Education and Its Relationship to Technology

I began college in the Fall of 1966, the same season that Star Trek landed on TV and excited science fiction fans with visions of gadgetry of the future. We were invited to go where no man had gone before. My parents sent me off to college with a Webster's Collegiate Dictionary and a Smith Corona Electric Typewriter, which were the essential tools to give your son or daughter as they pursued their higher education. Two years later, in 1968, science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke co-developed the screenplay of 2001: A Space Odyssey with producer and director Stanley Kubrick. Like 1984, which was written more than three decades before the actual year, Clarke's and Kubrick's collective vision was for more than three decades in the future. The vision of computers that you could talk to and wireless communication devices you could hold in your hand were common place in this distant future, but in college I worked on my typewriter, and if I made a serious mistake that required a revision, I had to stick another sheet of paper into the typewriter and begin again. The personal computer was 20 years down my academic road, when I began my first Masters. And if I was expecting a phone call, I had to be at the phone, wherever it was located, to receive the call. My first "communicator" or wireless phone, as we would call them, was 30 years away. Both Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were barely into their teenage years, when I went off to college.

Here we are, beginning the 10th year of the 21st century and I have to wonder, which teenagers, just barely into high school, will actualize other visions that have been presented in a science fiction story. What will be in the future that bright minds today create for tomorrow?

Take a look at the last 24:38 of 2001: A Space Odyssey, set to Pink Floyd's Echoes watch the following video. It was and still is thought provoking and visionary, and paired with Pink Floyd's Echoes, it takes on more of an other world aura. For the vision of realistic space travel presented a year before the first man stepped on the moon, rent the entire video.

Epic 2014 is another vision of the future.
What are the necessary ingredients required for such speculation?

Now let's get back down to Earth. What does this have to do with education? There are questions that visionaries of every century ask themselves, before they begin to search for the answers. Buckminster Fuller may have asked himself what the sturdiest structure would look like before he worked on creating geodesic domes. But how many students have ever heard of Fuller or geodesic domes? And why not? Could we be asking our students the wrong questions because we are presenting content that is not entirely relevant to the types of visions students should be having about the future? What visions do today's youth have about a tomorrow they will be creating?

In two very significant and insightful books, The World Is Flat and Flat, Hot, and Crowded, economist and foreign affairs correspondent for the New York Times, Thomas Friedman, asks some serious and far-reaching questions before he attempts to offer solutions. In The World Is Flat Friedman suggests that the world began to shrink and flatten, under the influence of digital interconnectivity. Elaborating on his World is Flat thesis, Friedman describes how this new global order puts creative, entrepreneurial individuals in the driver’s seat, and poses distinct new challenges and opportunities. In Hot, Flat, and Crowded Friedman identifies what he considers to be the most pressing problem the United States faces and offers concrete solutions for this country to regain its posture as a global leader and innovator.

We want our students to be problem solvers, capable of facing new challenges and opportunities, but we don't teach them how to ask significant questions, and identify the problems that will need resolving in the future. In fact, often the questions we ask them are not even relevant to them either. If we don't even introduce them to significant visionaries of the past century, how can we inspire them to be the visionaries and innovators of this century?