which the teaching of ICT fluency may be integrated into high school curricula.
Presenters were William Wulf, president of the National Academy of Engineering and Christopher Dede, Timothy E. Wirth Professor of Learning Technologies at Harvard University. Respondents were Michael Eisenberg, dean of the Information School at the University of Washington and Bob Tinker, president of the Concord Consortium.
William Wulf stated that he did not need to convince the audience of the importance of ICT—the workshop’s purpose, after all, was to address how to teach it, not whether to teach it —but that he did want to emphasize a point in the welcoming statement of Lawrence Snyder, professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Washington and chair of the committee that produced Being Fluent with Information Technology (National Research Council, 1999). That point pertained to the inevitability of change in ICT, and thus the virtual impossibility of making accurate predictions about its manifestations beyond the near future. This reality has great implications for the Being Fluent framework, particularly regarding its list of contemporary skills, which by definition will change.
Having written his first computer program in 1959 and sent his first e-mail around 1970, Wulf said, “I feel like I’ve sat for 46 years on the 50-yard line, watching this technology change and watching its impact on society. And it has been absolutely fascinating”—especially to see how even the cognoscenti are often clueless about ICT’s future course.
High on his list of wildly erroneous predictions are those of three of the field’s most distinguished pioneers. Thomas Watson, as leader of IBM during the early 1950s, foresaw that the worldwide market for computers would be limited to merely six machines. “I observe,” said Wulf in retrospect, “that my present car alone has more than six computers.” Kenneth Olsen, founder of Digital Equipment Corporation, said in 1978—two years before the introduction of the IBM PC—that no one would ever want a computer in his or her home. And Bill Gates, the celebrated and highly successful head of Microsoft, predicted in the mid-1980s that no one would ever need more than 640 kilobytes of memory.
“Why were these people, each in a privileged position and thoroughly acquainted with the facts of the technology, so incredibly wrong?” asked