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Centre for Applied Research in Education
University of East Anglia
BERA Conference, Manchester
Schooling is one of those words the meaning of which oscillates between positive
and negative connotations. The concept of life-long schooling is capable of
sending shudders down the spine at the same time as coercing a degree of assent
that somehow it is a ‘good idea’. Its smoother variants are of course,
‘life-long learning’ or ‘life-long education/professional
development’. What they amount to in contemporary practice is a recognition
of the need to be ‘flexible’ in a fast changing labour market that
is subject to the whims of the global financial dealers and multinational enterprises
which pick or drop whatever local community suits their purpose. In short, throughout
our lives we must expect to require schooling in whatever ‘knowledges’,
‘skills’, ‘personal qualities’ are required by a market
governed by globalised business corporations increasingly capable of influencing
governments to service their needs.
This is hardly a surprising outcome given the history of mass schooling which has been deployed to meet various political purposes since the nineteenth century: teaching people to accept their station in life, to produce elites, or to re-engineer society to meet the social or economic purposes of the government of the day. The engineering metaphors in relation to social and economic purposes have been as frequently applied during the last twenty years as they have ever been. Whether it was Thatcher denouncing schools in the 1980s for having failed to equip children for employers needs or whether it is the language of ‘high reliability’ performance of such recent schooling engineers as David Reynolds, generally speaking hardly a thought has been given to whether there is a difference between schooling and education and what each means to the quality of an individual’s life as distinct from the cost of living.
The difference matters. By using the engineering metaphor against itself I want to explore lifelong schooling as a form of stealth technology the consequences of which are made increasingly complex and unpredictable by developments in the information technologies. Briefly, a stealth technology exists where the surface design conceals an inner depth and power. The most notorious recent example is that of the Stealth Bomber which was deployed during the Gulf War during 1991 The metaphor is deliberately sinister in order to create a critical tension between the potential positive value of telematics supported learning environments for democratic education and its covert use for social, political and economic surveillance and control. Following discussions of the metaphor employing my previous and recent research in telematics, schools and workplace learning environments, I will end by offering a model for the democratic and educational development of telematic supported learning environments which relocates the notion of improvement away from metaphors of technical engineering to that of personal, social and cultural notions of improvement in terms of human rights and quality of life.
I have elsewhere (e.g., Schostak 1991, 1993) described schooling as a molding and fashioning of minds and behaviours. This I have contrasted with education which employs strategies of challenge to the taken for granted frameworks of knowledge and behaviour employed in everyday life. The particular form and purposes that schooling adopts will vary according to social, political and historical context. Whatever the variety adopted, education will always stand as a challenge to it (Schostak 1996). The importance of this difference is an impetus to the emergence of a stealth technology.
In the early days of the emergence of mass schooling its two-edged nature was clearly at the heart of political discussion. There were those who saw mass access to knowledge via the skills of reading and writing as a positive good resulting in the progressive reform of society; while others saw it either as a means by which to transmit traditional values and control the masses, or as a dangerous virus which would lead to discontent and cause the masses to aspire to positions beyond their station in life. Similarly in the 1980s with the ‘trendy lefty’ hysteria whipped up by the news media and Ministers of Education the double edged nature of teaching was very much at the forefront of the politics of schooling (Schostak 1993). The legacy of league tables, purchaser-provider relationships, tight curricular control and the fear of losing out in some imagined race between school children in Taiwan and Birmingham remains as key mechanisms in the rhetoric of the New Labour Government of the late 1990s and is set to dominate the politics of schooling for many years to come.
In order to understand contemporary schooling one has to look closely at the match between 1) the rhetorical machinery which formulates concepts into arguments and policies; 2) the system mechanisms which shape institutional or organisational practices; and 3) the resources which can be deployed to support action .
This apparently simple model has the virtue of complex elaboration to study both the subtle differences and the big covert deviations in the journey from rhetoric to the outcomes of everyday practice. At the level of public impression management a politician or headteacher for example may point to a given idea (C1), the organisational machinery to put it into practice (P1) and the particular resource (R1) that is required to achieve a particular outcome (01). So, to ensure the rhetorical aim of national coverage in basic skills one may point to the machinery of a national curriculum, testing, inspection and the publication of league tables along with the resources necessary to make it happen. Hence there is an apparent neat harmony between the rhetorical level of ideas and concepts, the organisational level of procedures and mechanisms and the resource level of allocating resources such as people to particular roles, or funds to particular organisations.
