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By Dr. Philip Baczewski, Director of Academic Computing and User Services
A colleague recently forwarded an
essay for my consideration, suggesting that it might be worthy of
reprint in this journal. The essay was "WHO'S
KILLING HIGHER EDUCATION? (OR IS IT SUICIDE?)", by Steve Talbott,
published online in 1998 in an online journal named
Netfuture. Talbott, a technical
author for O'Reilly media, proposed that information technology would
have an effect on higher education, but not necessarily a positive
one. He posed that education was being transformed into a process of
information transfer, which, in the future, would make teachers and
Will it be a thriving and egalitarian international communications and commerce media, as accessible in libraries as it is in executive offices? Or will it be "television," A.K.A. a "wasteland" of commercial and meaningless information driving a consumption-based economy and culture, filling the coffers of a few very rich companies and people?
This question is still in the process of being answered, as we see in
the recent debate about
I envision an education where students gather around a teacher because they find his life to be a pathway to new understanding.
As to the computer, I imagine it will find its genuine, supportive role only to the degree we gain deliverance from the silly notion that it is educationally decisive.
I don't think that the former statement is necessarily mutually
exclusive to current higher education. The best teachers are those who
do share themselves as well as their knowledge with their students. The
best teachers attract a community of learners, and that community now
can extend beyond a single room, thanks to current Internet technology.
Along with Clifford Stoll's Silicon Snake Oil, the book offered just about the first critique to suggest that the widespread utopian expectations for the Internet were not well founded.
I think we've learned by now that no utopian expectations can be well
founded. However, there's no escaping that our society has
changed, and barring some natural or self-made disaster that sends us
all back to following a plow all day, I'd predict that that change will
not be reversed.