learning  can first help teachers, counselors and those who can provide other kinds of support for Amos, to help him do his part to rebuild his community and nation in this 21st century information/space age. Unfortunately decaying political and government services and lack of financial and other resources limit the possibility of creating such facilities in all neighborhoods soon. But pilot projects in neighborhoods like his are showing the possibilities and developing the experience and leadership to make it possible in time. Young people like Amos are being taken to see what other villages are doing, and to see demonstrated the technologies that can expand his vision and hope.

Meanwhile, much can be done to help others through videotapes and CDs (and DVDs) that can provide some basic learning packages. So it is a mistake to assume that he must wait until he has cable or satellite connections. Simpler, and more inexpensive technology can help prepare him and the leaders of his village for the larger help that will be available down the road when they get wireless Internet connections. Inexpensive battery-powered  learning instruments can be mass-produced and affordable. Also solar energy can in time helping many isolated and impoverished area. (see 2.18) Meanwhile there are many online programs to train in skills; for example, the University of Michigan and Michigan State University’s venture known as the Michigan Virtual Automobile College can deliver courses anywhere in the USA or the world via Internet, satellite and other kinds of technology. In 2001 it offered over a hundred courses and twenty degree programs.

A kind of liberation (at least from the keyboard) may come with voice recognition and automatic language translation technology. Dictating to a hand-held device reports and papers can be drafted as one walks or stands in line or lies in bed; for example: <>. Many educators in the developing world are not yet aware of the existence of `electronic organizers' such as StudentSuite for the Palm Pilot. That technology at the turn of the century was primitive when compared to what may succeed  the TREO 600 that was bringing together phone, keyboard, Intermet connection and more  in one small hand-held instrument, primitive in terms of what is yet to come to help keep instruction more human an interesting, .  

However, even in the poorest most remote areas, individual learners are different and have unique needs and their contexts are different. So however long it takes, global education planners must move from the old paradigm of delivering packaged , assembly-line, mass produced education towards the goal of interactive and self-directed learning; and with technology aids adaptable to individual needs and problems. It is important not to confuse the electronic student--who is learning to use powerful computer tools on campus, now sometimes staying in a dormitory room while participating in an on-campus class--with the global learner who is taking a course online from another country, or who is engaged in a research project involving students and faculty in other countries. Each of them may need to use electronic resources or materials from another continent. Sally, (in 3.1) poor and  isolated, needs job skills. Takeshi Utsumi of the GLOSAS/GU project foresaw the sharing of courses overseas as a great asset for the emerging global business society (also see Glenn 1989). Students can use telecommunications and the Internet to take overseas courses to prepare for jobs in other countries, or for jobs they can do at home while connected electronically with employers in other countries. 

Ben, in a depressing urban slum, dreams of fleeing to a place where he can develop his artistic talent. The `learning station’ proposed earlier must also provide  for tailored combinations of tools; for example, a creation station (elaborating what was created at the University of Michigan) for musicians, dramatists  and artists for performances in their own neighborhoods. Such a combination of software tools cannot soon or easily be made available for everyone globally, but progress can be made in stages, bringing together existing software—such as design for stage settings--in a form that will also be easy for distance students to use. A virtual learning station online for musicians, for example, could soon be put together with existing components. Blashill (2001), for example, discussed “ingenious learning machines” that help “unlock the art in Mozart.” In 2002 an online art course gathered students for a real world tour of Mexican museums. Soon that tour can be with streaming video for those who cannot afford the trip. The “PC Magic Tool Kit’ offers users a `recording studio’ so that learners can compose original music, edit and revise it, record it at preserve it on a CD. It can print recordings as sheet music and can help student composers create music for films they prepare.

Claire’s school, we reported in the last chapter, suffers from `overload,’ caused by technology that is too complex  and by a volume of online resources that are overwhelming. The Google research engine company has proposed a way to organize all knowledge in ways that can greatly reduce `hunting time' on the Internet. Yahoo has plans to help people cope with thousands of TV channels in the future. Much of the work of research librarians can in time be automated like the telephone information service to provide anywhere, anytime. (1.5) Also librarians and learners can soon have  ‘Personal Agents/Avatars, discussed here in (3.8). E-mail access to FAQ data bases (frequently asked questions) and other such advisory services can in many cases be automated. More can be done with special e-mail `list-servs’ links to sources recommended for a particular course or problem.  Often the digital encyclopedia on CD-Rom will be more useful to a learner than a online web search. It is easily carried anywhere. It can provide built-in search functions to tested and properly evaluated information. Its online edition can be regularly updated and contain web recommended web addresses to more information. (see 3.7)

Emily has difficulty concentrating and paying attention in class. Her world and her mind are full of films, popular music, television, video games and other fascinating diversions. Her teachers do not know how her mind works or what her problems are or what to do about her difficulty in concentration and focus. It is not just the slow learner who can profit from having a lecture on a web page—or on a CD or videotape--so it can be reviewed later by the student who failed to listen during a classroom lecture while having some exciting new thought of her own; or by the student who did not completely understand, perhaps because of language difficulties.. In  3.7 we here discuss how the electronic/digital textbook could present a lecture or explanation in a variety of usable ways and adapted to many kinds of unique needs. Meanwhile many instructors already use technology that makes it easy to create a web page that puts all lectures and reading material for the course on line where it is available to students at any time, day or night.  As for concentrating in class, the boring history lecture can now be made exciting with films to bring an episode or historical period alive. Instead of a lecturer having to fiddle around with a movie projector, the film segments can be accessed at the touch of a button—and can be made available to a learner a thousand miles away as well as to those sitting in a classroom. John Hibbs pointed out on DEOS that there now is technology that allows "alarm bells" to ring when a learner skips over essential material in an online textbook. Then there is an automatic e-mail follow up to remind the student of the importance of mastering each step before the next is taken. Hibbs proposes that the combination of carefully selected materials coupled to `alarm bells' --"coupled with the design team making regular changes based on comments as with <> can help local counselors provide guidance to distance learners who use (low power) radio broadcasts that encourage high self-directed learning. This, Hibbs suggests "might well be the key that will unlock the doors now closed to all except the elite".

Quentin is physically handicapped and needs special technologies if he is to get skills to support himself.  (I.e., see <>)  An online instructor can interact with students based on their energy and ideas and without any prejudices caused by preconceived ideas about skin color, age, body shape or mode of address. A hearing-impaired student reported that she could “talk” better with instructors on-line. Already in the 1980's California community colleges (Kramer et al. 1989) had collaborated to develop a center to provide state-of-the-art technology to enable students with disabilities to partic­ipate fully in higher education. And the “Assistive Device Interface Selector” at the University of California, Berkeley, could help disabled students easily find and use software and devices to make it possible for them to get the same ed­ucation available to anyone else. Now newer and more effective technologies can in time provide enable learners with all kinds of special needs--of any age, anywhere in the world to--participate fully in electronic education. Cordless  microphones liked to software can translate speech into text. Christen (1999) has reported on the use of brain wave activated technology. Wearable computers can empower handicapped children.

Educators have only begun to see what technologies can do for millions of learners with special needs, such as speech synthesis technology for those who cannot see. Dertouzos (2000) has pictured a “flat table top display in which hundreds of pin-sized piston, driven by a computer, rise up to form a relief picture that a blind person can feel--a kind of graphical Braille interface.” and similar aids for those who do not hear well. Paralyzed persons who can hardly leave their beds now have special technologies that enable them to get education as never before possible. Interfaces that can detect the movements of their eyes or tongue, for example, can use these cues to control a wheelchair or type a document. Such technology can also be helpful to aging learners as education becomes lifelong. An increasing proportion of electronic students—and not just in industrial countries—will be senior citizens and retired persons. Others will continue to feel pressure to update their job skills to keep their jobs or get better ones or may want to enhance their job potential by retraining for a new career.

Perhaps it should be no surprise that many tools developed for the handicapped can greatly help other learners as well. The Chronicle of Higher Education in January 2002 reported a “Liberated Learning Project’ for learners with disabilities that simultaneous throws onto a screen the text of a lecture as it is given. That provides great help for deaf learners and also helps others see the spelling of a term or something else that might not have been heard or understood. In time it will also translate into Braille and perhaps can provide automatic translation into a foreign language. Hockenberry (2001) reports that the disabled “are on the leading edge of a broader social trend toward the use of assistive technology.”  (More in 3.5.) Learning may also be facilitated, and not merely for the blind, as the result of Nick Hodson's experimentation with a new kind of potentially inter-active `spoken books" Seltzer 2002) that in time should be able to put hundreds of such books on one CD.  The speech engine will have access to dictionary file that is  specific to the text and to the needs of the user and to dialects as varied as those in India or Australia..

