Chapter 1 Summary Information technology Is proving to be invaluable to people of all ages Chapter 1 Summary Modern society is undergoing profound large degree, by these technological develop- technological and social changes brought ments, they must adapt through education about by what has been called the information and training. Already there is evidence of revolution. This revolution is characterized by demands for new types of education and train- explosive developments in electronic informa- ing, and of new institutions emerging to fill tion technologies and by their integration into these demands. The historical relationship be- complex information systems that span the tween education and Government will be af- globe. The impacts of this revolution affect in- fected by the role that Government plays in dividuals, institutions, and governments–al- enabling educational institutions to respond tering what they do, how they do it, and how to the changes created by these technologies. they relate to one another. If individuals are to thrive economically and socially in a world that will be shaped, to a Background Historically, the Federal Government’s in- terest in educational technology has been spo- radic—rising as some promising new technol- ogy appeared and falling as that technology failed to achieve its promise. Attention was focused, moreover, on the technology itself and not on the broader educational environ- ment in which it was to be used. In the late 1960’s, for example, the Federal Government funded a number of research and development (R&D) projects in the use of computer-assisted instruction (CAI). Interest in the projects waned, however, given the high costs of hard- ware and curricula and the failure to integrate computer-based teaching methods into the in- stitutional structure of the school. Over the last decade, Federal funding for R&D in educational information technology has dropped precipitously. At the same time, development and applications of information technology have advanced rapidly in many sectors. Public schools, beset by problems that such technology might mitigate, have lagged behind in adapting to technological changes. In view of this situation, OTA was asked in October 1980 to reexamine the potential role of new information technology in education. 3 4 . Informational Technology and Its Impact on American Education — The assessment was initiated at the request clude communication systems such as direct of: 1) the Subcommittee on Select Education broadcast satellite, two-way interactive cable, of the House Committee on Education and low-power broadcasting, computers (including Labor; and 2) the House Subcommittee o n S c i - personal computers and the new hand-held ence, Research, and Technology of the Com- computers), and television (including video mittee on Science and Technology. disks and video tape cassettes). This report examines both the demands the The assessment was premised on three ini- information revolution will make on education tial observations and assumptions: and the opportunities afforded to respond to The United States is undergoing an infor- those demands. Included in its scope are a mation revolution, as documented in an survey of the major providers of education and OTA assessment, Computer-Based Na- training, both traditional and new, and an ex- tional Information Systems. amination of their changing roles. The full There is a public perception that the pub- range of new information products and serv- lic schools are “in trouble,” and are not ices rather than any single technology is exam- responding well to the normal educational ined, since the major impact on education will demands being placed on them. Public most likely stem from the integration of these schools in many parts of the country are technologies into instructional systems. faced with severe economic problems in For this report OTA has defined education the form of rapidly rising costs and re- to include programs provided through a vari- duced taxpayer support. These pressures ety of institutions and in a variety of settings, are forcing a new search for ways to im- including public schools; private, nonprofit in- prove the productivity and effectiveness stitutions that operate on the elementary, sec- of schooling. ondary, and postsecondary levels; proprietary A host of new information technology schools; training and education by industry products and services that appeared capa- and labor unions; instruction through the mili- ble of fulfilling the educational promises tary; and services provided through libraries anticipated earlier are entering the mar- and museums or delivered directly to the ketplace with affordably low cost and home. Information technology is defined to in- easy accessibility. Findings OTA found that the real situation is far q Information technology is already begin- more complex than assumed above. In sum- ning to play an important role in provid- mary, the assessment’s findings are: ing education and training in some sec- The growing use of information technol- tors. ogy throughout society is creating major q Information technology holds significant new demands for education and training promise as a mechanism for responding in the United States and is increasing the to the education and training needs of so- potential economic and social penalty for ciety, and it will likely become a major not responding to those demands. vehicle for doing so in the next few dec- The information revolution is creating ades. new stresses on many societal institu- q Much remains to be learned about the tions, particularly those such as public educational and psychological effects of schools and libraries that traditionally technological approaches to instruction. have borne the major responsibility for Not enough experience has been gained providing education and other public in- with the new information technology to formation services. determine completely how that technol- Ch. l—Summary q 5 .— — ogy can most benefit learners or to predict major national effort, whether federally possible negative effects of its use. Given inspired or not, to introduce these new this insufficient experience, caution technologies into education. should be exercised in undertaking any The Information Society Role of Information manufacturing, and service—some now have begun to define and explore a fourth, the infor- For the foreseeable future, information tech- mation sector. One analysis has shown that nology will continue to undergo revolutionary this new sector, if defined broadly, already ac- changes. The microprocessor-an inexpensive, counts for over 60 percent of the economic ac- mass-produced computer on a chip-will be- tivity of the United States. come ubiquitous in the home and office—not only in the easily identifiable form of the per- Many firms involved directly with informa- sonal computer or word processor, but also as tion are large and growing. Two of the largest a component of numerous other products, corporations in the world, AT&T and IBM, from automobiles to washing machines and principally manufacture information products thermostats. High-speed, low-cost communi- cation links will be available in such forms as two-way interactive cable, direct broadcast from satellites, and computer-enhanced tele- phone networks. New video technologies such as video disks and high-resolution television will be available. These technologies will be in- tegrated to form new and unexpected types of information products and services, such as videotex and on-line information retrieval sys- tems that can be provided over telephone or air waves directly to the home. It is impossible to predict which of these technologies and services will succeed in the competition for consumer dollars, or which will appeal to particular markets. It is, however, reasonable to conclude that they will radical- ly affect many aspects of the way society gen- erates, obtains, uses, and disseminates infor- mation in work and leisure. The growing importance of information it- self drives and is driven by these rapid tech- nological changes. Until a few decades ago, the information industry—that industry directly involved with producing and selling informa- tion and information technology-was rela- tively small in economic terms. It is now be- coming a major component of the U.S. econ- omy. While most economists still talk about Personal-type computers are used for instruction in many the traditional economic sectors—extractive, classrooms throughout the Nation 6 q Informational Technology and Its Impact on American Education and provide information services. Moreover, Digital Telephone Network.—The shift to business in general is beginning to treat infor- digital transmission will allow telephone lines mation as a factor of production that takes its to carry more information at higher speed and place beside the conventional factors of land, with greater accuracy, providing better link- labor, and capital. In addition, the Govern- age of information between computer termi- ment is beginning to treat information as an nals. important element of national security. While defense officials have always been concerned Broadcast Technologies.—Some distribu- about the disclosure of military information— tion technologies in the entertainment market such as troop movements or weapons design may also have important potential educational —they are now also concerned about the inter- uses. For one, the direct broadcast satellite can national leakage of more general U.S. scientif- transmit a program directly to a home or of- ic and technical information that other coun- fice, bypassing a cable system. For another, tries could conceivably use to pursue economic low-power stations, which restrict transmis- or military goals that are in contrast to our sion to a limited geographical range, provide own. a low entry cost to licensees and are subject to less regulation than are traditional broad- In addition to serving as an economic good, cast stations. access to information is becoming increasingly important for individuals to function in soci- Computers. —The design and uses of com- ety effectively as citizens, consumers, and par- puters have advanced to the point where there ticipants in political processes. Relations with is now a mass consumer market for computers government at all levels are becoming more and computer software. Moreover, networks complex—whether they involve dealing with that link privately owned computers have ex- the Internal Revenue Service, applying for panded access to information. Desktop com- social benefits and services, or seeking protec- puters are becoming more common in the tion from real or perceived bureaucratic abuse. home, the small business, and formal educa- Individuals are confronted with the need to tional settings. The use of hand-held com- evaluate more sophisticated choices and to puters, cheaper and more portable than desk- understand their rights and responsibilities top computers, has also increased. Along with under the laws and regulations intended to computer development have come advances in protect them in the marketplace. the interface between humans and computers —input/output technology. Input technology Information Technologies is the process of putting information into the computer—either by typing it, speaking to the The rapid evolution of the following tech- computer, or showing the computer pictures. nologies in the last few decades has shaped the Developments in output technology are occur- information revolution: ring in the areas of low-cost printers, graphics Cable.