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   DataBus - Vol 41 No. 2: February-March, 2001
  
Education: The Digital Future

Conference: Theme Addresses Technology Revolution in the Education Environment.


Announcing a digital future might seem strange to those who have been managing digital environments, some for more than twenty years. The change from analog to digital was part of a revolution that preceded the Internet. This revolutionary change occurred in IT departments whose responsibility was to convert language and business rules into bits and bytes. It happened in research institutions that took the language of programmers and created digital hardware that extended human capability. So why is CEDPA, an organization dedicated to bringing the latest information to educational technologists, putting an emphasis on what appears to be an idea that is not new?
 
The reason can be seen in the democratization of the digital world. Digital information is no longer relegated to the purview of people who have been trained in its developmental intricacies. Students and teachers are daily creating digital movies and animated stories. They don't think about the medium of transport. Things like a seven layer OSI model have no consequence for them. They don't care if their email is LDAP compliant or if their Virtual Enterprise is dependent upon a sophisticated support mechanism. Their wireless connection to a network is an expectation and that excessive collisions can cause a degradation in the speed of their ability to transfer information is an annoyance not an understanding. The educational dynamic teaching and learning keeps IT managers engaged in an environment of perpetual change, trying to match limited resources with an insatiable demand.
 
Legislators are complicit partners in this process. Recognizing that investment in technology can offer dramatic capacity to a system that needs assistance in producing better results. They offer impressive incentives to schools to deploy digital technologies that increase student performance. California has created the Digital California Project (DCP) that at first blush appears to be the development of a high capacity broadband network for K-12. But that is not the real intent of the DCP. Its creators understand that a radical evolution is occurring in education a digital revolution. Education is about to become virtual and the first state to provide to its students with the ability to access any information, from any source, from anywhere will position its students to better compete in the dynamic knowledge economy. A collaborative, bolstered by the participation of many industries, has been created, to encourage the development of digital resources for a K-16 establishment.
 
A real time digital discourse is now evolving and the emergent applications will revolutionize the educational environment. Students will experience tele-science, tele-agriculture, virtual interactivity, realistic virtual objects and presence, and tele-immersion in remote locations. Wrap these concepts around any curriculum, perhaps History, and you can imagine the profound difference these engaging applications will make to educators, parents and students. The impact will be no less apparent on the institutions that support classrooms. Financial and human resource functions will bear little semblance to today's operations.
 
These innovations are dependent upon an infrastructure that can handle converged information. This information must all be afforded a Quality of Service that today is given only to digital voice transactions. Fiberoptic transmission capacity is at the core. Support personnel who are trained in sophisticated and multifaceted analysis and problem resolution are essential to implementation, moreover must also be service oriented and handle larger work loads more efficiently. Our mission this year will be to organize information about the Digital Future in presentations on our WEB pages, in the DataBus and at the conference. We intend to provide assistance to our members to meet the challenges confronting them. We will illustrate the equipment that is available, the experts who can contribute and the systems that are emerging. The dialogue around this exciting digital future will be the primary focus of CEDPA's efforts in coming months and in Monterey.
Warren Williams, CEDPA President, is Assistant Superintendent of Information and Technology Services for the Grossmont Union High School District.