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Big Changes are Afoot: Can You Say the Same About Your Schools? BY DR. SCOTT MCLEOD, Iowa State University and Director of the UCEA Center for the Advanced Study of Technology Leadership in Education (CASTLE)


t is difficult to overstate the changes that digital technologies have wrought on our society. As we navigate an ‘Information Revolution’ that is as impactful but also swifter than the Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries, the collective transformative effects can be seen in every aspect of our lives. And we’re just getting started. For example... The rise of user-generated content. On the personal front, individuals now possess unprecedented publishing capabilities. We live in an era in which a 15-year-old can reach audiences that previously were reserved for major media companies, large corporations, and governments. McLeod A dizzying array of technological tools and online communities of interest are fostering an incredible growth in informal but powerful individualized learning. We now can learn almost anything we want, from anyone, anywhere, at any time. This learning often is disconnected from formal elementary, secondary, or higher education institutions. A new information landscape. Formerly-dominant news and entertainment institutions are being forced to rethink all previously-held assumptions. All of the top newspaper chains in the country are on the verge of bankruptcy. The music industry is struggling to survive in a market where the granular model of individual song sales replaces that of wholesale album purchases. The emergence of digital, multimedia hyperlinked texts—and accompanying e-readers and A large number of tablet computing devices— is challenging our very defiAmerican workers are nition of what constitutes a discovering that their ‘book,’ destroying traditional work, their skills, and publishers’ revenue streams, and altering both our attentheir jobs are not as tion span and our eye moveindispensable as they ment while reading. thought in a Television, radio, magazine, technological, and movie/video companies see their market share erode ‘hyperconnected, year after year as information hypercompetitive consumers increasingly turn global economy. to online information chan-




nels—many of which are user-generated rather than institution-generated—to learn and be entertained. A vastly different global economy. In business, the rapid growth of the Internet and other information and communication technologies has accelerated the offshoring of American jobs. Complex corporate global supply chains locate manufacturing work wherever costs are lowest, expertise is highest, or necessary talent resides. Geographic or product niche monopolies disappear in the face of Internet search engines. Micro-, small-batch, and on-demand manufacturing techniques facilitate customized, personalized production. Whatever manufacturing work remains in the United States is high skill, high-tech, and, more often than not, requires greater education than a high school diploma. The low-skill industrial system that was the backbone of the American economy in the previous century is increasingly a bygone memory. Knowledge work now can often be done cheaper elsewhere. Ongoing workflow and final products are exchanged at the speed of light via e-mail, instant messaging, and other corporate networking tools. Work that previously required humans now is regularly done by software. Customer service representatives and data entry specialists are replaced by online web forms connected to databases. Technical support and corporate training personnel are replaced by interactive help and online learning systems. Tax preparation, legal, architectural, graphic design, and other software programs give ordinary citizens capabilities that formerly were reserved for highly-skilled, highly-paid professionals. Travel agents, bank tellers, hotel and airline counter employees, movie rental chains, and many others fall victim to a ‘self-service economy’ in which we choose to do the work ourselves—facilitated by ATMs, kiosks, software, and online services—rather than someone doing it for us. A large number of American workers are discovering that their work, their skills, and their jobs are not as indispensable as they thought in a technological, hyperconnected, hypercompetitive global economy. Radical transformations are everywhere. Robotic surgery, telemedicine, automated drug dispensaries, holo(continued on next page)

NCSA Today Magazine, Fall 2010  

NCSA Today Magazine, Fall 2010

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