Frank has had poor reading instruction and in any case needs better reading skills and habits. The number of jailed prisoners like him  could be significantly reduced if adequate job skills were provided for every young person in detention; and that can be done online now.  Indeed it would be possible in time to transform prison environments that teach crime and violence into transformational learning communities. There have long been effective reading diagnosis and instruction instruments. A few educators think that reading is going to be less important as information is increasingly presented  in realistic stereoscopic 3-D images which, for example, could immerse a prisoner into emotional crisis and moving situations which might motivate transformational change in attitudes and behavior.  There are many electronic programs to improve reading quality, such as DILEMMA, a multi-dimensional reading comprehension program that “combines comprehension strategies with real-life decision-making and problem solving” related to issues like gangs, peer pressure and racial conflicts. (T.H.E Journal, March. 2002.)

George has poor imaging ability and needs help 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 related skills. Breakthrough computer and communication speed begins to make  it possible for a learner or instructor to use all kinds of motion pictures—using VCR DVD and successor technologies—to enliven the imagination  by showing items in museums or in laboratories or archeological sites. Already for some years there have been printed book illustrations of the human heart that can access a CD which brings the heart illustration to life so that the `reader’ can watch the heart beat and watch its dissection from various angles. Now there are larger digita simulations.  Duderstadt (2001) reported that “With the rapid development of sensors and robotic actuators, touch and action at a distance will soon be available.”  Visualization tools can be helpful because “humans often have to visualize something before we can make sense of it." (Jonassen 2000) And we need “ visual prostheses’ to share our images with others; as illustrated by math tools such as Mathematica and MathLab and in chemical visualization tools such as “MacSpartan (that has enabled) students to view, rotate and measure molecules.”.

Hallie  has trouble remembering and needs electronic memory aids These and augmenting memory are discussed in (3.5)Her `learning software' can include note-taking tools that store in her personal computerized memory. The style of education that featured memorization is passing away.  It is essential for  important things to be remembered, however educators now have  technology so that a needed formula, theory or whatever can be instantly accessed  from an electronic memory. Some learners have a natural genius for memory, and new tools should help a new generation of learners to help each one  “become engaged in their own ideal way of learning.”  Some are more talented at remembering in math or art or music and in coming decades powerful new technology will make it possible to take account of each learner’s uniqueness; not merely the current quest for unique learning styles, or to take account of cultural differences but also to nurture memory where it is essential.. Already the web can  envelop learners with graphics, full motion video and audio so that unique features of eye and ear can also be incorporated into the learning and remembering fabric and ecology.  This will make possible surprisingly different and more imaginative learning environments. Jonassen (1999) pointed out that people obtain the knowledge they really need to retain, not through memorization, but “but by reflecting on their experiences and reasoning” since knowledge is, not transmitted but is constructed by the learner.. This is a natural process. Learners  “make sense of their world” by constructing their own representations or models of their experiences.” This they remember or, if too voluminous for instant recall, it can be stored in an always available electronic memory system.

Irving has great problems in getting organized, establishing and observing priorities, getting his assignments done on time.   There now are many kinds of automatic electronic reminder calendars which could be expanded  into a lifelong learning calendar with reminders of what needs to be done and when. However, to aid Internet and distance students Study-Management Software can be combined with other `time-and-work management’ tools available online. Such combined tools can help learners to organize their work, to establish a personal discipline for self-directed study, to set short-term and long-range goals, to plan each day’s work as part of a month-long or semester plan, and to facilitate the completion of each task and master each skill on schedule. Technological monitoring this process of can help students plan their study and help instructors learn more about students than has generally been the case in personal interviews and conversation. As handheld devices evolve, users will be able to choose their preferred way of getting reminded; for instance, whether they want to listen to information, read it or both.. Devices can subsume and automate the functions of the calendars and organizers people now feel compelled to carry with them, such as address and appointment book, notepad and tape recorder. Personal medical monitoring functions and records might be added too.