Nothing is ever so neat. Behind the spin doctoring a different reality typically emerges. There are always many meanings and purposes governing the interpretation, implementation and resourcing of a given policy. Some of these may be seen to be desirable and made public, others may be deemed to be desirable but not to be publicly admitted as such. For example, in the call for a back to basics this could be positively associated with the need to be competitive in the world markets, especially if it can be shown that other nations do better in the ‘basics’. However, there are more cynical associations to be made which may be desirable to certain vested interests but would be considered very undesirable by those most affected. For example, what if ‘back to basics’ was also associated with a need to have a cheap, flexible, and essentially passive pool of labour which could be picked up and dropped as economic need dictated? What if ‘back to basics’ meant removing from the curriculum all such frivolous or in some way contentious frameworks for critical reflection on everyday life as examining the politics and ethics of technological advances, or exploring the global impact in terms of social justice of market mechanisms or discussing the pervasiveness and impact on people’s lives of the various forms of social discrimination reinforced by a variety of non-competitive market mechanisms?
This is precisely how a stealth technology operates. It has a minimal, deceptive, perhaps even pleasing surface which conceals its inner mechanisms that have powers to act upon the world in ways quite different from those implied by its surface structure. Essentially, contemporary schooling is modeled on a nineteenth century machinery for: 1) the delivery of certain kinds of ‘knowledge’ to the masses so that they will be equipped to work and 2) the instilling of certain kinds of ‘virtues’ and values so that the masses will identify themselves as ‘British’ and as an industrious pool of flexible labour for the superior classes, the captains of industry. This model is essentially ‘transmissive’ and ‘non-interactive’. That is, teachers ‘transmit’ information to pupils who will learn it and reproduce it in tests as a basis for employment selectivity and school league tables. Children are not meant to engage actively with their processes of knowledge acquisition in terms of choosing what to learn, when, with whom and from what source. This stands in contrast with contemporary advances in information technology which is reducing its transmissive function in favour of an interactive function to be increasingly driven by individual choices rather than mass delivery or broadcast. The absurdity of a nineteenth century model structuring activities in schools in glorious disregard of the structures of opportunity offered by the emergence of the internet, digital communications and television will be, no doubt, one of the wonders of late twentieth century thinking for the new generation of twenty-first century historians.
The dream of the teaching machine has for much of this century haunted the classroom. Many times over such advances were supposed to have revolutionised teaching and learning. The innovation weary tirelessly point to previous failures of technology to live up to the claims made by the futurologists of the time. Why should the current advances fare any different?
Before getting carried away by such arguments one may first ask whether these failures were to do with something inherent in the technologies of the time or something inherent in the institutionalised practices of teaching in schools. After all, the Open University may claim some success in its exploitation of the broadcast media. Nevertheless, it can be argued even here that the technology has been employed in support of largely transmissive models of teaching and learning. The advent of increasing degrees of interactivity in information technology is only a very recent possibility. Its importance is in what Virillio (1996:15) has described as dromocratique referring to society as a structure of courses (dromos); or, in terms of the curriculum , the chariot that races the course (c.f. Schostak 1983). Virillio links power to the increases in speed of communications achieved by each advance in technology, whether horses, ships, railways, telephone or telematics. Armies or businesses having access to the fastest forms of communication have power over their enemies or competitors. As key technologies change, so power configurations change . The different kinds of relationship emerging through the progress of the internet have as yet largely unknown and probably as yet unimaginable consequences.
However a given technology and the structural relationships and organisational powers that it makes possible is only ever part of the story. Without those conceptual webs called belief systems, bodies of knowledge and philosophies through which desire is ultimately knotted into strategic action, the emergent structures have little meaning or use. The old conceptual systems increasingly prove inadequate in exploiting the new structures. When alternative philosophies or ways of thinking emerge and successfully exploit the new powers, not simply a technical revolution takes place, but a social and cultural revolution becomes possible.
If a reason for the lack of success of technology to change classroom practices were sought, it is most likely to be found in the politically reinforced cultures, procedures and mechanisms of schooling than in the technology itself. Recalling the introduction of computers into schools in the early 1980s, research I was involved in clearly demonstrated that it was the teachers’ own lack of understanding and lack of willingness that prevented creative computer use (see Schostak 1988). Where teachers were willing to reflect upon their own practice and change their approaches to teaching and learning then computers were more likely to become creative instruments in the pursuit of learning. However, the potential of information technology to change practice radically has yet to be envisioned let alone realised. At a political level, the introduction of this technology has been accompanied by a relatively constant rhetoric which speaks largely to the need to remain economically competitive, reduce expenditure and control what is taught.
