Innovations, Past and Future

Written for class, of course, but also one of my favorite class posts in a while:

It probably won’t surprise you that the following is the question I’m most interested in addressing…

What innovations in the Internet or technology would you like to see emerge and how will they fit into education?

I’d like to begin by reflecting on some of the web sites from this week’s reading which predicted innovations related to those that have recently captured my interest.

Riel (1995) wrote:

“Current developments in communication technology now provide new options for students to extend themselves across distances and through time. This technology invites children to leap off the “shoulders of giants” onto satellites and use this global perspective to participate in new ways with their peers and other experts in distant locations. It is possible that these experiences will help make the power or the written word more apparent to new generation of citizens”

The text sounds prescient, yet she writes mostly about email in her examples, and though she does mention message boards, it is not surprising that she failed to imagine the power of blogs and the read/write web to transform student learning. She does write of “a complex partnership among the student, parents, teachers, schools, communities, districts, states, regions, and nations,” but could she possibly have imagined something such as this parent child blog (including video conferencing with the author) when she wrote her article? And although she writes that “computer and printer technology made it possible for people other than parents and teachers to easily read the products of young writers,” the mention of the printer seems anachronistic now, and again I can’t imagine she knew how true this would be given the millions of youth blogging (or journaling) online ten years later. Still, she understood that student writing could contribute to the community and that conversely, the community would come into the classroom – something that might not always be good. Did she imagine that cities like Fullerton in Orange County would embark on projects that would provide city wide wireless internet access, which would in turn allow high school students unfiltered access to the internet while on school grounds (and using school-owned wireless computers)?

Hunter and Richards (1995) also sounded prescient, with their talk of “distributive collaborative inquiry.” They certainly were in a way, but when they wrote of “Each school contribut[ing] to a collective database that includes information from many different geographic locations” they did not foresee the relative ease of student publishing in 2005, when schools and students can publish their own work online with the click of a submit button. This makes truly distributive knowledge possible, and collaboration is further facilitated by the comment features of most read/write web applications – and the use of Wikis in education allows truly collaborative authoring and editing.

Mernit (1995), too, mentioned publishing, but this was at a time when she was amazed to announce that there were 1300 educational websites available; a Google search today for the phrase “educational web site” turns up about 286,000,000 hits! At the time Mernit was writing “Only one-fifth of one percent (0.2 percent) of the approximately 100,000 K-12 schools in the United States [had] enough network access to develop their own Web sites” – now such access is ubiquitous and almost universal. (California, for instance, has 73% of it’s schools not only connected to the internet, but to a high speed broadband network.) Mernit’s projections about where WWW publishing was going in 1995 seem spot on, in spirit, especially the suggestion that “the focus on multimedia and interactivity will increase” – even if she did not specifically foresee the read/write web that students have access to today.

It’s wonderful that the truth of 2005 has turned out to be so much more amazing than what these writers could ever have predicted in 1995, the year Netscape was publicly released.

As for what I would like to see emerge, I’ve never been asked an easier question at Walden. With text based blogs already graduating to visual and audio content (consider and respectively), and with vodcasting (video on demand casting) already here, what I look forward to is students creating more and better multimedia content to contribute to the community through their own blogs, podcasts, and vodcasts. As students acquire skills such as those taught in the ACME animation project and being developed at the Education Arcade, they will be well suited to contribute to the entertainment industry (the United States’ second biggest export industry). In education, I envision a profusion of student made games (since, as Professor Seymour Papert, 1980, says, if students are to play video games, they should create them), created using an open source gamemaster’s kit not unlike the one included with Neverwinter Nights, which is already being used at MIT to develop Revolution. I envision advanced students creating more of the simulated online worlds, similar to the way the ‘jedi’ in the MUDs of the early nineties would write levels for other players. This will be project and problem based learning for the designers, and context-embedded, inquiry-driven, and socially negotiated learning for the players of the multiplayer online role playing games.

I could write all night about this, but will get this posted before midnight instead.

Note, thought, that my interest in making projections about the future, and in affecting the future is even leading me to explore the delphi method for use in my dissertation.



Hunter, B., Richards, J. (1995). Learner contributions to knowledge community and learning. The Future of Networking Technologies for Learning. The U.S. Department of Education. Available

Imperial County Office of Education. (2005). Program FAQ. K-12 High Speed Network. Available

Mernit, S. (1995) Publishing on the WWW: what’s happening today and what may happen in the future. The Future of Networking Technologies for Learning. The U.S. Department of Education. Available

Papert, S. (1980). Mindstorms: children, computers, and powerful ideas. New York:
Basic Books, a Division of Harper Collins Publishers Inc.

Riel, M. (1995) The Internet and the humanitites: the human side of networking. The Future of Networking Technologies for Learning. The U.S. Department of Education. Available