–Cable systems–wherein data and (particularly color graphics), and voice. programs are transmitted over a wire rather than through airwaves-are growing rapidly. Storage Technology. —Data programs are The newer systems offer more channels, and stored on a variety of media for use in the com- some offer two-way communication. puter: silicon chips, floppy disks, and hard disks. Improvements are being made in such Satellite Communication.—Satellites have technology for both large and small comput- stimulated development of new types of tele- ers. vision networks to serve cable subscribers and earth station owners with specialized program- Video Technology.–Significant develop- ing. ments in several areas of video technology are Ch. l—Summary q 7 likely in this decade. Video cassette recorders Banks, on the other hand, are beginning to are already important consumer devices. The compete with computer service bureaus in pro- filmless camera, which combines video and viding more general on-line information serv- computer technology to “write” a picture on ices to businesses and homes. a very small, reusable floppy disk, may soon The U.S. Postal Service, along with Con- be available. gress and a variety of Federal executive and Video Disks.— Resembling a phonograph regulatory agencies, is considering the degree record, a disk that stores television program- to which it should compete with private tele- ing is of considerable interest to educators. It communications firms in the provision of elec- is durable, inexpensive to produce, and capable tronic mail services. Large computer firms of storing a large amount of data and pro- such as IBM are moving toward direct com- grams. petition with traditional telecommunication common carriers such as AT&T for the provi- Information Services. -Several of the afore- sion of information. Telephone companies may mentioned information technologies are now offer “electronic yellow pages” that could rival being integrated to provide new types of serv- the classified advertising business of news- ices. For example, several countries now use papers. the existing television broadcast medium to bring information services to homes and of- Those institutions principally concerned fices. Using a teletext system, the user can with the collection, storage, or transfer of in- select a page for special viewing as it is trans- formation will feel the greatest effects. They mitted in segments over the air. In a videotex include both private sector firms—in fields system the user can preselect a page from the such as publishing, entertainment, and com- central system for immediate viewing. Close- munications—and public or nonprofit organi- ly related to videotex are the information net- zations such as libraries, museums, and works that provide owners of desktop com- schools. How they handle their product—in- puters and terminals with access to computer formation–may differ from the handling of and data services and to one another over com- tangible goods by other institutions because munication networks. Through electronic con- information has characteristics that differen- ferencing, geographically separated individu- tiate it from tangible goods. For example, in- als can participate in meetings. Variations in- formation can be reproduced easily and rela- clude audio conferencing, which uses telephone tively inexpensively. It can be transported in- lines; video conferencing, which supplements stantly worldwide and presumably can be the voice connection with television images; transferred without affecting its original own- and computer conferencing, which involves ership. Thus, copyright or other forms of pro- transmitting messages through a central com- tection for intellectual property—data bases, puter that then distributes them as requested. programs, or chip designs-is important to the growth of the information industry. Impacts on Institutions While the business of selling information Impacts from the information revolution are has always existed in some form–e.g., book being felt by government at all levels and by publishing, newspapers, or broadcasting–the the military, industry, labor unions, and non- growth of this sector and its movement into profit service institutions. Traditional services electronic forms of publishing will create con- provided by these institutions now overlap in flicts with traditional societal attitudes about new ways and offer a wide variety of new serv- information. The concept of information as a ices based on information technology. For ex- public good whose free exchange is basic to ample, firms as diverse as investment houses the functioning of society is inherent in the and retail stores now compete with banks by first amendment to the Constitution and un- providing a variety of financial services. derlies the establishment of public libraries l– 8 q Informational Technology and Its Impact on American Education and schools. This concept conflicts with the the service professions, such as law and med- market view of information, which recognizes icine, will be transformed. that there are inherent costs in the provision While some sociologists suggest that the ef- of information. Adopting new information fect will be to “deskill” labor by lowering the technologies will entail extra costs that must skill requirements for workers, more anticipate be borne somehow by the users of those tech- that a greater premium will be placed on lit- nologies. eracy, particularly