While engaged in an evaluation of a government sponsored scheme to part-fund the introduction of computers in schools (Norris et al 1989), a representative of the Department of Trade and Industry stated during a steering group meeting that recently (1986) the unit costs for computer based delivery of courses in the business and public service areas were becoming cheaper than the unit costs of face to face classroom teaching. This for him had important implications in the field of school teaching. A second motive which has long been a concern of governments of whatever political persuasion is: how can a curriculum be teacher-proofed? That is, how may material be taught in such a way that it will not be undermined by the creative interpretations or political biases of a given teacher? Currently technology appears to offer the medium term possibility of removing the teacher altogether. It should be possible to place all the material to be taught under the National Curriculum on a National Data Base served by a National Curriculum Computer which delivers courses, assesses assignments and produces national test results all without the interference of teachers. Afterall, if one is only interested in some nationally defined set of ‘basics’ together with an indication of which pupils might benefit from specialist courses in some higher level courses defined as ‘in the economic interest’ then face-to-face teaching can be tailored to meet only specific purposes for those whose ‘special needs’ (due to their ‘giftedness’ or lack of it) require it. Thus, so some future spin doctor may argue, there will be a great saving on the public purse that can be re-directed to meet needs elsewhere in the economy for the greater good of all. Think of all that land presently occupied by resource inefficient schools that could be sold off to bring about a lowering of taxation. Before laughing too much think of those other labour intensive and land squandering industries which were once considered the cornerstone of British wealth and power that have over the last few decades shed labour and land alike leaving communities abandoned.
How fanciful is this?
In the late 1980s I became involved in a European Union funded discussion group on the use of state of the art telematics in language learning. It was still relatively early days and much of the technology we dreamt of was simply that, a dream. Even then, however, we felt that although a dream, it was just around the corner. We dreamt of a technology that would release learners from narrow transmissive curricula. Our dream was a technology that would serve education and not confine it. We were well aware that teaching and learning was being driven not by educational theory but by technology itself. Technologists had simple models of teacher and pupil behaviour and constructed their programmes accordingly ( Concerted Action Group 1993; Schostak and Labbett 1992). These simple models, however, were precisely those that fitted transmissive models of teaching and learning and found their expression in programmed teaching systems, expert systems and early computer assisted learning (CAL) so criticised by the group.
The dream however, started to take technological shape in the next EU project
I was involved in called LOTOS, coordinated by Dr Kurt Kohn of Tuebingham University.
Much of the discussion in this project centred around the role of the teacher
in relation to the learner. The group still wanted to avoid educational processes
being driven by technological design limitations. They wanted a system that
would be ‘neutral’ with regard to the preferred teaching philosophies
and styles of teachers. At one level, it was argued this would ensure a humanistic
dimension to the technology. At another level the arguments were driven by a
fear of teacher resistance, after all their jobs were at stake. If there was
no role for the teacher in the system, why should they adopt a technology which
would replace them?
In two projects (TELOS and SPEAK ) both funded by the EU (at just under 1 million ecu each) which have grown out of the earlier LOTOS project, these concerns remain but are largely being replaced by a more pragmatic rhetoric. Both include in their consortia universities, commercial software developers, multinational businesses which require language learning, and commercial language schools. Both projects are moving ever closer to the commercial realisation of their technological achievements. As they do so the language of cost and profit is increasingly on the agenda.
For example, why should a large multinational business or language school looking to reduce its operating costs buy telematics supported learning systems? Answer: because expensive staff do not have to be taken away from their offices to meet in classrooms elsewhere and because courses can be tailored to meet the exact learning needs (including technical specialised vocabulary) of staff as and when they arise. The three principles here are: the de-centralisation of teaching and learning, the reduction of the transmission role of the teacher and the computer management of specialised curricula to meet specific not generalised needs. Without the emergence of the internet all this would largely have remained a dream. Both TELOS and SPEAK are seeing their future sales in terms of producing an internet supported language learning environment without the need of any such physical entity as a ‘school’ or indeed as a specific ‘teacher’ in a ‘classroom’. The teacher, where this is desirable, takes on more the role of learning environment developer and learning needs analyst. The transmission role is redundant. In a further extension to the project TELOS is seeking to pilot a development of its system into the wider areas of management decision making and professional development offering a ‘just in time’ system of learning which directly feeds into day to day decision making in the office, the factory, or during the business trip. These are just two projects out of many currently being funded by the European Union. Despite many criticisms voiced about the various projects supported, the tendency is clear.