As long ago as 1998 `Project Jefferson' (Chignell and Lacy 1988) provided an “integrated electronic notebook” that brought together various kinds of computer tools to empower students in their regular work and study. On each assignment it prodded and reminded students, using focus ques­tions to help them organize each assignment. It also supplied background information, sources, and a place to add personal ideas. It used hyper­media navigation through a body of knowledge, with browsing tools, authoring tools, and other guides for the learner. It could be used for various types of research, for example, as an anthropology field research tool. Its creators thought that perhaps the library of the future could be build around such learning tools, rather than the student's tools being adapted to existing types of libraries. Now such tools can be much more sophisticated with bookmark links to web pages and a clock-calendar reminder that it is now time to work on an assignment or project. KeeBoo software could be used by a student to organize digital material – text, images, video, spreadsheets—like a library.  Jonassen (2000) reported on a `Collaboratory Notebook’ that p;roduced a record of a conversation for later review. Also see PDA's: <> .

Jennie has performance anxiety, stress and mood disorders. Restack (2001), who has studied many such disorders, has reported 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.” Counseling can help and some counseling can be provided online. Stress while composing could be reduced if one could be freed by `essay modeling’ and optional style frameworks so she could  concentrate on content. Software to help with creative writing is still primitive but it is emerging. Perhaps next software could fire the mind up—with stimulation tailored to the psychology of each individual-- as a way to end `writer’s block.’

Marie, bored with schooling, needs the more stimulating and challenging learning environment that electronic textbooks with computer and video games can provide. . Like most in this sample of students, she has combinations of difficulties One technological answer to boredom is seen in programs like `Inspiration 6’ software that helpe students prepare presentations that can include clip art, animation, web links, visual summaries of reading. An education professor (Knox 2001) found that students enjoyed it, vied with each other to make presentations, and worked together with enthusiasm to share ideas and procedures in groups. Perhaps, since she feels isolated, Marie needs to find a `virtual community’ such as one created for graduate students who so often must work alone.

Louis does well working alone but wants to enter a profession where teamwork, connecting, working at relationships, cooperating with and listening to others are crucially needed skills.. He functions poorly in class. Technology is now increasingly available to facilitate `collective work,’ that brings together of many talents and minds to do what no one can do alone—or at least to help learners work better together. Smith (1994) reported on the background and origin of his research on `collective intelligence.” (2.4) He, Bolter (1991) and others in a multidisciplinary group—including a  cognitive psychologist and anthropologist—were working on computer systems to support creative and cognitive processes. This led  to concern for computer-assisted collaboration “as an information processing activity. This involved bringing together of  tools: computer applications, databases, hypermedia, computer communications and computer conferencing, audio/visuals, networking and intelligent agents.  A unique characteristic of the World Wide Web, Brown says,  is that “it leverages the small efforts of the many with the large efforts of the few.” A project to use technology to facilitate active learning at Pennsylvania State University has helped students in Economics, for example, who were writing papers in a collaborative model.  Online  chat rooms can be helpful . Groupware, the e-textbook and portable computing devices can be responsive to  the particular strengths and needs of a group studying and experimenting together. Soon it will be possible for `the electronic study station’ to observe the needs and problems of the group, adding to the computerized profile of the group, which can develop and enlarge as a they interact. (3.3.) An online `learner station’ with collective intelligence aids can also make it easy for students to locate others with similar research interests at home or abroad. This can help create “communities” of students—connected electronically across national borders--who are interested in working on a particular project.  The Principia Cybernetica project (Heylighen (2001) has used varied technologies for collaborative theory building.

Ned’s ability to understand the language used in instruction is weak, in part because he comes from a different cultural and religious background.. He needs the chance to ask more questions in his Russian language class and ask for more explanation than the rest of the class needs or wants. He could be aided with an online electronic study station with video and audio tapes that can be used over and over and  with real time `virtual visits’ to Russia. Strauss (2002) pointed out that Princeton University language labs are gone, that "no one has to wait for a language tape. Students can listen to any `tape' at any time, even in the middle of the night and at any place, even...on vacation in Sri Lanka."  Many language problems can be resolved with automatic translation which soon can  perhaps be available for any language, with a clear explanation in each language of everything a learners needs to know. Online textbooks--often with graphic illustrations can help. Online, or through videoconferencing, students on different continents and time zones can thus come to know each other personally and work together, each in his own language in ways not yet possible with current cumbersome and faulty language translation technology.

