Tell us about your research interests.
My research centers on emerging information technologies,
their implications for our society and its economy, and the potential
of these technologies to improve education. I study technologies still
in their early stages of development (examples at present would be artificial
intelligence, virtual reality, distributed simulation, and hypermedia)
1) what new capabilities these technologies may
impart to their users;
2) how these capabilities could impact people's lifestyles, the nature
of the workplace, and the ways we learn;
3) how these shifts would alter the mission, content, customers, and
location of education at all levels, formal and informal;
4) the new types of learning devices these technologies enable and how
these technologies widen our repertoire of learning environments;
5) the types of changes in educational practice that must occur to take
full advantage of these new models of teaching/learning (e.g., shifts
in professional development, in the practices and culture of schools,
in society's beliefs about education and its funding mechanisms for
schooling, in public policy, etc.) and actions now that will optimize
the transition to more effective, technology-based educational practice;
6) the hidden consequences and side-effects that may occur through use
of these emerging information technologies (e.g., challenges in equity,
privacy, dehumanization ) and the steps we can take today to minimize
these potentially negative outcomes. My work is
a mixture of technology forecasting and assessment; research, development,
and evaluation into the potential of emerging information technologies
for learning; and public policy studies on what actions we should take
Why do you conduct this type of
I am fascinated by the ways that science shapes
society and concerned about unreflective adoption of new technologies,
both because this misses the new opportunities they enable and because
negative effects often result from unthinking application of technology-based
solutions to human problems. Education is society's major long-term
mechanism for shaping its future, so the best way to control the evolution
of technology is through using emerging devices creating new opportunities
and threats to also enhance our learning and understanding.
What are your most influential publications?
I published a short, informal article in
THE COMPUTING TEACHER in 1987,"Empowering Environments, Hypermedia,
and Microworlds," that shaped many people's thinking about educational
technology at that time. A recent, extensive policy study, "Implications
of the National InformationaI Infrastructure for Distance Learning,"
is influencing many practitioners to consider how both face-to-face
instruction and distance education are transforming to "distributed
learning." My ongoing research in synthetic environments (virtual reality,
distributed simulation) is helping to elucidate the potential benefits
and risks of these technologies.
What are two or three books by other
people that have influenced your work?
Drucker, P.F., "The Age of Social Transformation,"
The Atlantic Monthly(November): 53-80, 1994. Senge,
P. (1990). The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning
Organization. New York: Doubleday. Schwartz, P.
(1991). The Art of the Long View: Planning for the Future in an Uncertain
World. New York: Doubleday.
Who are two or three people who've
had an important impact on your career?
In the late 1960s, Dwight Allen's innovative visions of education lured
me into this field. John Seely Brown's work in emerging technologies
in the mid-1970sto 1980s was influential in shaping my visions.
What are the most promising emerging
technologies at this time?
I have just finished a short paper, "The Evolution of Learning Devices:
Smart Objects, Information Infrastructures, and Shared Synthetic Environments,"
that depicts the promise of these three types of information technologies
for education. Briefly, smart objects with embedded microprocessors
and wireless networking explain their own functioning and help us create
"articulate"educational environments. Information infrastructures provide
remote access to experts, interlinked archival resources, distributed
investigations, and virtual communities. Shared synthetic environments,
by immersing us in illusion, develop a better understanding and appreciation
What advice do you have for beginning
information technology researchers?
Take a systems view of the field, considering all the aspects that influence
the evolution of educational practice. Focus on technologies capable
of dramatic improvements in educational effectiveness through new models
of teaching/learning; don't waste effort automating conventional approaches
to instruction. Always remember that the major barriers to implementing
technology in education are not technical or economic, but psychological,
organizational, political, and cultural.