Under the proposed fifth Framework the pace will again be increased. In the European Commission’s draft ‘Proposal for a Research Agenda’ (Weets, 1997) it is claimed that ‘a critical mass of research capacity can only be found at the European level.’ This critical mass will bring together telematics researchers, curriculum developers and other stakeholders in the education and training system for the purpose of competing in the key distance learning market. It is an expanding market that is already global rather than merely local. Importantly, its directions, uses and development is increasingly out of the hands of traditional educational institutions framed by the politics of a given nation state. How long will it take before individuals, communities and organisations shop around the globe for their ‘education’ or ‘training’? And they will turn not simply to ‘schools’, ‘colleges’ or ‘universities’ which advertise their courses but to a host of other ‘knowledge agencies’ selling information processing, knowledge transmission, virtual skills training, professional development, learning environment construction, learning assessment, creative problem solving and so on. Indeed, how long will it be before children work at home or with some residential group (for those families still requiring their children to be brought up away from home) ‘plugged into’ those knowledge agencies which tailor them specifically for places within some powerful global organisation?
Indeed, any employing organisation can take over the role of schooling to tailor what is learnt specifically for its own needs. Teaching, learning, surveillance and control can all be integrated into one electronic infrastructure. There is already enough evidence to suggest, even without the revelation that Harrods has used surveillance technology on its staff; or that the CIA has for some time been routinely monitoring millions of telephone, fax and e-mail communications (reported in various media November 1997); or that school ‘cyber surveillance’ offering parents images of their children in their classrooms through the internet is being marketed by a New York company (The Daily Telegraph, November 5, 1996) that this Orwellian nightmare is barely a sleepless night away. It is not enough to advocate a form of Luddism to resist the integrated development of surveillance, control, teaching and learning no matter how attractive this may be (c.f. Noble 1995). Hacking and creating virus’ as the modern versions of the physical breakage of machinery only serve to underline the power of the new electronic structures not do away with them. With every virus neutralised and every teenage hacker later employed by the organisations whose security they broke, the systems grow more powerful, more subtle, ever beyond the capacity of everyday individuals to comprehend them.
This technology and its implications for the development of a free democratic way of life will not go away. The various forms of State Schooling, at whatever stage of life, as presently understood and practiced will not address its implications because that is not its job. An independent, critical educational perspective capable of framing a challenging critique and offering alternative visions for our technological future barely exists. If it did it would seek to frame questions of educational improvement and action very differently from the contemporary debate.
Currently people are overwhelmed by information and under resourced in terms of having knowledge for day to day decision making. How to handle this is the most pressing educational concern. It is a problem that is largely ignored by those intent on schooling rather than educating. The solution is too often reduced to defining what people need to know in terms of a ‘basics’ as a building block to further study. There is the belief that somehow without the ‘basics’ further development will be hindered. However, learning in real life practice does not seem to show any simple step-by-step, linear, hierarchical structure. Furthermore, information by itself does not necessarily inform decision making. As shown for example in our studies of alcohol cultures and other forms of youth decision making (Schostak 1991) or AIDS education programmes (Frankham 1991) knowing about risk is not enough. Decision making is typically within a context quite remote from the context through which the information has been provided. Information is mediated or even suspended by the discourse repertoires available to an individual that are deemed appropriate for a particular context specific decision and course of action.
This is clear also in many of the professions which have been undergoing rapid
change. The mere transmission of policy through documentation or the typical
short course professional development meeting does not necessarily lead to its
implementation. Policy is always mediated through professional and occupational
cultural discourses. In several studies of nursing and midwifery education that
I have been involved in, professional bodies have been concerned to establish
criteria for ensuring ‘safety to practice’, and ‘professional
competence’ while at the same time promoting the development of the problem
solving, decision making, research based professional (Schostak 1993, 1996,
1997; Phillips et al 1994). The language frequently echoes that of such contemporary
management gurus as Charles Handy who calls for flattened hierarchies, flexible
team working, shamrock organisation , outsourcing and so on (Handy 1991).