Opal is a night person who does her best writing and study at midnight and who finds morning classes difficult. Now, whether she is on campus or is a distant student who is a thousand miles away, she can take advantage of online tools that make it possible for her to us study aids and course materials online at any time, day or night. Reed (2005) reports the usefulness of iPods and and other similar new devices for recording and reviewing lectures, for connections when off campus and for many other helpful uses at a much lower cost than alternatives.

Sally needs thinking skills, “elaborating on information, adding personal meaning, building on an idea, adding details and illustrations, modifying and changing ideas, shifting categories of thinking.” Jonassen (2000) has described technological `mind tools’ that could help her learn skills in logical thinking, inferring deductively from generalizations or principles, identifying causal relationships, summarizing, thinking analogically, hypothesizing, planning  and so forth. Karla, like many of her fellow learners, jumps to easy conclusions before taking account of all the facts; a problem called `premature closure.’ Like most learners in today’s busy world they need help in `thinking about her thinking,’ in self critiquing, in `getting the `big picture,’ self-critiquing and in “effectively selecting the best strategy.” Jonassen also describes electronic tools—in the context of `constructive learning—for aiding in development of `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. Karla’s previous schooling is at fault for imprisoning her within a style of teaching/learning that is outdated.

We have listed just a few new and forthcoming tools. So next: how can all such specialized tools be coordinated in a global system in which any learner, anytime, anyplace, can immediately access what is needed? Including:


Richmond (2001) described software to help learners think better.  Thinking, he showed, involves “constructing mental models and then simulating them in order to draw conclusions and make decisions.” A `mental model’ is a picture that learners carry around in their heads, and the picture that each has can be drastically different. Also no one can picture, and include, all of reality within a model. So the models in our heads are limited to various aspects of reality. For example, when we think of a person our judgment may be very faulty because of all we do not know about that person, even someone in our own family. As people talk together they can begin to modify and correct their understandings, but when it comes to really important thinking we all fall short. Richmond has demonstrated a technology that can help improve that faulty thinking, using computer simulation and model construction. All models are simplifications, and therefore only partly true, but the technology helps learners be conscious of what they put in and what they leave out. It helps “dredge…back into consciousness” the truth that all models are wrong but when you think you have no choice but to use them. So Richmond introduced Stella software that helped “map all of the activities that comprise `thinking’ by deliberately constructing mental models and discovering and making conscious the thinking process. Computer simulations help a learner discover what is wrong with a model in his or her head and to see that learning is an elaborate process, involving communication and change in learning. Through simulations—which may be difficult to understand without the diagrams in Richmond’s text—reveals “the elements that make up the thinking activity. 

Jonassen (2000), evaluated Stella software as a `mind tool’ that learners need to solve complex and ill-structured’ problems. To do so they need “to develop complex mental models’—including  metaphorical, visual-spatial and structural knowledge—that enable learners to “test their understanding.” Tools like Stella, he said, are helpful because “systems thinking is so important” and are “at the heart of scientific thinking.” And such mental activities as  planning, using data, collaborating and data visualizing. Stella enabled learners to create runnable computer models of their own mental models, changing the variables to test various alternatives and in other ways improve and clarify their thinking. Technology tools to help improve thinking include mind mapping and InfoMaps. Jonassen has warned, however, that networks in the mind “are far more complex than anything that can be represented in a concept map.” Ideas “are interrelated and are encoded in rich, very redundant networks of ideas.” So technology is secondary to thinking, not the place to begin.

All learners need help in `thinking about their thinking.’ Metacognition is needed, including  `getting the `big picture,’ self-critiquing and “effectively selecting the best strategy.” An online `studystation' could also make it easy for students to locate learners with similar research interests at home or abroad. The Internet can help create “communities” of students—connected electronically across national borders--who are interested in working on a particular project. A `studystation' can make possible a new pedagogy in which students assume responsibility for managing their own learning, scheduling, eval­uating, and reviewing so as to better organize and master their courses. Enlarged motivation also comes with success, for example by providing tutoring when it is needed and then by continuing personal contact with an on­line instructor. Bork (2002) (3.9) says that, in light of his years of experimentation and experience, perhaps the most important contribution of learning technology  is an automated tutoring component to keep track of the interactions between the student and the tutoring system, as well as expert systems to pull together all information needed to counsel a learner and class. 

Thomas, the retired senior citizen who cannot afford expensive elder hostel trips and commercial lecture tours, and for other learners whose travel possibilities are limited, technology like `Active Worlds’ <> offers virtual visits and a way to learn with people all over the world.

