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Theeyes of path determined in advance by the providers of the information. “The technology gap between With today’s technologies, the con- schools and the rest of the the schoolchildren sumers of information can engage in dia- world is real and it is grow- logues instead of simply absorbing glisten with anticipa- monologues. They can interrupt and ing. Whether we like it or not, redirect the flow of information. They tion. Their fingers arch the increasing pervasiveness can modify the complexity of informa- and vitality of this technolo- lightly over their computer tion, the speed at which it is communi- cated, and its manner of presentation. gy is changing the expecta- terminals, waiting to tap out They can control the elements of sophis- tions of our children and ticated multisensory experiences, com- solutions to ever more difficult their world view. Schools of bining audio, video, text, and graphics problems appearing on the screens into a single immersive reality. the future could look dramat- before them. Any schoolteacher would Information technologies are making ically different from those be thrilled by such concentration and it possible to create realistic new worlds we attended. If we plan care- receptiveness. But these children are not filled with previously impossible experi- in school; they’re playing games in a ences. In the virtual physics laboratory fully, if we bring teachers video arcade. being developed by researchers at George along with us and implement Today’s schoolchildren have grown Mason University and the University of new technology wisely up immersed in a world of computers Houston, students don a head-mounted and other information technologies. display, headphones, and a data glove to together with other needed They play video games; they listen to enter an artificial reality where the laws reforms, learning could be music on digital compact disks; they help of physics are under human—not dramatically better.” their families program the computerized nature’s—control. Using the data —FRANK PRESS, PRESIDENT controls of videocassette players. These glove, students move a disembod- experiences have given children a differ- ied hand through a room filled EMERITUS , NATIONAL ACADEMY ent way of interacting with information with simple physics experi- OF S CIENCES compared with previous generations. ments. They can turn gravi- Many familiar communications media— ty off or create antigravity including television, movies, radio, news- and watch the effects on papers, magazines, and books—are their surroundings. essentially linear. The users of those They can eliminate media have little if any control over the friction or slow the information they passage of time. receive. They follow With further the flow of infor- develop- THE mation from beginning to NINTENDO end along a 2 GENERATION Reader Rabbit, an Such games, which animated cartoon combine vivid anima- character in a series tion with constant of games developed interaction between by The Learning the player and the Company, rewards computer, represent players who spell a powerful learning simple words, match tool that is under- Using a data glove, students plugged in to the rhyming words, and used by schools. Virtual Physics Laboratory can use this globe to learn the alphabet. aim the force of gravity in any direction— including straight up. Immersion in artificial but plausible worlds such as this challenges students’ preconceptions and can impart an intuitive understanding of complex phenomena.
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C ment of the lab, stu- “The coming levels of use of information. New technolo- hildren have always dents will be able to ride gies are creating workplaces interactive technology hold been explorers, a light ray to experience where creativity, cooperation, and the potential—if we take born with the abili- relativity or participate critical thinking are valued at all as a molecule in a levels of an organization. If advantage of it—to create ty to interact and chemical reaction. American education cannot equip order-of-magnitude learn about the This kind of experi- young people with the skills they changes in productivity in world. But children ence can be one of the will need in an information-based best possible forms of world, they will not be able to American education.” today are growing education. Cognitive play a productive role in society. —DAVID BRITT, CHILDREN ’S up in a different research has confirmed What can fill the technology TELEVISION WORKSHOP world. Those between the a commonsensical con- gap between the in-school and clusion: students learn out-of-school environments? It ages of 3 and 18—and best when they are engaged with what they would be far too expensive to outfit every especially children entering are studying, when they are making deci- classroom with the most advanced tech- school today—are being sions, when they are thinking critically. In nology. Instead, schools need to take the Virtual Physics Laboratory, for exam- advantage of the technology that increas- hailed as the “Nintendo ple, students are constantly choosing how ingly permeates society. Doing so calls for Generation.” They live in a they want to interact with the computer- rethinking many of the basic ideas behind world that is increasingly generated reality. By experiencing how education. the laboratory responds to their actions, The “We must take advantage of interactive, communications they can gain an understanding of physi- technology students’ interests in intensive, and knowledge cal phenomena that is difficult to convey to meet this technology. . . . We must based. They are standard through traditional physics textbooks and challenge laboratories. already learn to use the technology bearers in the technological Today there is a large and growing gap exists and students play with daily as revolution, having never between the scant technology available in is in use educational resources.” known anything else. most schools and the rich technological outside of —DOROTHY STRONG, CHICAGO environments students experience away schools. Because of their ease in from schools—and the gap is growing as This report PUBLIC SCHOOLS and with the information societal change accelerates. Seventy-five is not about age, society needs their percent of Americans now work in service putting and information jobs, with nearly half of more computers into schools. It is dedi- active involvement and all Americans cated to the idea that schools have to be interaction. involved in the reinvented to take advantage of the tech- “Kids are much more motivat- The changes going on generation, dis- nology that is already ubiquitous in our ed to play games and use semination, and everyday lives. today create an opportunity computers outside of school and necessity for a trans- because of the level of formation in the way our interactivity. They have to schools function and our make decisions frequently— children are taught. If we every second or so—so they cannot teach our children stay in charge. In school, if how to play and work in this you’re listening to a teacher world, our children will lecture, you may only have remain at risk. Education to make a decision every must be based on a model half hour.” that is appropriate for an —JOSEPH SMARR , STUDENT information-driven society. We must prepare children Video game for a future of unforeseeable or education- and rapid change. al program? The engage- ment offered by state-of- the-art educa- tional soft- ware (left) differs little from that offered by a Sega Genesis game (above).