IN CYBER CITY
Northern Illinois University
United States of America
This paper was originally presented to the Japan-United States Teacher Education Consortium (JUSTEC) meeting, Hiroshima, Japan, July 12, 1994.
In this paper, we briefly summarize one scenario for the futurecharacter of a new American city as outlined in a recent articlein The Futurist magazine, and explore what the educationsystem is such a city might comprise. We conclude the paper withspeculations about some of the implications or consequences ofestablishing an education system of the type we describe. Aswill become evident in the paper, we believe technologies will,for better or worse, dramatically influence the character of educationin the future, and will substantially alter current conceptionsof education.
A number of components of an educational system for Cyber City,the proposed new American city, are described in the paper, includingthe Basic Learning Unit, Neighborhood Lear ning Centers, HumanDevelopment Centers, Business and Agency Learning Units, StorefrontLearning Academies, and the Central Dome. The concept of lifelonglearning as a basic human right is discussed, together with aproposal for a Learning Code and Learning Credits to be givento every citizen, for purposes of gaining access to learning opportunitiesthroughout the lifespan.
Advanced technologies are central to our scenario
of an educationsystem for Cyber City. The paper outlines the character
and roleof these technologies, which have potential for dramatically transformingthe
processes of teaching and learning. The paper concludes withan examination
of four areas of implications or consequences tobe considered as the proposed
educational structure for CyberCity is examined.
Education in a Changed Society
Observers of American society during the past decade have taken note of anaging infrastructure in the country, and have begun to explorethe social, physical, and economic character of a changed societythat is bearing down on the American people. Bridges are aging,and need to be replaced. Highways are showing wear; housing,and public buildings, including schools, are reaching points wherethey must be replaced or massively renovated. Social and financialinstitutions are also undergoing change, driven in part by newtechnological developments, but just as importantly, by demographicchanges in American society, and by renewed questions about basicsocial values and goals.
As the American public considers whenand how to upgrade its considerable infrastructure, proposalsare surfacing for substantial changes in how the new infrastructureshould look. Among the many ideas under active discussion isthe development of what is variously called the "InformationSuperhighway." Some of the proposals for infrastructuredevelopment are thought by some to be utopian, not achievableand, in some instances, not desirable. Yet each of the scenariosfor the future of American society bear examination, for it isevident that we have reached a point where change and buildingmust in fact occur in some form; therefore, most future scenariosbeing offered have some possibility of being taken seriously.
In this paper, we briefly summarize one scenario for the futurecharacter of a new American city as outlined in a recent articlein The Futurist magazine, and explore the implications for educationin that future city by describing what the education system issuch a city might comprise. We conclude the paper with speculationsabout some of the implications or consequences of esta blishingan education system of the type we describe. As will become evidentin the paper, we believe technologies will, for better or worse,dramatically influence the character of education in the future,and will substantially alter current conceptions of education.
A Cybernetic City
In his 1994 article, Designing the Future: A Cybernetic City for the Next Century, featured in the May-June The Futurist , J. Frescosets forth a design for a cybernetic city of the future. Frescostarts with the premise that "the world's present problemscannot be solved within the framework of today's social institutions,"and argues that it is possible to"redesign our social institutionsby applying the latest technologiesto benefit everyone." Fresco's designs will be manifest in the Venus Project, in Venus,Florida. In Fresco's words,
As currently envisioned in the Venus Project,the city of the future is laid out in concentric circles, withthe center dome area containing the cybernated network and communicationsystems, educational facilities, shopping, health and social services,and the core for most transportation. The next circle containslibrary, science, art, music, research, exhibition, entertainment,and conference centers. Apartments, dining and recreation areas,and residential homes constitute the next three sectors. Theouter circles contain a green sector for energy production, agriculturalbelt, waterway, and additional recreation areas.
It is a cyberneticcity in that it i s totally connected (wired,in today's words).Technologies, computers, and automation have affected all servicesand functions in the city. Transportation, work, food production,housing, education, entertainment will all reflect changes inliving conditions. The new city will reflect the bringing togetherof existing technologies as well the development of new ones. For instance, automated people movers at airports, subways, sidewalks,elevators, voice activated computers/machines, robotics basedfactories, automatically monitored and maintained food productionand processing, etc. all exist in different places today. Inaddition, components of the information superhighway and otheradvanced technologies are already being utilized by selected individuals. In Cyber City, these technologies are coordinated in ways wellbeyond what is true today, and new technologies, often reflectingwidespread application of microprocessors and miniaturized servo-mechanismsguided by artificia l intelligence, will combine with current technologiesto eliminate many monotonous tasks and jobs, as well as increaseour ability to do other tasks better and more efficiently.
Architecturallythe Venus Project is designed to be "in harmony with nature"incorporating parks, gardens, waterways, and utilizing the bestin clean technology. The buildings are to use reinforced concreteand be fabricated in dome shapes, which will make them easy tobuild and maintain. The dome shape can be structurally very soundand has the potential for many design configurations.
For the purposes of our discussion about education, we are most interestedin the concept of connectivity--meaning that homes, offices, educationalcenters, libraries, resource centers, entertainment centers, etc.are linked in real-time, both locally and world-wide. In CyberCity the information superhighway, as currently envisioned, isuniversally implemented, with new hardware and software developmentscoming on-line immediately. In addition, distributed compu tingpower, in terms of both hardware and software, exists in multiplelocations to support the educational needs of life-long learners.
This brief summary does not do justice to either the conceptsor strategies underlying Cyber City. What is evident in the planningof this new city, however, is a very systems-oriented approach,coupled with strong commitment to environmental safety and harmony,and the enhancement of individual learning opportunities. Sucha city begs for some different perspectives on the educationalsystem embedded in the city.
Education in Cyber City
In his briefarticle, Fresco does not address in any detail the nature of educationin Cyber City, other than to observe that "When educationand resources are available, there would be no limit to the humanpotential." Cyber City, according to Fresco, is a philosophyof culture, not simply an architectural scheme. In thinking ingreater depth about the nat ure of education in Cyber City, weare in agreement that education, too, must be based on enlightenedconceptions of the purposes and strategies of teaching and learning,not merely on the arrangements of buildings, or the implementationof technologies.
Yet in Cyber City, technologies and purposesof education are integrally connected. Technologies of the typeenvisioned at the core of Cyber City are also the core of a newconception of education. Consistent with the philosophy of CyberCity, we see education as truly life long, integrated with virtuallyall aspects of community life, not the province of a single groupof professionals, nor contained only in institutions called schools. We see the technologies of Cyber City as instrumental in achievingeducational processes and outcomes thought for decades, perhapscenturies, as being important but largely unattainable on a massscale.
We envision a formal educational structure in Cyber City,but it is a structure based on different assumptions than arecurrently held about how education is to happen. In Cyber City,two different but related learning goals are to be accomplishedconcurrently: the education system in the City should supportefforts to individualize learning for each person; and to engagein learners in collaborative, rather than solely competitive,learning, to the end of improving quality of life for all. Educatorshave long understood the importance of attending to individuallearning styles and preferences, but largely have been unableto accomplish mass individualization, or to sustain that individualizationover the long haul. The technologies of Cyber City render individualizationpractically possible; the structure of education in Cyber Cityassumes the importance and possibility of tailoring learning foreach individual.
The technologies and structures of educationin Cyber City also make feasible collaborative teaching and learningto a degree only imagined today. Each learner is able to connectwith teachers, othe r learners, community members, experts, governmentofficials, and others on an ongoing basis, to accomplish mutuallybeneficial learning goals. In Cyber City, the chasm between schoolsand business, schools and social agencies, schools and homes,and schools and work begins to disappear. The act of learningcan be done mutually by pairs, small groups, or teams of peopleno matter where they happen to be. Businesses don't provide supportto schools, businesses are schools. Community agencies don'tsimply provide funds to the school for a few computers, but arerather places and sources of learning for students, accessiblethrough a range of information technologies.
There is anotherassumption on which education in Cyber City is built: individuallearners, irrespective of their ages or circumstances, ought tohave direct access to information resources, and the processesneeded to do something with those resources. That is, in theeducation system in Cyber City, access to needed information resourcesis more under the control o f individual learners than of institutions. This is a dramatically different conception, one that raisessubstantial issues over who controls education in the society,and what equality of access will mean in the future.
Against thebackdrop of these assumptions, we offer one view of the basicoutlines of an education system for Cyber City.
