Concerning impacts of accelerating information technology on students and education
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Concerning Impacts of Accelerating Information Technology on Students and Education. K. Stuart Smith Associate Professor of Computer Science Rocky Mountain College. Disclaimers. Only college professors get to be educators without first learning anything about education!

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Concerning Impacts of Accelerating Information Technology on Students and Education

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Concerning Impacts of Accelerating Information Technology on Students and Education

K. Stuart Smith

Associate Professor of Computer Science

Rocky Mountain College


Only college professors get to be educators without first learning anything about education!

(And even then, I have little experience as a college professor...)

Although certainly a fan of Ian Jukes and Ray Kurzweil, I don’t pretend to represent either. Anything that I say that is particular foolish, unfounded or simply wrong is all mine.

Establishing Context:

Did You Know?

Author: Karl Fisch, Arapahoe High School, Littleton, Colorado


You Need to Understand...

Rates of Change are Accelerating

and not at a nice casual linear pace.

Information Technology appears to obey Kurzweil’s “Law of Accelerating Returns” that states (among other things)

that technology development is evolutionary and hence technologic change is exponential.

You Need to Understand...

Information Technology infiltrates nearly every imaginable aspect of our lives.

Which means that nearly every facet of our modern life is changing, evolving, at a continually accelerating pace.

Our students were born and have lived their entire lives on the knee on an exponential curve, so to speak.

Our World...

Low Tech

Communications: one-on-one, exclusive and, uh, “paced”

Limited Information with slow access

Research was arduous, frustrating

We played in the street

Their World...

Computers Enable Everything

Communications are global, inclusive and instantaneous

“You are [really] There”

Google (“the third half of my brain”), Wikipedia...

They “play” online in MySpace, SecondLife...

Our Worlds Are Different

And They are Different

Practice, practice, practice...

Fluency in a new language is more difficult as we grow older...


results from “sustained stimulation and focus over long periods of time”...

like spending hours and hours with technology each day...

Sprechen Sie Digital?

Digital Natives (Our Students)

They have grown up with technology--not merely adapted to it--technology that was “fantastic”, even unimaginable, only a few years ago! They have never been without it: their nursemaids, their babysitters, the companions of their youth, their world.

As a result, they are natively fluent--and they have trouble with our accents.

Sprechen Sie Digital?

We are “Digital Immigrants”: we speak DSL--Digital as a Second Language

(or at least we try--some of us)

But, they speak so quickly...

Quoting Jukes...(Well, I have been, all along)

“Digital Natives pick up new devices and start experimenting with them right away. They assume that the inherent design of the devices will teach them how to use them [having] adapted a mindset of rapid-fire trial and error learning.

“By the time [we have] read the table of contents of a manual [they have] already figured out 15 things that will work and 15 things that won’t.”

Not Less, Different

Mason (8:40:06 PM): I'm on my cell phone talking to evan, while talking to you and another person and evan online, and programming my JAmp app, and listening to music on iTunes, while eating toast. Multitasking.

Jukes, once again: “We fail to understand, let alone esteem or value the skill development they do have. Instead, we complain about the skill development that they don’t have. Because digital isn’t our native language, we look down our noses [at them] because they have a completely new and different set of skills than the ones we have.”

Now, About Our Schools(Yours and Mine)

The changes we’ve been discussing have been developing for a long time. But...

(exponential growth can seem pretty staid at first)

The changes in the last two decades have been amazing.

Internet (1990)

When did you get your cell phone?

iPOD (2001)

Schools: Of, For and By theDigital Immigrants

Our schools are awash in the accents of Digital Immigrants, the accents of foreigners.

Eric Hoffer: “In times of radical change, the learners inherit the earth while the learned find themselves perfectly equipped for a world that no longer exists.”

Jukes: “If we persist in presenting information in ways that have nothing to do with how our students perceive information, why wouldn’t their attention wander? ... Some accents are thicker than others--and there is an immediate disconnect.”

Digital Natives

High-content, multimedia sources


Pictures, Sound and Video over Text

Random Access

Interaction with group


Immediate Relevance

Digital Immigrants (that’s Us)

Steady, Staged presentation from single sources

Single Tasking

Read the book/manual (other formats are “rewards”)

“Peel the Onion”

Independent Work


Curriculum guides, standardized tests

The Real Digital Divide

Closing the Gap

It’s not just a matter of installing Technology

Schools across the nation are littered with computers...

But seems that little has changed.

Technology is an Amplifier

Give an amplifier to a good guitar player...

You have a concert.

Give an amplifier to a poor guitar player...

You may have a lawsuit from the neighbors!

So it goes with Technology.Technology amplifies differences in pedagogic approach.

Jukes and McCain: 5 Myths

Computers will replace teachers and schools.

No, but as we just noted: they will amplify effectiveness.

Using computers replaces the need to read.

No, in fact, information technology is extremely word-based. Increasingly, simple tasks become more technological.

Computers will replace writing.

No, but technology probably will change the way words are mechanically inscribed.

Technology makes numeracy skills less important.

No, we still need to understand numbers, even if we can perform computations more easily.

Technology is a curriculum or subject.

No, technology is pervasive and is integrated (remember: Digital Natives)

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