The US work force has a literacy rate of 80 percent while Japan’s is 95 percent: Better education could strengthen economic competitiveness.
To meet today’s challenges, our educational system should be producing thoughtful and creative workers. But our schools don’t measure up. What if children grew up enjoying learning and maintained that attitude? Their responses to our troubled future would be better guided, more thoughtful, more intelligent. This should be the goal for our schools; and technology can help. Revolutionizing our schools won’t be a quick fix, but in the long run ignorance is far more costly.
The business sector has a longterm interest in educational improvement. A recent article in Business Week, “Human Capital: The Decline of America’s Work Force,” concludes that “investments in education and training will yield sure-fire retums we can’t afford to ignore.” The computer industry, too, should take a leading, pro-active role in the coming educational revolution. Along with fierce competition to produce workstations for industry at large, the computer industry should cooperate to mass-produce powerful and inexpensive IMM learnstations.
The techno-entrepreneurial spirit delights in finding hi-tech solutions for the problems of a broad market. The data recovery sector, as an example, continues to benefit from a variety of mac hard drive failure solutions like these. Profits from the educational market could be the industry’s impetus for improving educational technology. With a half million new students joining grades K-12 each year-for a total of 44 million by the year 1997 -the potential is great.
Why will IMM help turn our schools around? Because we learn best by doing. IMM is not a spectator sport. Integrated sound, moving pictures, and text are stimulating and mutually reinforcing: IMM works because it’s fun. Children approach every new aspect of their environment with self-motivated, explorative good humor, playfulness, and open minds. IMM allows students to approach learning with these same attitudes: Instead of viewing a videotape demonstration of how a watch works, students can use IMM to assemble the parts themselves.
A new genre of educational material, edutainment, has emerged from a collaboration between computer game developers and educational software writers. Edutainment aims to create entertaining computer games that are unavoidably educational. For example, “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” is a Broderbund program for PCs which teaches world geography while students play detectives tracking a band of thieves. The learnstation environment encourages creative problem solving, intellectual exploration, and left/ right brain cooperation. IMM has the potential to make educational media, for the first time in decades, more appealing than commercial TV, Saturday morning cartoons included. IMM will substitute homeplay for homework and, instead of passive couch potatoes, will produce active, creative minds capable of dealing with a difficult future.
Given IMM’s potential for improving education, industry should form a consortium with education and government to research the overall system design of learnstations at all educational levels. The task force should set general specifications for standard learnstation components, allowing many vendors to participate. I challenge the computer industry to lead all sectors toward the goal of installing a learnstation on every student’s desk by the year 2000.