 Uriah is scared of computers, math and science and is so convinced that the cannot deal with them that he even refused to try such helpful technology as Mathematica that uses the computer to solve difficult problems more quickly. Seymour Papert (1980) long ago showed how such feelings could and should be changed by the way math and science are taught in primary school. Bork (3.9) also describes accessible technology to transform science instruction so that a higher proportion of learners can become excited about it, and so that nearly all learners can become supportive of science. Most learners are at an early age steered in the wrong direction, missing the opportunity, Papert said, to “acquire a sense of mastery over a piece of the most modern and powerful technology” and thus the chance to establish “an intimate contact with some of the deepest ideas from science from mathematics and from the art of intellectual model building.”  Jonassen (2000) has recommended spreadsheet building software as “versatile tools for identifying, manipulating and visualizing quantitative relationships.”.

Yul needs mentoring and counseling at a distance?  The `Penn State World Campus’ (Hons 2002) has had “a team of instructional designers, working to “create a more interactive student experience.” This includes connections to  to the Career Services Web site and eligibility for participation in the Penn State Alumni Association’s mentor program, LionLink, as well as e-mail connections to faculty and other students. Research was in 2004 already underway to provide for voice control and interaction. Also, at MIT interdisciplinary innovation in wireless networks, systems and technologies has been the focus of the MIT Center for Wireless Networking as it “kicked off its flagship project, `Advanced Concepts in Wireless Networking for Mobile Devices. It aimed to develop “a blueprint for truly seamless, ubiquitous, reliable wireless connectivity that enables a vast new array of mobile multimedia applications.” (MIT 2002).

 X--- is the student who is unknown and has other serious problems. Perhaps he or she needs a diagnosis and better kinds of examinations and self assessment.  Technology can now (3.3)  keep a record of what excites, worries (profile, memory), arouses emotions. Dertouzos  (2000) has proposed a personal medical information program for each individual which he calls a `guardian angel.’ What should educators call a similar computer software empowered agent that keeps an eye on one’s education need and progress?   If we look through the eyes of today’s learners, what would we wish for them?

Unfortunately, many of the exciting learning tools being developed by competing for-profit firms are long going to be too expensive for much of the developing world. They are continually revised and more and more new products are created, an expensive process. Possible profits for this market do not justify creating them in the languages of poor areas and to meet their unique. needs Physicist Bork (2002, 2001) has developed an online tutor; automated to make it cheaply available to learners all over the world in their own languages and offering various learning strategies> It is described here in (3.9). Perhaps it can be a step towards removing a major obstacle to providing education for all in the poorest areas of the world. Bringing together essential tools for the developing world is initially going to require subsidy.


Van is angry over great injustice and Zanhra is hungry and needs medical treatment.. Such Learners need to see their work result in action and accomplishments. The Web, Brown has pointed out, moves 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 are 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 education to be transformed by forthcoming powerful information technologies because so much of it 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. For-profit producers need to providing for existing markets.

Learners Need Immediate, supportive help, such as whre hey can at any time dial up `Professor Jones' and receive a recorded answer that is  "a nuanced synthesis of the best answers to similar questions in the recent past--without' knowing Professor Jones is a "an intelligent agent." Such technology can free faculty from repetitive work so that they can give more personal time to student needs. 

Results must be visible to and adaptable  in varied cultures since learners have cultural as well as individual differences. We cannot here consider all cultural variations of learners and teachers, but for another perspective on a global electronic learning system--lifetime learning 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, 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 their traditional communities and cultures behind? Or can they begin to bring them along.   

Results must be seen in global institutions. As a result of information technology--education should greatly improve in the years ahead .However, that will require some liberation from “the conservative inertia of…institutions including those in education. Note how many pupils are ahead of their teachers.  

Return to Chapter 3.1  |  Go to Chapter 3.3

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According to DISTANCE-EDUCATOR, February 2004, "Geologists at the University of California, Davis, could soon be making virtual field trips to the depths of the Earth, the interior of earthquake faults and perhaps the rocky plains of Mars as a result of a $1 million grant from the W. M. Keck Foundation of Los Angeles.



The Future of Higher (Lifelong) Education: For All Worldwide: A Holistic View
For more information contact Parker Rossman
July 12, 2006 -- Copyright © 2002-2005 Parker Rossman