Information Age Trends
The formative years of the Information Age, 1956 and 1957, were marked by the launching of Sputnik and an increased number of white-collar workers in relation- ship to blue-collar workers. The Sputnik launch marked the beginnings of satellite communications applications, other opportunities to develop global perspectives, and the space industry. The number and capability of workers are indicative of a change in the nature of the kind of commodity being produced. As we moved from the Industrial Age into the Information Age, more workers became involved in the creation, management, and transfer of information than in the manufacturing of products. An economy built on information rather than goods and services began to emerge. Knowledge (cognition) and knowing how to learn and think (metacogni- tion) increased in global importance, significance, and value (Geist, 2006).
Three significant trends with implications for education mark the Information Age: (1) a shift in demographics; (2) an acceleration of technology; and (3) an ever- expanding base of available data through which to search, sift, sort, and select. It is estimated that the amount of information in the world doubles every 900 days. There- fore, by the time a first-grader progresses through the traditional public educational system and is preparing for high school graduation, the information base will have quadrupled.
Most of today’s children have never lived in a noncomputerized society. Great portions of their leisure time are spent viewing television and playing electronic in- teractive adventure games within imagined, virtual environments. Sophisticated, modern computers and other technological peripherals and devices are the norm, and schools are as responsible for providing access to and the opportunity to learn and use technology, as are families.
The acceleration of technology increases the pace of change. During the Agrarian Age, the pace of change was established by the seasons; each season had specific activities, events, and purposes. The yearly calendar and the almanac were used to mark time. Time orientation moved to the present during the Industrial Age. The 40-hour workweek and time clocks were used to measure productivity and profit. In the Information Age, the orientation has become the future.
Racing toward the Biotechnology Age: The Third Millennium
The Third Millennium is being viewed as a time to close the door on the past and begin anew. The acceleration of technology has allowed the communication and application of information, especially within the fields of science and mathematics, to be rapidly disseminated. Scientists are able to share knowledge and to build cooperative projects wherein information explodes as problems are addressed, break- throughs are made, and problems are solved.
During the Biotechnology Age, the valued resources will be mind and life. The mind as a resource of value demands that people be not only literate but also com- petent, critical, and creative thinkers. People must become independent, lifelong learners, constantly updating their skills, knowledge, and experiences. The ability to participate fully in a technologically rich society will require people to scan entire landscapes of information; to select that which is pertinent, meaningful, and applic- able to the tasks and their thinking; to construct problems and simulations that test hypotheses; to analyze and integrate information; to evaluate results; and to com- pose and communicate their thoughts to form new knowledge.
What Is of Such Intrinsic Value?
Knowing that information will quadruple within a student’s traditional school expe- rience has teachers asking what skills, concepts, and information students will need as participants within such a society. What knowledge is of such intrinsic value that each child from every culture must have and share it within the global village? What skills will teachers need? What responsibility must teachers share? What will be the role of the teacher? How will educators effect responsiveness in such an expansive, ever-changing environment? Many educators believe the traditional, basic 3 R’s will no longer be the end products students possess but will become means to create the qualities of independence, integrity, image, and invention within each student. The development of students as thinkers, problem solvers, and creators requires teachers to create projects in which students work with ideas, symbols, and abstractions. Students’ work will require them to do something with the information they access and acquire.
How Is This Affecting Education and Educators?
The educational system is regarded as the force that, when functioning properly, promotes literacy or, when failing, allows illiteracy. Many U.S. corporations have undergone a transformation to respond to the changes in the world marketplace and have installed state-of-the-art technology to make the workplace more efficient, eco- nomical, and safe. They have retooled the workplace and are presently retraining their workers. With the installation of new technology, the training of employees needs to be at a compatible level. There are very few places within the workplace now for the unskilled and the high school dropout. Many of those jobs are now exported to developing nations where labor laws are few and costs are minimal. Business has accepted the double financial burden of both retooling and retraining. However, the enormous retraining costs cannot be incurred indefinitely solely by industry. Education must share the responsibility of developing technologically lit- erate people, not only to help people maintain a standard of living but also to help people create a balanced lifestyle.
Since the inception of the personal computer in 1977, two “generations” (two 12-year cycles) of students have progressed completely through the school system. Their experiences with computers depended on the visions and financial priorities of their teachers, administrators, and state and community leadership. In many cases, they left high school less prepared than their parents for the demands of the work- place and the decisions of the lifestyle they dreamed of enjoying.
Business and government interests are forming new coalitions for the purposes of raising the educational standards for determining proficiency. Professional orga- nizations for educators have issued position statements regarding the desired avail- ability and use of computers in the classroom. One of the most prominent groups that has developed standards for teachers and students is the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE)