See You (Electronically) in September

Carl Weinschenk
Slide Show

Five Innovations that Could Change the Way We Live, Work and Play

At the risk of egregiously misquoting John Greenleaf Whittier, this sums up how many kids across America feel today: "For all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these, it's September again." Indeed, it's back to school week for most - and a good time to look at the status of mobile communications and the educational system.

I posted over at Unified Communications Edge on this topic in July. The post looked at a post on Cisco's site and products from ACT Conferencing and Sharestream. One observation was that despite the fact that modern telecommunications is transformative, most people use medicine as the best example of the value of unified communications.

That may not be as true for electronic communications in general. In that case, the onslaught of eReaders, tablets, laptops and other mobile devices are seen as representing a fundamental change.

And, like most fundamental changes, it is occurring on multiple levels. The environmentally positive transition from paper to electronics means that texts can be kept far more current. Over time, use of electronic devices can be cheaper for school systems. Students can get more done in more places and those who are homebound for long periods can participate to a far greater degree than in the past. Kids who have to leave right after school due to travel or work requirements can participate, at least to a degree, in extra help and extracurricular activities.

Today, The New York Times has a multimedia presentation entitled, "What Will School Look Like in 10 Years?" There are a number of short audio answers to the question. They all are interesting. Perhaps most worthy of note is the response from Larry Cuban, an emeritus professor from the Stanford University School of Education. He has, according to the introduction, been studying computers in the classroom since 1986. Perhaps surprisingly, Cuban takes a measured approach:

There is danger in people falling for the hype, he said. But Mr. Cuban believes that change in education will not come as quickly as many predict. He noted that some reformers have been attempting to end summer vacation for decades. "Summer is still here," he said.

Others accept the common wisdom that everything is changing due to mobile and other electronics. These folks can point to any number of news items as evidence. For instance, the Daily Targum - the newspaper serving the Rutgers University community - reported today that Edison Township will become what it says is the first K-12 district in the nation to use a custom-designed mobile app and the first district in New Jersey to incorporate iPads into its curriculum. Business Review USA has a nice overview of technology and education, including a look at Drexel University's new Library Learning Terrace.

A good example of how comprehensive the changes in education may be can be found in an executive briefing interview I did in July 2010 with Julie Smith, the vice president of higher education for CDW Government, and Rand Spiwak, the executive vice president and chief financial officer for Daytona State College, on the release of CDW's 21st Century Campus Report. The ambition of what Spiwak and his staff had planned for Daytona State certainly suggests that education has changed forever.

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