technological and informa- The conflict between the view of information tion literacy. The latter argue that an increas- as a market good and the view of it as a “pub- ing number of jobs will be in the information lic good” affects public institutions in a num- sector or will require the use of information ber of ways. Public nonprofit institutions find systems. Moreover, new forms of production themselves increasingly in competition with and information handling will create new jobs private profitmaking firms that offer the same requiring new skills. Vocational education and or similar services. Institutions such as librar- industrial training programs will be needed to ies, schools, and museums are beginning to feel teach the skills for jobs such as robot mainte- pressure to incorporate both nonprofit and in- nance or word processing. come-generating offerings in their own mix of An advanced information society will place services. To the extent that previously free or a premium on skills oriented toward the crea- very low-cost and widely available information tion of new knowledge and the design of new services such as education move into the pri- technologies. Thus, while there is some current vate marketplace, access to them may become debate about a possible surplus of college limited, either because of their cost or because graduates, generally speaking many experts of their restricted technological availability. see a growing gap between the demand and Periodicals previously available at news- supply of graduates in engineering and sci- stands, for example, may be available in the ence, and particularly in computer engineer- future only via computer or video disk. ing and science. New Needs for Education A key element in all of these educational and Training needs is that they will constantly change. In a rapidly advancing technological society, it The information revolution places new de- is unlikely that the skills and information base mands on individuals, changing what they needed for initial employment will be those must know and what skills they must have to needed for the same job a few years later. Life- participate fully in modem society. It may also long retraining is expected to become the norm be increasing the social and economic prices for many people. that will be paid by those who do not adapt to technological changes. For instance, Case Studies on Information spurred by increasing domestic and interna- tional economic competition, U.S. industry is Technology expected to adopt computer-based automation In addition to using existing information for in a major way. Computer-aided design, robot- this assessment, OTA undertook case studies ics, and other new computer-based manufac- designed to gain insights into the successful turing technologies will, within the next application of information technology in edu- decade, transform the way goods are manu- cation. Accordingly, OTA examined well- factured. Automation will not be restricted to established programs in public school sys- the factory, however. Office automation will, tems, industries, libraries, museums, the mili- according to some, have an even more revolu- tary, special education, and direct to the home tionary effect on management and on clerical markets nationwide. These case studies are work in business. Over the longer term, even presented in the appendix. Many of the find- —— . Ch. l—Summary q 9 ings presented in this assessment reflect ob- formation technology to improve the ability servations made in these studies. The most of foreign students and the physically and important of these observations is that infor- mentally handicapped to communicate. mation technologies can be most effectively applied to tasks when they are well integrated Some experts suggest that the use of com- in their institutional environments. puters by students teaches them new ways of thinking and new ways of solving problems that may be more appropriate in an informa- tion age. They suggest that a generation that Potential Technological Solutions grows up with computers will have a signifi- OTA found little evidence of current hard- cant intellectual advantage over one that does ware limitations that would limit the applica- not. Many educators criticize such a view as bility of technology to education and, hence, being too technology-centered. At the very call for major research efforts. Continuing least one can predict, however, that computer research in the general fields of computer and computer-based information services will science and engineering, coupled with innova- be ubiquitous by the next century, and that tive private sector development will provide learning how to use them effectively is a basic the necessary hardware base. The only excep- skill that will be required for many and per- tion is the area of technology for the handi- haps most jobs. (In response to this view of capped, where it is not clear that the opportu- future skill requirements, many schools have nities for developing specialized technology placed a high priority on computer literacy as could be met without some Federal support the first instructional use of the computer.) for R&D. There does appear to be a need, how- Although experience with educational tech- ever, for R&D focused on developing new tech- nologies has demonstrated that they offer a niques and tools for software development, variety of potential benefits, it has also dem- human/machine interface, and improving the onstrated that technology cannot, by itself, understanding of cognitive learning processes. provide solutions to all educational problems, If properly employed, information technol- nor should it be imposed on an educational ogy has certain characteristics that suggest system without sensitivity to institutional and it will be invaluable for education. For one, in- societal barriers that could prevent the realiza- formation technology may be the only feasi- tion of educational benefits. These barriers in- ble way to supplement teaching capability in clude: schools faced with reduced teaching staffs and larger class sizes. For another, information Institutional Barriers.