In short, it seems the world of work is rapidly changing to an emphasis upon the practitioner capable of working in teams, and engaging in decision making in conditions of uncertainty at the same time as the schooling of children is re-evoking a ‘basics’ and a ‘core’ centralised curriculum appropriate to a previous more stable era of hierarchical controls and organisation requiring relatively unthinking routine practices and ‘right answers’. In a world were right answers are much harder to define and where the call on knowledge is not limited to relatively routine or predictable situations and sources of information, and where fast changing alliances, teams and other forms of cooperative project work is increasingly typical a new kind of curriculum is needed.
In education, alternative models of education have long existed (c.f. Smith 1983) and many of these have been lumped uncritically under the label of ‘progressive education’ and have been decried by politicians whether of the left or the right. Aspects of this curriculum, it can be argued were described and discussed in the much derided 1960s, particularly those curricular initiatives that emphasised the tailoring of curricula, individualised learning, the discussion of controversial issues (e.g., Stenhouse 1975; Elliott 1991), research based approaches to information handling, problem solving and cooperative learning. That these were included in elements of the Finnish National Curriculum Reform at a time when the UK was hastily going in the opposite direction was a source of much amusement and frustration when we were funded to do an evaluation of that reform in 1995 (Norris et al 1996; Schostak 1997).
What does all this mean for lifelong learning (whether in schools, universities,
homes or workplaces)? Without further rehearsing an old literature, I want to
draw out (educate) a number of principles which may serve as a first framework
to underpin lifelong learning which will be increasingly telematics supported
in the early decades of the next century.
Lemke (1993) employing the much used imagery of the cyborg and the ecosystem to describe what he sees as education within ecocybersystems presents one vision of the near future. He points out that shortly libraries will exist in cyberspace holding not only printed text but video, sound and other forms of graphic representation. At the beginning of 1998 vast data-bases already exist which can be accessed concerning virtually any subject one would wish to know about. These can only increase as internet based programming becomes more sophisticated. Three or four years makes a considerable difference in the cyberworlds of the internet. Learning, knowledge, education - these are already globalised. In Lemke’s view:
The individual organism is not a sufficient substrate system to discuss even “learning,” much less “education”. “Learning” is not a process that takes place INSIDE the system we call a human organism; its semantics is highly misleading. People do not learn. Learning is not an internal process. People participate in larger systems and those larger systems undergo developmental processes; in interaction with their own relevant environments, they create the conditions for their own further change along evolved, type-specific and individuating trajectories. Some things change inside people as they participate in these processes, and other, internal development processes of the same kind are going on within us among our own subsystems, coupled to our participation in these larger processes. What fundamentally changes, what we call learning, is how people interact with and participate in the larger ecosocial systems that sustain them.
The individual as the ‘building block’ and the curriculum as a set of standardised basics required to make the individual ready to take his or her part is a fundamentally flawed premise upon which to conceive of education. The ‘building block’ is not an individual but the interactive relationships between systems some which are mutually sustaining, others antagonistic and yet others repressed or forbidden. Within the framework of dynamically interacting systems no fundamental set of basics is either desirable nor possible. Indeed, imposing basics and standardised forms of knowing has the function of killing and fossilising a living system. However, although education is not possible outside of a dynamic context of systems, it is also not possible without the individual desire to know, to imagine, to express, to celebrate the joy of knowing and creating, deciding and acting. The problematic that this creates involves the individual, the local setting and the globalised as three key dimensions in any theorising and practice of the educational. Moreover, each of these three dimensions are not simple elements but are themselves multilayered and plurivocal. How to generate a ‘map’ of all this complexity for educational purposes is an urgent need.
Returning now to the underlying image of this paper, stealth structures provide a means to begin the conceptualisation of the relationships between the multiple systems which form the context to everyday life at home, play and work. Learning, knowing, deciding, creating, acting can only take place if ideas, practices and resources are all in some way structured into relationship with each other. Recalling the stealth structure, it is clear that surface structures can conceal alternative even antagonistic structures. The internet is in many ways the perfect realisation of the stealth structure. Strictly speaking it exists nowhere, weighs nothing and has no substance. It consists solely of electronic information which can only be accessed through computer terminals connected to each other. It is a domain which opens up possibilities for relationship which in turn create new spaces to develop opportunities for connection and action. It has been argued that it is world that is anarchic, essentially subversive of hierarchy and untamable. It is, of course, too early to say. Nevertheless, the sheer fluidity of cyberspace has certainly already problematised traditional relationships between authorities and their subjects. This problematisation is in two directions. As already described, the internet makes surveillance all the more comprehensive than hitherto dreamed by the most extreme dictators. At the same time, the sheer fluidity of the internet with its points of access anywhere where there is a computer terminal makes top-down control impossible.
