Re: Advancements in Technology and the Impact on Higher

Mike Masnick (
Sat, 25 Apr 1998 00:46:54 -0400

At 10:55 PM 4/24/98 -0500, wrote:
>Thus, I have decided to post this query to FoRK in the hopes that someone on
>this list has an inspiring thought on this subject -- in essence, I am hoping
>that the collective wisdom FoRKer's can come up with some better than I am
>finding in the currently published literature. Any and all thoughts will be
>most appreciated.

This is a tricky subject, and one I've actually spent some time thinking
about over the past few years. Two and a half years ago I worked with a
professor to try to create an interactive online statistics textbook. I
still think the idea was a great one, but tricky with the technology at the
time. I've also been quite active at the B-School here in figuring out
just exactly how to stack our new building
( and the curriculum to go with it.

The conclusions I've come to are that advancing technology definitely
should have an impact. One area where the technology is especially
apparent is in making experiential learning much more possible. It is much
easier to simulate situations that without the technology. For example,
with statistics it is a hell of a lot easier to get across concepts such as
the normal distribution and probability using a computer generated
simulation, rather than a static picture. Another example: the B-school
here is putting in a fully functioning securities trading room in the new
building. While it can be used for real trades, it will also be able to
simulate a trading floor environment. This goes well beyond simply hearing
about how a trading room works.

Beyond that, I think that you shouldn't sell the delivery mechanism short.
While it may be the same information delivered in different ways, there is
certainly the potential of more information getting to the students. This
is a good thing (in my mind). I believe strongly in the idea of the more
information one has, the better decisions that person can make. So, if
more modern technology can allow more people to receive the wisdom of
leaders (as well as the leading critics!) in a field, then they will have a
better understanding of the subject. Plus, as information access becomes
easier, you will have more and more students who can gain the necessary
insight to actually question the information the teachers are giving them).

One final area that I'd been thinking about a bit, but have no real
conclusions on, is changing the very way people learn. Here is my thought:
I taught statistics for two years. While I was pretty accomplished in the
subject before teaching it, when I had complete newbies asking questions
(the way they always do) I was *really* forced to have a complete
understanding of the subject. I couldn't get away with fudging anything.
I had to really understand what I was saying. So, if there were some way
to use technology to create a "student" that needed to be taught, perhaps
that would help with the learning process?

All of these are just thoughts, and I have no data or studies to back any
of them up. It is very possible that none of these areas will work (or
that perhaps they've already been disproven). I'd want to look carefully
at the proofs, though.

I don't know how much info is on the web site, but the Interactive Media
Group at Cornell has been studying some of these issues:

>BTW, as a point of clarification, I will be doing this presentation as
part of
>the interview process for a new job -- Upstate NY is no place to live (as I
>believe Mike will attest)

Certainly will attest to that...

>I offer the following as evidence that my social life is in need of vast
>improvement: It is currently 10:49 p.m. on a Friday night and I am at home
>typing out this message to FoRK .... need I say more?

12:45am Friday night (though I did just get an email asking me to head out
for an Iced Coffee). Upstate NY can be very beautiful, but the fact that
it is, surely, the middle of absolutely no where is a problem. 1 more
month and I am long gone from these parts.

Hope this was (a little?) helpful...

-Mike, leaving this damn apartment :)