--New educational technology is capable of distributing education technology must be designed for ease of inte- and training, both geographically and over gration into the schools and other educational time. Services can be provided in the home, institutions that will use it. Some adaptations at work, in a hospital, or in any other location of curricula, schedules, and classroom organi- where and when they may be needed. zation will be needed, but the changes are not likely to be extreme. Many of the electronic media, such as video disks or microcomputers, allow learners to use Teacher Training. –Widespread use of tech- them at their convenience, instead of being nology in the classroom will require that teach- locked into specifically scheduled times. Com- ers be trained both in its use and in the pro- puter-based analysis, combined with a flexi- duction of good curriculum materials. Too few ble, adaptive instructional system could diag- teachers are so qualified today. Schools main- nose and immediately respond to differences tain that they are already faced with a short- in learning strategies among students and, age of qualified science and mathematics hence, could be more educationally effective. teachers (those most likely to lead the way in Finally, much work has been done on using in- computer-based education). Furthermore, 10 q Informational Technology and Its Impact on American Education there is little evidence that most of the teacher —e.g., copyright, patents—for their informa- training colleges in the United States are pro- tion products as a barrier to investment in viding adequate instruction to new teachers development. in the use of information technology. Skepticism About Long-Term Effects.– Lack of Adequate Software.--OTA found Some educators are seriously concerned that general widespread agreement that, with few the long-term effects on learning of substitut- exceptions, the quality of educational soft- ing technology for traditional teaching meth- ware-curriculum material designed for educa- ods are not sufficiently understood. While tional technology-now available was, in gen- acknowledging that computers or other tech- eral, not very good. Curriculum providers do nologies may have some limited utility in the not yet use the new media to full advantage classroom for drill and practice, or for instruc- for several reasons. In the first place, many tion in computer literacy, they fear that any of the technologies are still new. It takes time widespread adoption of technology for educa- to learn how to use them, and the early at- tion could have deleterious effects on the over- tempts suffer from this learning process. Sec- all quality of learning. ond, production of high-quality educational software is expensive. Some large firms that Cost.–Even though the cost of computer hardware and communication services is drop- have the necessary capital to produce educa- ping, investment in educational technology tional software hesitate to risk developmen- still represents a substantial commitment by tal money in a relatively new and uncertain financially pressed schools. Costs of software market. are likely to remain high until a large market Third, the programmers and curriculum ex- develops over which providers can write off perts qualified to produce educational soft- developmental costs. In some cases the cost ware are in short supply. Finally, some firms of information products and services may be cite the lack of adequate property protection passed on to users for the first time. Policy Issues and Options Issues response to these national needs would be both appropriate and effective. The impact of information technology on q Redressing inequities: In both the OTA education will confront Congress with a num- study on national information systems ber of important policy decisions in several and in this assessment, OTA found con- areas: cern that a significant social, economic, q Education and training for economic and political gap could develop between growth: OTA found that trends in auto- those who do and those who do not have mation and the growth of the information access to, and the ability to use, informa- sector of the economy will probably pre- tion systems. People who cannot make ef- sent the United States with severe man- fective use of information technology may power training problems over the next find themselves unable to deal effective- decade. These will include a persistent ly with their government and to obtain shortage of highly trained computer scien- and hold a job. Both social and economic tists, engineers, and other specialists; a concerns may motivate Congress to take need for retraining workers displaced by action to improve literacy in American so- factory and office automation; and a need ciety. for a more technologically literate work q New institutional roles: OTA found that force. Congress must decide what Federal many public educational institutions are Ch. l—Summary q 11 under severe strain, to the extent that current educational use of technology was many question their survival-at least in the lack of adequate educational software. their current form. Actions directly re- There may be a role for the Government lated to the use of information technology