April 08, 2008

The net: it's all just a fad

It was one line in Clifford Stoll's TED Talk that made me wince in particular: take the computers out of schools. But having seen what he was 'predicting' in 1995 about the future of the web, I don't think I can take much he says as seriously as perhaps I should:

“Visionaries see a future of telecommuting workers, interactive libraries and multimedia classrooms. They speak of electronic town meetings and virtual communities. Commerce and business will shift from offices and malls to networks and modems. And the freedom of digital networks will make government more democratic. Baloney”

“….Yet Nicholas Negroponte, director of the MIT Media Lab, predicts that we'll soon buy books and newspapers straight over the Intenet. Uh, sure.”

“Then there are those pushing computers into schools. We're told that multimedia will make schoolwork easy and fun….Who needs teachers when you've got computer-aided education? Bah.”

“Then there's cyberbusiness. We're promised instant catalog shopping - just point and click for great deals. We'll order airline tickets over the network, make restaurant reservations and negotiate sales contracts. So how come my local mall does more business in an afternoon than the entire Internet handles in a month?”

“What's missing from this electronic wonderland? Human contact. Discount the fawning techno-burble about virtual communities. Computers and networks isolate us from one another. A network chat line is a limp substitute for meeting friends over coffee.”

Thirteen years on some of these phrases are still bandied about by the nay-sayers: human contact through social networking is viewed sceptically and people still mistaken the intentions of those integrating ICT into learning and teaching - it does not replace the teacher. Thankfully, though, we can quietly and happily giggle at this one scientist's attempts to predict our futures.

Thanks to BrandDNA for the initial kick into this post.


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Having watched Clifford's presentation, I would find it hard to take notice of someone who, even for effect can't sustain a thought for more than a few seconds, even though he has cues written on his hand.
Indeed I will not ask him what the future holds but ask an experienced Primary teacher or better still a child ( now they really get social networking )- I can't remember who said that whereas we of the older generation see social networks as a cloud of links - youngsters today just consider it the oxygen that they breathe! Try that for starters Mr Stoll!

It still baffles me that, at this stage in the proceedings, some people still miss the point entirely.

You are right Ewan: it is not a question of either/or.

Ooh, nice digging Ewan. I remember several people saying things like "So how come my local mall does more business in an afternoon than the entire Internet handles in a month?" like it was meant to happen overnight. When you look at how quickly that change in retail has happened, it is overnight compared with the history of retail, yet they looked around, saw it hadn't happened _right_ now, and assumed it would never happen. As you say it sounds similar to what people say today, despite the massive evidence they've had to the contrary in the past decade.
And of course, it's not either/or - guess what I can enjoy a coffee with someone and also enjoy an online chat with someone else. One doesn't negate the other.

Don't know if the story about one of our local HMI/ACE gurus has reached you. P Grammar HMI report - less IT more flashcards and ...................... wait for it .........OHPs.

Talk about missing the point!

By the way we have been in the Big Apple for the past 2 weeks. Angela had a ball in the Apple Store.


Yes, Clifford Stoll got it seriously wrong. 15 years after the public launch of the Web, many people regard it as the “normal” way of communicating, buying things, keeping up with the news, etc: v. Stephen Bax on the process of “normalisation”, whereby technology is invisible and truly integrated.

I went to Hungary this weekend for a conference planning meeting (EUROCALL 2008), which will take place in Székesfehévár:
We did a lot of the preliminary planning online, especially regarding the arrangement for getting to and from the venue of the meeting. I bought my airline tickets online, checked in online for the outward and return trips and kept a watchful eye for news online about the chaos at Terminal 5 (I flew out and back from Terminal 5 – and it WAS chaotic).

During the meeting we skyped with a colleague from Finland who couldn’t make the trip. This is all completely “normal” for me and my colleagues. Maybe we could have done all our business online, but then we would have missed the wonderful lunch on a boat on the Danube in Budapest, the Soproni Kékfrankos wine, the pálinka, the roast venison, the roast wild boar and the biggest Wiener Schnitzel I have ever seen. We aim to hold small meetings in the EUROCALL HQ in Second Life in future, but we will always meet face-to-face at least once a year.

By the way, did you know that my age-group, the over-65s, spend around four hours longer online each week than 18-24s? See the UCL CIBER team’s report that dispels a number of myths about the Google Generation:

This makes me wonder whether educators are addressing the right audience. It's the silver surfers who have the time on their adds.


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About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is the founder of NoTosh, the no-nonsense company that makes accessible the creative process required to innovate: to find meaningful problems and solve them.

Ewan wrote How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen, a manual that does what is says for education leaders, innovators and people who want to be both.

What does Ewan do?

Module Masterclass

School leaders and innovators struggle to make the most of educators' and students' potential. My team at NoTosh cut the time and cost of making significant change in physical spaces, digital and curricular innovation programmes. We work long term to help make that change last, even as educators come and go.

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