The Basic Learning Unit
Our conception of education in Cyber City begins not withan institution called school, but rather with the most fundamentalcomponent of the system: an individual human being, and his/herBasic Learning Unit (BLU). Every citizen, of all ages, will possessa BLU. The architecture of the BLU will change as technologiesadvance, but, initially, the BLU will consist of a computer-based,integrated learning and information unit that enables the userto connect into networks containing the world's information resources,communications tools permitting two-way intera ctions with others,and information processing tools permitting the user to act oninformation and communications in a variety of ways. Put in today'stechnologies, the BLU may be a powerful notebook computer, modem(or other device needed to connect to high-speed data networks),a large storage device (such as a CD-ROM), a device for on-demandvideo retrieval, and a set of software tools needed for accessingnetworks, data manipulation, and personal productivity. In thehands of each individual, then, will be the tools needed to gainaccess to virtually any kind of information resource (and, itshould be noted, all information resources will be available tousers irrespective of the physical location of the users), toengage in dialogue and collaborative work with others, again irrespectiveof the physical location of those others, and to apply informationresources and communications toward the accomplishment of individuallydefined learning goals.
The hardware and software comprising theBLU, however, only tells part of the sto ry of what we see as thebasic building block of lifelong learning. We envision that eachperson, at birth, will be assigned a Learning Code, a passwordof sorts that guarantees each individual the right to gain accessto information services and resources that will be needed to learnin Cyber City. The Learning Code will be every bit as essentialas today's Social Security number. The Learning Code will bewith an individual throughout his or her life. Possession ofa Learning Code will be regarded as a basic human right, entitlingeach person, irrespective of origins, race, or economic situationto participate in learning activities and opportunities. Further,in Cyber City, having access to the tools and services of theinformation society will be regarded as an extension of universalservice, much as access to a basic telephone "dial tone"is to our citizens today.
We also envision that, in Cyber City,every citizen will have Learning Credits which can be used to"pu rchase" learning services and opportunities. Aswill be outlined below, learners will be able to gain access tolearning opportunities and resources in many places throughoutthe City; an individual's Learning Credits represent the currencyneeded to take advantage of opportunities and resources. Muchthought will need to be given to who"pays" for LearningCredits. We believe that all citizens must be guaranteed a baseamount of Learning Credits, to ensure equity of access to learningand resources. We recognize the need for some kinds of controlson how many Learning Credits it will take to "purchase"services, but the essential underlying issue is equity of accessfor all. In Cyber City, as outlined by Fresco, the Central Domewill house many of the resources (including communications andtransportation) central to the purposes of Cyber City. Each learnerin the community will be linked electronically to the CentralDome through their Basic Learning Unit, with ongoing access guaranteedthrough application of the Learning Code.. The BLU will be ofa size and weight permitting each learner to take the BLU anywhere,any time. As a result, distance and space become largely irrelevant. Learning can take place at home, on the job, in the park, oranywhere else the learner may find him or herself.
In this paper,we cannot explore the fiscal or policy implications of a commitmentto providing a Learning Code and BLU for every individual, butwe recognize the seriousness of questions about financing andmaintaining such a system. A society (or, in the case of ourexample, a city) that takes seriously the concept of lifelonglearning as a basic human right must also come to grips with howsuch a system will be practically implemented and financed. Withouttackling these issues, Cyber City would be faced with a growingchasm between those who have BLU's, and those who do not. Infact, no one should be without a BLU.
The Neighborhood LearningCenter
Equip ped with his or her Basic Learning Unit, each citizenof Cyber City will have access to a world of learning opportunities. But we recognize that some forms of learning occur best not inthe individual confines of a Basic Learning Unit, but in a placewhere individuals come together to meet for social and learningpurposes. In Fresco's conception of Cyber City, he provides foreight domes, located adjacent to the Central Dome, which housethe library, science, art, music, research, exhibition, entertainment,and conference centers. Learners of all ages would frequent thesedomes to engage in activities suggested by the theme of the domeand thus, these domes serve many of the functions of our currentidea of schools.
We would add some mini-domes to the scheme, however. We think the education system of Cyber City ought to have neighborhoodlearning centers, places that might be viewed in a way as "homerooms" for the young, and as local meeting places for oldercitizens. When dealing with life-long learners, we prefer todiscuss the concept of a Learning Center rather than a school. The word "school" carries too much baggage from thepast and present. We may finally be able to"deschool society." Neighborhood Learning Centers will be expected to play very differentroles for young children, adolescents, teenagers, and adults. Currently we have pre-schools followed by schools for elementarylevel children, which are separated from schools for middle levelchildren, which are separated from schools for secondary levelchildren, which are separated from education for adults. In thefuture, we should be able to design an integrated system thatmeets the needs of all learners no matter where they are in theirlives. Our conception of the Neighborhood Learning Center wouldcontribute to cross-generational learning.
The Neighborhood Learning Center would be funded and administered either by City government, or neighborhood cooperatives. However structured, the LearningCenters would be public agencie s, the revenues from which wouldcome from some form of taxation in the community.
The neighborhood learning centers would be equipped with all relevant informationtechnologies; would be easily accessible to all via the variousforms of transportation systems serving the City; and would haverooms to convene small and large groups of learners. The centerswould be staffed by individuals skilled in coaching learners,identifying learning resources, and providing forms of emotionaland intellectual support. For the very young learners, the neighborhoodcenters would prepare learners for a lifetime of learning, andwould help the young develop the kinds of social and emotionalfoundations they need to be productive and happy citizens. Forthe older youngsters, the neighborhood centers are warm, safeplaces from which to launch into the community for learning opportunities. For adults, the centers provide a venue for discussion, reflection,and fellowship.
A fundamental purpose of the neighborhood centeris to provide a place where people come together to synthesize,analyze, and reflect on what they are learning. The centers wouldnot be "warehouses," or places that measure successby time spent within the walls of the building. We envision thecenters as very dynamic, exciting places, where learners engagewith a broad range of information resources and tools, but wherecollectively (or collaboratively) they think about what they arethinking, and how they are thinking. In some respects, the neighborhoodcenters serve as venues for metacognitive activities, but alsoas places that promote and enhance personal and social development.
Technologies play an important role in the neighborhood learningcenters. We envision each center having, among other facilities,rooms equipped to permit full video-based interactivity with learnersin other neighborhood centers, and for the exchange of holographicrepresentations of experts, specialists, politicians, actors,and others that learners m ight wish to engage. Within the center,tools would exist that promote user-friendly collaborations onresearch, writing projects, and other activities. The neighborhoodcenters would each have modest production capacity, enabling learnersto create information products and programs. Analytical toolsrequiring more power than Basic Learning Units would be housedin the centers, available to learners as needed. There are a numberof scenarios of schools of the future that have been proposedand, in a beginning way, implemented, that approximate our visionof the Neighborhood Learning Center. One example of such a visionhas been advanced by Ameritech, in what the company calls the SuperSchool, first proposed in 1992. The SuperSchool demonstratedthat existing communications technologies "are expandingthe walls of the traditional classroom, taking children acrossthe country and around the world on an unparalleled journey ofdiscovery." In the future, the company argues, this discoverywill be open to everyone.
The six components of the SuperSchoolcould easily be incorporated and expanded in the NeighborhoodLearning Center of the future. As suggested above, there wouldbe a full multimedia based auditorium that could support instructionaland entertainment functions. The auditorium could support visualimagery using holograms of important people. The Center wouldcontain a fully automated library/learning resource section withaccess to worldwide databases, educational services, computer-aidedinstruction, and simulations. It would also serve as a placewhere these resources are created and produced.
In interactive playgrounds/distance learning classrooms people would utilizeinteractive distance education, voice response systems, multimedianetworks with visualization, collaborative learning, and computer-aidedinstruction. Neighborhood Centers would not only link with eachother, but also to businesses, scientific laboratories, museums,news bureaus, etc. Cohorts of students from around the worldcould be linked with practicing scientists to conduct hands-onscientific experiments. Market factors would take on new meaningwhen they are explored simultaneously in different businessesor perhaps the same business in multiple locations.
Another key component in connectivity is the linkage of the Learning Centerwith the Basic Learning Unit in each home. Videoconferencingand file transfer would be common between the Neighborhood LearningCenter and homes or offices. Parents would be appropriately involvedin educational decisions without the need to take off work orcome to the center at night. Electronic access to informationand learning materials maintained through the library/resourcecenter would be available at all times-day and night. Dependingupon their educational needs, learners of all ages would not haveto be physically present in the Neighborhood Center to be activityengaged in learning with their peers. In fact, it would expectedthat there would not be a fixed school day or school year formost children. Learning occurs year round and is not confinedto six or seven hours a day for five days a week.
Workforce preparation is a current hot topic in educational reform circles. But wehave never really connected the world of "school" withthe world of "work." In our society workers can nolonger count on a single job for their lifetime. Instead fiveor six job changes are becoming the norm. To meet this reality,a number of corporations are currently investing millions of dollarsin creating their own learning centers. In many respects theseduplicate each other and overlap with what we envision as theNeighborhood Learning Centers of the future. There should beno need for Motorola or McDonalds to create their own "universities." These are wonderful facilities and far exceed what is availableto most children or workers in other companies. With integratedsystems, children and adults are all served by a comprehensive educational system.
As technology becomes more sophisticated in the City, we believe, it becomes vital to provide a locally accessible, attractive, and dynamic place where people of allages can meet face-to-face. The Neighborhood Learning Centermay be an excellent form of such a place. Once again, we arenot unmindful of the practical issues associated with creatingthese local centers. And we are not unaware of the reality that,for example, very young people cannot roam the city at will. There needs to be places where the young are gathered, supervised,and generally nourished. We know that, as in schools today, therewill be issues of behavior, objectives, funding. But we believethat the Neighborhood Learning Center could be created in sucha fashion that learners of all ages are drawn to it, where gettingpeople to leave will be more of a problem than convincing peopleto come to the Center.
Human Development Centers
We are mindful of the reality that, in Cyber City, m any forms of families willexist. A common characteristic of most types of families is thatparents will not be at home with young children every day, allday. There must be a system in place that responds to the needfor extended care for all young people in the City. Because theNeighborhood Learning Centers have a primary responsibility topromote learning activities, we do not believe these centers shouldnecessarily take on the task of extended care for all children. Therefore, in our overall educational system, we see a need forhuman development centers that act as extended care-givers and,as the name implies, provides a rich environment for development.
The Human Development Centers should be places where learningtakes place, but their primary focus is to provide a warm andsupportive environment for children, not unlike the best of currentday care centers. For this paper, we will not focus on thesehuman development centers, other than to recognize the need fo rsome form of agency that provides for extended care for youngpeople.
Business and Agency Learning Units
In Cyber City, as we have argued earlier, businesses and social service/community agencies need to be viewed as integral parts of the formal educationalstructure of the City. We envision that most of the businessesand agencies in the City will open their resources and facilities(within practical limits dictated by safety, security, or otherdelimitations) to learners of all ages, who could profit educationallyby being in the culture of the business.
We believe, for example, that a manufacturing facility could provide a variety of kindsof learning resources. Some individuals might wish to spend timeas interns in the facility, preparing themselves for vocationalopportunities in such facilities. But others may learn science,or mathematics, or finance, by engaging in various activitiesin the manufacturing plant. Persons interested in the technologyof manufacturing cou ld gain first-hand experience by observinghow things are done. People interested in computer technologycould learn much from observing robotics at work. The varietyand kinds of learning opportunities available through this onebusiness, if that business was accessible to learners, is astounding. The City has many such organizations and businesses that couldbe incredible sources of learning resources and experiences, ifa commitment was made to open access to those businesses and organizations.
As we see it, learners may spend a part of many days during theyear in these business and community agency settings. In addition,learners may also utilize the resources of businesses throughconnections via the network in the City. Learners may begin dialoguesvia the network with workers in a manufacturing plant, or witha case worker in a social services agency, or a salesperson. Employees of businesses may spend significant amounts of timein Neighborhood Learning Centers, via the teleconferencing capabilitiesof the Center and the business.
What we are describing is a radical departure from most of the current efforts to build partnerships between schools and businesses. We are arguing that every businessand social agency has an obligation to be an active participantin the processes of teaching and learning in the City. We aresuggesting that the technologies available in the City make possiblesustained relationships that go well beyond current notions ofadopting schools. The learning resources in businesses and agenciesare generally unavailable to learners in today's climate; in CyberCity, business is education.
Storefront Learning Academies
We believe one additional component should be a part of the educational systemin Cyber City. We suggest that private sector establishmentscalled Storefront Learning Academics be encouraged in the City. The Storefronts would need to meet certain agreed-upon safetyand learning standards, but basical ly would be created by individualsor organizations that had creative ideas about things to be learnedand ways to learn those things, and that were willing to put theirideas in the "marketplace" for people who might wishto purchase products or services. The idea for a system of StorefrontAcademies is patterned after a concept being developed by MichaelBakalis in Illinois.
One Storefront, for example, might emphasizescience-related learning experiences. The store, located in oneof the shopping areas of Cyber City, might be a technologically-richestablishment were people of all ages might come to experiencescience oriented learning. A person might sit at a sophisticatedwork station to use multimedia programming focusing on rain forests. Another young person, at another work station, is doing researchfor a paper on genetic engineering. As part of her paper, thisstudent brings up a menu of scientists engaged in studying variousaspects of the genome proj ect; with a simple click, the studentis connected to that scientist via a bulletin board, and is ableto raise questions. A small group of students huddle around athird work station, talking about an experiment they are simulatingin a highly sophisticated multimedia environment. A senior citizenperuses a data base on geology; a young mother and father previewprogramming for their child pertaining to basic environmentalconcepts. In a seminar room, a scientist from one of the companiesin the City is meeting with a small group of people, some young,some older, to talk about latest developments in biotechnology. People come and people go, some staying only briefly to gatherspecific information, some linger over various simulations. Asmall staff supervises activities, and serve as guides to findand use information resources.
One can imagine an almost limitlessvariety of such Storefronts, each with a different focus. TheStorefronts are akin to some of our big bookstores, which havebecome learning and social centers as much as retail businesses,yet the Storefronts are more than bookstores. The Storefrontsare dynamic, changing places, locations of the avant garde andthe traditional. They have information, but are not librariesas traditionally conceived. They are not schools, but they providelearning opportunities. The Storefronts provide remedial services,but also highly enriched experiences for people out on the edgeof their learning fields. They are technologically sophisticated,yet maintain a strong human dimension. The Academies would bevery flexible, capable of making changes quickly to meet changingneeds in the City. They are in business to make a profit, sothings that "work" stay, and things that don't, disappear.
Once again, we are not prepared to discuss in detail how individualswould pay for the services and resources available through theStorefront Academies, other than to say that, in our opinion,Learning Credits should be "good" at the Aca demies.
The Central Dome
Fresco describes the Central Dome as "hous(ing)the cybernated system, educational facilities, shopping, communications,networking, and health center." In addition, the centraldome serves as the core of most transportation for the City. We would add to these functions an education system function: the nexus of information resources, experimentation, research,and policy development for the education system of the City.
We envision the Central Dome to serve as the education system's coordinatinghub. We do not mean the Dome would become a controlling, bureaucraticoffice, but rather the core of support services and developmentwhich undergird student uses of Basic Learning Units and NeighborhoodLearning Centers. For education purposes, the Dome becomes anadministrative center, research and development center, and City-widelearning center. The Central Dome would contribute to education(as a subsystem) in ways similar to what Fresco sees a s the purposesof the Dome more generally for the City:
In the Dome, advanced systems will be developed and implementedthat make possible true individualization of instruction for alllearners. Such a goal is achievable only by maintaining extensiveinformation about each learner. For example, a learner usingvirtual reality to visit museums containing the works of Monetwould have his or her own computer-created docent who knows hisor her name, age, background and interests in the arts, and whathe or she has studied in the past. The docent then would respondinteractively to queries of the learner. Parents and their childrenor siblings on the same journey of discovery would find the learningenvironment guided by their own level of understanding and interest. Or consider the possibilities of newspapers, available to eachlearner each morning (or on demand) that contains informationexpressly aimed at the interests of a given reader: the personalizednewspaper!
The collection and use of such information to enhancelearning projects would be coordinated from the Dome, and, throughnetworked systems, be available as needed anywhere, or anytime,in the City. Public policies pertaining to privacy and securityof information about individual learners would need to be establishedand strictly enforced, for gross invasions of privacy could conceivablyoccur. But the learning possibilities open because of the availab ilityof information about individual learners are extensive.
Through the Dome, individual learners could be assisted to plan for andthen carry out learning projects that extend throughout the City. The Neighborhood Learning Centers would be of great value inhelping learners tap into the resources of the neighborhood; theCentral Dome could escalate access to resources City-wide, byidentifying where in the City certain resources exist, suggestingtransportation options to visit the source of the information(when necessary), and linking a learner with other learners inthe City with similar interests. Through the cybernetic processesof the Dome, the City would be transformed into a virtual classroomfor all learners.
We envision the Dome as containing resourcesand equipment that may be too expensive for a Neighborhood LearningCenter but, as a shared resource, could be made available City-widefor all learners. This advanced studies center, for example,could pro vide access to supercomputers for extensive scientificsimulations, collaborative learning, and virtual reality experiencesthat would be more sophisticated than might be available at localcenters. Tremendous computing power will be needed to supportsome educational activities, power not readily accessible throughremote networks. Learners might come to the Central Dome to usesuch computing power as needed. In still other instances, complexinternational communications activities might be undertaken thatwould require unique equipment or programming available only atthe Central Dome. And some information resources may be of anature that access to those resources must be restricted; theDome might become a kind of electronic "reserve room."where admission is more closely guarded.
