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  • November 12, 1997                                                   1997.1
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    I seem to have settled into an every-other-week schedule with the NETFUTURE newsletter. With today's posting I begin the occasional circulation of items separate from the newsletter. (I'll welcome your pointers to material that might be of interest to the readership.) These additional postings will normally occur during "off" weeks, and the frequency of all postings from NETFUTURE should still never be greater than one per week. It may be considerably less.

    This first posting is an edited compilation of material drawn mostly from NETFUTURE and dealing with technology and education. The idea was to pull together some responses to the most common arguments for wiring primary and secondary classrooms. I wanted to do it in aphoristic form, and in a single document that readers could give to their local teachers and school board members, or share with other mailing lists. (The current document has already found some good use in this regard.)

    I may well update these notes regularly, responding to new issues as they are raised, so please let me hear any critisms you have.

    
    
    
    
    WIRED CLASSROOMS: WHAT YOU'RE NOT HEARING

    
    
    Steve Talbott

    
    

    A Little History

    Back in the late Seventies and early Eighties, computer-aided instruction (CAI) was going to revolutionize education. Then CAI lost its glitter and computer literacy was the rage -- students would learn to program in BASIC, and then become engineers and scientists. Today, you don't hear much about programming in BASIC (or any other language). Now we're convinced we have to let our kids mine the informational riches of the Net if they're not to fall hopelessly behind.

    Do we have a much clearer idea about why the Net is so essential to the child's education than we once did about why computer literacy or CAI was the critical thing? And are we so knowledgeable about this that we can confidently say, with full understanding of the trade-offs, "It's obviously better to invest billions of dollars in wiring our schools than to use these billions to improve teacher salaries, lower the teacher/student ratio, or add more highly trained staff"?

    Computers are not the first technology to promise an educational revolution. Here's what the New York Times wrote in 1923 about radio:

    The Hertzian waves will carry education as they do music to the backwoods, isolated farms and into the mountains of Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia. The limitations of "the little red schoolhouse" will pass away; the country schoolteacher will be reinforced by college professors and other specialists. Radio will be an institution of learning as well as a medium for entertainment and communication.
    Of course, when that promise soured, there was no need to be pessimistic; attention was already focused on the next, glittering opportunity -- television:
    While children m