in reducing the risks software producers could also have important impacts on currently see that inhibit major invest- these public educational institutions, both ment in quality courseware (educational by enhancing their productivity and by software). Many of the existing successful helping them offer a modern, computer- packages, such as the Sesame Street pro- and communication-based curriculum. Al- grams for television and the PLATO com- though the States have primary responsi- puter-aided instruction system, were de- bility for control of the public schools, veloped with partial Federal support. On decisions and policies set at the Federal the other hand, good software may be level have influenced the nature of pub- forthcoming if the producers see a suffi- lic education and will continue to do so. cient quantity of hardware in the schools to provide them with a viable market. Options for Federal Action –Directly fund technology acquisition by the schools: The Federal Government Assuming that Congress decides there is a could directly underwrite the acquisition significant need for Federal action to address of hardware and software by the schools. these issues, there are a number of possible ac- Such a program would create a market for tions it could take. educational products that would attract q Direct Intervention.— Congress could take producers, and it would accelerate the in- action to increase and improve the use of troduction of technology into the schools. information technology in education. Most On the other hand, such an approach may of the following options would principally promote premature and unwise purchases affect the schools. A few would have a of technology by schools that are unpre- broader effect on the provision of education pared to use the technology effectively. and training in other institutions. It is also counter to some current trends –Provide tax incentives for donations of and attitudes in Congress concerning the computers and other information technol- proper Federal role in education. ogy: H.R. 5573 and S. 2281 are examples –Provide support activities: The Federal of such initiatives. They are intended to Government could assume a leadership accelerate the rate at which schools install role in encouraging the educational sys- computer hardware and to respond to pos- tem to make more effective use of infor- sible inequities in the abilities of school mation technology by funding demonstra- districts to direct funds to equipment ac- tion projects, teacher-training programs, quisition. However, some experts have and the development of institutions for noted that the personal computer indus- exchanging information about successful try is on the verge of moving to a new gen- implementations. OTA found evidence of eration of more powerful machines that a high degree of interest and motivation may have much greater potential for edu- by both schools and parents that could be cational application on a more sophisti- more effectively channeled with appropri- cated level. Donations of older equipment ate Federal leadership. Such a program could freeze the schools into dependency would not address the financial limita- on obsolescent systems. Moreover, such tions that currently prevent many institu- incentives do not address problems such tions from acquiring technology and soft- as the need for software, teacher training, ware. or institutional barriers to effective use. Adapt a General Education Policy.—Con- –Subsidize software development: O T A gress is considering various forms of educa- found that the most-often cited barrier to tion-related legislation that may affect, and 12 q Informational Technology and Its Impact on American Education in turn maybe affected by, the new informa- age a combination of both by using Federal tional needs of society. Examples are bills funding to leverage private investment. concerning vocational education, veterans’ q Elimination of Unintended Regulatory Bar- education, education for the handicapped, riers.--Some legislation and regulation not and foreign language instruction. Such leg- specifically directed at education may create islation, if drafted with the intent to do so, barriers to the effective application of edu- could encourage the development of more cational technology. Telecommunication effective and economical technological alter- regulation, for example, can affect the cost natives to current programs. of technology, access to communication channels, and the institutional structure of q Support R&D.–Federal civilian agency education providers. support of R&D in educational technology Moreover, protection of intellectual prop- has decreased substantially over the last erty, principally copyright law, was identi- decade. OTA found that, to make the most fied as a major determinant of the willing- effective use of technology, there was a need ness of industry to invest in educational for R&D in learning strategies and cognitive software. The current state of the law was development, methods for the production of seen by many industry experts as inade- effective and economical curricular soft- quate and, hence, as creating a barrier to the ware, and the long-term psychological and development of novel and innovative soft- cognitive impacts of technology-based edu- ware. However, to the extent that such a cation. Congress could consider policies to: barrier does exist, it is not clear whether its 1) directly support R&D in these areas, 2) removal lies in new legislation or in the encourage private sector investment from gradual development of legal precedent in both foundations and industry, or 3) encour- the courts.
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