This has implications for social justice, democracy and freedom of expression and the education that is required to exist if they are to exist. While the nature of the internet itself makes it impossible to write prescriptively, it is possible to propose some principles that need to be considered if education is to play a part in framing the conditions for freedom, justice and peace.
The first of these, it seems to me, is to be found in the observation that information is nothing until it is structured by imagination. Imagination is where all is possible and the first principle of education is to imagine the alternative. This, itself is the counter to all totalitarian claims that there is no alternative. To the extent that government is closed or secretive and organisations authoritarian, paternalistic and socially discriminative stealth counter organisations will be constructed by the imagination.
To the extent that stealth formations exist communication is diverted from its aims and purposes. To recognise such alternative purposes and aims the structures that promote stealth must be suspended for the purposes of hearing the alternative. The second principle of education is the suspension of all hierarchy which leads directly to the third which is the principle of dialogue. Dialogue only exists to the extent that there is difference between the voices otherwise it is a monologue no matter how many bodies are doing the talking. Principles for handling dialogue have been explored in practice by such innovatory curricula as Stenhouse’s Humanities Curriculum Project (Stenhouse 1975). Rather than detail these, it is useful to note in passing that the function of dialogue is not necessarily to produce agreement but to explore difference. Coming to terms with difference at individual, local and global levels requires ethical discussion concerning individual and human rights. The imagination of alternatives is a-moral until explored through ethical debate to inform decision making. Debate on difference leads to the possibility of alternative forms of action and the exploration of the consequences of that action. Education without the possibility of action is sterile at worst and at best leads to the kind of frustration that results in stealth organisation for resistance or even terrorist action. Action, therefore is the fourth principle. Educational action serves to manifest the freedom imagined, and explored in dialogue. Action, however, takes place within the context of multiple complex dynamic systems as described above. In such a context, any action impacts upon other systems of action in uncertain ways. In order to know about such impacts requires some form of interactive communication which recalls the principle of dialogue but institutes some mechanisms or principles to guard against repression and facilitate participation across a wide dynamic context of systems. This fifth principle underlying participation that promotes the voicing of difference may be called the principle of democratic involvement.
I am not claiming that these are the only principles, nor that they will guarantee freedom or an educational approach, only that they are a first step towards thinking about how to handle a rapidly evolving system which educationsists need to conceptualise in order to re-invent their practice.
Defining life long education as the practice of freedom, requires a structured
way of approaching the circumstances of modern life from any social position.
It requires defining a course of reflection, critique, expression and action,
that is a curriculum, appropriate to the globalisation of contemporary life
experience. However, such a course cannot be standardised, nor can it be prescriptive
if it is to meet all the principles outlined above. It can only emerge dynamically.
The telematics supported environment of cyberspace increasingly provides a means of connecting agencies (whether individuals or groups of any kind) with information to produce the conditions for dialogue and the imagination of alternative courses of action upon virtual stages as a precursor to real action. It has been argued that information technology is ambivalent in that the same structure can be employed for increased surveillance and control as well as increased democratic participation. Globalisation works in two directions, therefore it increases the ‘reach’ of businesses and governments as well as increasing the ‘reach’ of any individual capable of handling a computer terminal. Rather than one side ‘winning’ it is likely to be that both sides reluctantly co-exist. In this case the dominant structure of the telematics infrastructure will resemble that of competing stealth symbolic architectures and organisations.
For many the technology is still new, its terminology confusing and its use mysterious. Some yearn for the book as still the best way of accessing information and see the internet as chaotic, complex and hard to access. The scene is changing rapidly. As adults increasingly experience using the internet for their information and educational needs, as services multiply which make it ever easier to use, they will perhaps begin to compare the merits of home-internet based education where they can shop around the world for courses as against sending their children to the mass, class based and socially fraught environments of their local schools.
Education as the practice of freedom has a vital role to play in the various agencies of lifelong learning already in existence and yet to be created. There are many thousands of ‘web-sites’ already in existence which attempt to process information, make connections with related ‘web-sites’, promote interactivity and provide frameworks for discussion and comment. These are educational to the extent that they implicitly or explicitly realise principles like those described above. Educators, wherever they find themselves, have the considerable task of re-inventing their everyday practice for the next generations of information technology that are already on the horizon as for example digital television combines with the internet and brings the double-edged global reach directly into the livingroom. With mass access to such an infrastructure education as the practice of freedom will face its greatest challenge.
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