Big changes in key institutions are hard to launch, but irresistible once underway. They are tough to start because they need to be many-sided. Existing arrangements are a puzzle of many interlocking pieces. One cannot, for instance, simply replace textbooks with computer programs that do the same thing, only slightly better, for all sorts of other things will have to start changing as well — classroom layout, teacher training, curriculum organization, the interaction of children in the class, relations between home and school, possibly even the professed purposes of the school.

So far, innovators have scaled applications of the new technologies to education almost entirely to the conventions of current practice.

Educators are stuck, world around, with a big, mature system that is nowhere prepossessing in the way it functions. Cross-national comparisons of educational performance, pointing up significant differences in result, are an increasing obsession in professional and public discussions of education. They should not, however, obscure from view the fundamental structural similarities that make the comparisons possible and interesting. Any group of long-distance runners will spread out along a spectrum of performance, but their times will be comparable precisely because they are similar competitors running the same race. The task of technology in education is not to move an also-ran to the head of the pack; the task is to substitute a new, distinctly superior spectrum of performance for the old. That will refresh the game, allowing us to return to the issues of human worth and purpose.

Let us try to break away from the structural limitations of the current worldwide system of schooling. Like architecture a century ago, we can make this break because we have new resources with which to work, suspending traditional implementation constraints. We aim to make a new system of education, one different from the system of print-based schooling that has dominated educational effort for the past five centuries.

To make such a departure, five components essential in the construction of the given system need to be redesigned with full awareness of the potentialities of information technologies in mind.

  1. How should we organize an educative activity in space and time to make full use of information technology? What should its location and schedule be?
  2. What well-springs of human emotion and activity should it tap for its driving energies?
  3. How should we manage the works and knowledge of our culture so that presentation of them through advanced information technologies will best support the educative effort?
  4. What pedagogical resources will best enable students to explore, select, and appropriate the skills and ideas that the culture proffers to them?
  5. How can we structure the activities of teaching so that they attract highly talented people and provide them with self- renewing and self-developing conditions of work?

These questions will lead us into considering a complex system in which multiple sets of arrangements function in reciprocal interaction. We will have to survey this complexity by attending to five distinct topics — environment, motivation, culture, educational method, and staffing. The constraints of discourse require that we do this in an order, first one then another.

Despite this apparent sequence, these topics are, of course, simultaneous facets of a single system. Our isolation of them, one from another, occurs through abstraction in the discourse, not in fact. After discussing them in an arbitrary order, we will need to remind ourselves that they coexist in complex interaction.

Educators propound reforms, but schools remain the same. Without material agency, new methods fail. A scheme captures the educational imagination — spokespeople think it out, the daring to try it, researchers document its effects, and the committed demand its adoption. Thus, the idea diffuses from various centres — but then, sporadically, resistance builds, enthusiasm falters, influence weakens; ineluctably, distinctive practices gravitate back to the norm. Pedagogical weathering soon makes the new shingles indistinguishable from the old.

Without a political vision, technological innovation leaves the quality of life unimproved. Anticipations of future technologies depict wondrous tools for a living but then culminate with “a day in the life,” usually a banal office routine with little at stake that was different from what would be at stake in the corporate office anywhere today. Such visions do not inspire people to solve human problems old and new, to join together with shared hopes and historic aspirations, enabled now to act on issues hitherto inaccessible to the commonweal.

We need to join pedagogy and power. Educators inspired by visions of human potentiality need instruments of action, substantial agents of change, with which to work. Technologists creating new means for bringing intelligence to bear upon the work of the world need a civic agenda, a vision of historic possibility consciously espoused and responsibly defended. Without power, educators will continue cloaking their delivery of lame services in high-minded impotence. Without pedagogy, technologists, bleating complacent corporate compromise, will recreate the injustices of the contemporary world with the new-forged tools that might otherwise transcend it. Educators need power, not purity; technologists need vision, not predictability.

Together educators and technologists have the historic opportunity to improve the civic prospect — that is the message of Power and Pedagogy and that is how we can slowly move mountains of education system together

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