We also see the Domeas a focal point for certain forms of participatory decision-makingin the City. At the Dome, space would be available to house largegatherings of individuals, for purposes of debate and discussionof public policy issues pertaining to education and other sectorsof the community. The meeting rooms may be equipped with sophisticatedresponse systems, permitting a richness of debate and voting notavailable in usual venues. Of course, these complex meeting roomswill also be connected electronically to Neighborhood LearningCenters, but there will continue to be value in some face-to-facedebate on critical matters.
We also envision the Dome as a placeof educational experimentation, where researchers and policy makerscan try new ideas in controlled settings, replete with extensivetools for data gathering and analyses. The learning applicationsof new technologies could be systematically tested in the Dome,as could new theories of human learning and development. Again,the Dome would be a repository of equipment, facilities, and resourcesnot easily available in Neighborhood Centers because of cost andother factors.
As is obvious, we have but scratched the surfaceof describ ing what education in Cyber City might look like, givena particular scenario of a city of the future. Even with thisadmittedly cursory exploration of possibilities, however, mostreaders will see a number of possible implications and consequencesof education that might accompany the design of an education systemwith the characteristics we have outlined. What follows is apreliminary mention of some of these implications.
What might be the implications and consequencesresulting from building an education system in Cyber City withthe components we've outlined? Even given the sketchy detailswe've provided above, several areas of possible implications orconsequences become apparent:
Curriculum and instruction each influence the other. As the structure of the education system changes, notions of what ought to be taught in the formal educational system, andhow it ought to be taught, must necessarily be re-examined. Aslearning begins with the needs of individuals, and as individualsare provided with an enormous array of learning options and resources,our sense of what is to be shared in common across society maybe less certain. Reforming the structure of the system thus requiresthat we consider through a new lens what we can reasonably calla curriculum: what are the values or content all people shouldpossess; what is to be learned by individuals irrespective ofwhat might be learned by other people; how do people in fact approachthe activities of learning in this kind of structure.
It is easy to become preoccupied with the mechanics of the technologies,and to lose sight of the ends being sought through the formaleducational system. We believe our proposal for changes in thestructures of education are perhaps most profoundly understoodin curriculum and instruction terms, the outlines of which wehave only begun to explore.
We recognize that what we are proposing raises questions of themost fundamental nature about the reality of implementing suchan educational system. At the outset are questions of funding: Who will pay for what is needed (e.g., Basic Learning Units foreach person)? How can equity be achieved as regards educationalopportunities in a society where differences in income and resourceswill surely exist among peoples? What is the appropriate relationshipbetween public and private support for education? What are thelong term implications of truly supporting lifelong learning?
Who would govern the proposed educational system? What happensto traditional conceptions of local control over and responsibilityfor education? Can public and private sectors work together inmeaningful ways, over the long term? Would concepts such as LearningCodes or Learning Credits threaten or enhance historically-valuednotions of education for all?
At this stage in our thinking aboutthese matters, we have only questions, not answers. We are convincedthat the kind of education system made possible by the existenceof the kinds of technology and social systems envisioned for CyberCit y render current thinking about governance and finance ambiguousat best.
Is There Any Reality in all This?
We are convinced that technological advances, as chronicled on a daily basis inour journals, newspapers, and television accounts, will drivechanges in the activities of teaching and learning. Preciselywhat those changes are, and in what combination technologies areformed to generate new forms of formal educational structures,is difficult to ascertain. Surely the literature is replete withbits and pieces o f the puzzle.
We advocate very serious attention to educational design in light of technological developments. There is much that could be done, many benefits to be derivedfrom effective and creative uses of technologies to advance thecause of learning. But there are also dangers, things to be lost. What is needed is a combination of creative scenarios for educationin the future, accompanied (but not restricted) by ongoing assessmentsof the possible second and third order consequences of those scenarios.
We are still in a position to make choices about the uses of technologiesfor teaching and learning, and in the design of structures foreducation in the future. To the extent we are knowledgeable aboutthe options open to us, the more likely we are to exercise wisechoices.