Conversation With Peters
The Future of Educational Technology
The widespread use of computers and the increased availability of the Internet certainly changed many professional fields. From the many shop to the way they conduct personal and professional business, the Internet has revolutionized and expedited many day-to-day tasks. No field, however, has felt the aftershocks of the Internet and computers more than education. Otto Peters certainly held this view. His recorded comments narrate his coming out of retirement in order to analyze the new phenomenon, the fact that this phenomenon cultivated willing audiences around the world, and the creation of learning spaces, which harnessed this environment specifically for the field of education. In fact, Peters writes that virtual learning spaces teach students the importance of the Internet for distance learning, in particular. Finally, Peters suggests that the Internet will soon make traditional education obsolete.
Peters’ acknowledgement of the importance of the Internet in education is certainly important, but one can question whether or not Peters has overemphasized. Certainly, the Internet is revolutionizing how students and teachers do college. In many classrooms, online education is paired with traditional education in a synthesis that promotes learning through technology in addition to learning about technology. In other courses, learning is done completely online with no, or little, professor-student interaction. Peters’ use of virtual learning environments may be a solution to the often-critiqued online only form of education. Although Peters suggests that “virtual learning spaces” and “real learning spaces” “are fundamentally different because the universities and lecture halls can be described as technology of oral teaching” (Peters 2003), they set out to achieve the same goals. Instead of simple online forums and workspaces, virtual learning spaces, as Peters describes them can achieve the “face-to-face” component that online education is often missing. As Peters describes, this is a revolutionary event. In his view, the creation of learning spaces, combined with the advent of the Internet will create the “future university,” the “three elements” of which are “distance education,” “online education,” and “scholarly face-to-face discourse” (Peters 2003), thus rendering the traditional university obsolete.
Chapplow (nd) reminds students that technology still has limits that humans do not in her article, “Online Higher Education.” Despite Peters’ ambitious view of educational technology, Chapplow’s argument still reigns true. The future university may make the traditional university obsolete, but only if the future university makes adequate provisions for Peters’ (2003) third element of that university — “scholarly face-to-face discourse.” Technology, in its infinite ability to move quickly and concisely toward a goal, may not be able to provoke the true questioning nature of education. Even via “learning spaces,” where educators may be able to interact with their students online from a distance, the human element of education is underplayed. Serious students need physical professors with office hours who are willing to grapple the most intense questions of life over a cup of coffee.
This being said, one can still claim that educational technology, most especially the advent of the Internet, will change the face of the modern university. More online courses, which are wonderful programs for certain types of degree seekers, will be added, and students may have to spend less time in the physical classroom. Thus, Peters’ (2003) assessment of the future of education can be described as mostly correct, though one must be careful about what conclusions can be drawn from it.
Chapplow, Cathy. (nd). Online Higher Education. Retrieved November 26, 2008, at http://www.studentaffairs.com/ejournal/summer_2000/grad2.htm
Peters, Otto (2003). Recording.
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