Remarks at the Opening AG*SAT Meeting (now known as A*DEC), 2/22/94, Atlanta
Roger Hiemstra, Professor
318 Southfield Dr.
Fayetteville, NY 13066
Phone and Fax: 315-637-0029
Good morning! In many ways I feel like I am preaching to the choir:
- although I feel almost like one of you having been a County Extension Agent for a few years, having graduated from two Land Grant Universities, and having taught in two Land Grant universities
- plus I taught my first distance education course in 1988 and have been teaching them since then, now facilitating two to three such courses each year
- as a matter of fact I got up early this morning and spent an hour "teaching" one of my courses via computer using an asynchronous computer conferencing teaching method, my laptop computer, a modem through the hotel's telephone line from my room to a PSInet phone number here in Atlanta (a nation-wide local access switching system), and a telnet command to the Syracuse University mainframe computer -- I have students living in several New York cities, one in New Jersey, and one in Toronto; last night I "taught" my other course of 21 students scattered throughout Ontario, Canada the same way
I have long been interested in and involved with computers. Before I was a County Extension Agent, back in 1958, I worked as a computer operator for the Douglas Aircraft Computer - the computer I operated was the IBM 704 and with all the peripherals it took nearly a room this size to house the setup - we had 48 K of memory and thought it was quite something - well most of you know well the scenario in the past 35 years; in the 50's and 60's computers were processing numbers; in the 70's and 80's they began processing words (I think the old TI99, Radio Shack's break through, came out in around 1974 and I bought my first home computer, an Apple II+, in 1981) (the XT's came out around 1984); in the late 80's and early 90's computers were processing images; now we are into processing spatial relationships (multimedia and the beginnings of virtual reality) - the pentium chip, the quadra, and now the new PowerPC are forcing such changes at an ever-increasing rate.
Let me describe my office to give you an idea of how I use computers in my teaching. I have all networked together a powerful Mac, dos machine, laser printer, scanner, and cd-rom. At home I have the same set-up except for the scanner and cd-rom; however, I can connect these systems from home to office and vice-versa over a high speed modem - this setup is what I use in my normal daily teaching activities, whether I am working from the office or working out of my home.
What I would like to add next into this equation if I can find the funding is a desktop conferencing system which adds video, voice, and tablet transmission capability - recently I saw a demonstration of Worldlinx telecommunication's vis-a-vis desktop system and found it to be very impressive - and I just attended a computer and cd- rom demonstration two weeks ago and heard that Cornell University's computer engineers have developed software that will send video images over the internet. Wow, what that will do for computer instruction and other communication activities. Incidently, the distance education approach I use, computer mediated conferencing, is an approach that I recommend AG*SAT consider as an additional means for delivering instruction and training.
When Randy contacted me about two weeks ago and asked if I would be on this panel I collected some relevant material for a week just to demonstrate what is crossing my desk all the time and probably yours, too, in regards to some of what the very near future technologies will be like:
- I have here some material from several conferences, publications, and news releases that all relate to computer technology, distance education, and some new directions higher education needs to consider (all received in the course of about one week).
- Like many of you, I have been reading lots lately about the new PowerPC to soon be released by Apple and soon after by others. I think the PowerPC approach to computing (processors for DOS, MAC, and powerPC language all in one computer )will revolutionize computing during the next five years. (An appendix is attached that includes some of my ideas about future trends).
In essence, there are a multitude of both opportunities and challenges ahead for those of us interested in distance education and I am sure this meeting will help delineate several of them.
I can offer some of my ideas on the opportunities:
- Appendix A contains several of my predictions and ideas about emerging circumstances related to access to information, the information super highway, increasing use of multimedia, and even the biochip breakthrough that I believe is just around the corner.
- We know more and more all the time about the ability of learners to be self-directed, how to individualize instruction, and how to design relevant and effective instruction. This has been my area of scholarship for about 20 years and I have become very convinced that the future of education and training must be tied to increasing reliance on the self-directed learning ability and potential of everyone. Of course, distance education efforts are some of the ways of doing this.
But there are some plaguing problems, concerns, and barriers:
- just this morning I heard on TV about a recent survey that showed nearly 45% of all Americans believe they are being left behind on the information superhighway
- we also must worry about the growing gap in this country between the haves and the havenots, equal access to information, the high cost of technology, etc.
- we need to worry about who will sort out all the information we can access, who will control content, and who will set policy - educators must be a part of this and ensure that the education delivered is of high quality, learning theory is used, etc. or it will be vendors and politicians who set the policy. In essence, we must get our act together.
One more comment on the future: I think none of us know quite what it means that Paramount and viacom have come together, but this combination of textbooks, primary sources of information, cable, and educational technology has tremendous educational potential - I hope we can be a part of it.