Thomas Edison, the father of electricity and inventor of the motion picture, predicted in 1922 that "the motion picture is destined to revolutionize our educational system and ... in a few years it will supplant largely, if not entirely, the use of textbooks."
Since then high levels of excitement and expectation have been generated by every new generation of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs): compact discs and CD-ROMs, videodiscs, microcomputer-based laboratories, the Internet, virtual reality, local and wide area networks, instructional software, Macs, PCs, laptops, notebooks, educational television, voice mail, e-mail, satellite communication, VCRs, cable TV, interactive radio, etc. The list of "hot" technologies available for education goes on and on.
Twenty years ago, Seymour Papert, when he was at the MIT Technology Lab, predicted that, "there won't be schools in the future…. I think the Computer will blow up the school, that is, the school as something where there are classes, teachers running exams, people structured in groups by age, [who] follow a curriculum - all of that. 
Where are we today?
ICTs have definitely revolutionized business processes and organizations, created a worldwide network of e-commerce and turned the domain of entertainment into a fascinating experience. But can ICTs have a similar impact in education?
There are the believers, the skeptics, the agnostics and the pragmatists.
- Believers think that under the right conditions technologies can have a monumental impact on the expansion of learning opportunities to wider populations beyond the confines of teaching institutions, and over the lifetime of the individual. Also technologies can improve the teaching/learning process, enhance higher levels of cognition and facilitate institutional management.
- The skeptics have at many times before been told that certain technologies, from filmstrips to tape-recorders to television, would remake their world. Why is it any different this time?
- The agnostics are not sure. They have an open mind but do not think that there is enough evidence to incorporate ICTs into educational systems. They think that our empirical knowledge of the effectiveness of different ICTs is spotty and that our experience with what works and does not work is still tentative.
- The pragmatists are holding back. The technologies are changing so fast and prices are dropping so rapidly. They are waiting for the technologies to stabilize and the prices to hit bottom.
Yet almost every decision maker in every school system across the world is under tremendous pressure to provide every classroom (if not every student) with technologies, including computers and their accessories and connectivity to the Internet. The pressures are coming from vendors who wish to sell the most advanced technologies, from parents who want to ensure that their children are not left behind in the technological revolution, businesses who want to replicate in schools the dramatic impact that ICTs have had in the worlds of commerce, business and entertainment, and from technology advocates who see ICTs as the latest hope to reform education.
The challenges facing education worldwide will escalate, and the struggle between needs and resources will deepen. The quest for radical solutions will intensify, and the pressure on decision makers to "do something" with ICTs will keep mounting. The temptation is to introduce ICTs immediately and full scale.
Experience has consistently taught us that the process of integrating technology into the educational process is not a simple one-step activity. It is an intricate, multifaceted process that involves a series of deliberate decisions, plans and measures:
- Rigorously analyzing educational objectives and changes. This step may involve rethinking educational policies and strategies to accommodate the new challenges and to exploit the potential of ICTs.
- Determining which educational objectives will be best pursued for ICT application. This decision affects the choice of technologies and modalities of use.
- Understanding the potential of different ICTs for different applications.
- Examining the appropriateness of specific technologies in light of educational objectives, desired roles of teachers and learners, and country realities and prospects.
- Sustaining a program of investment in the necessary human, physical, and instructional infrastructures.
- Implementing the pre- and co-requisites of effectiveness of ICTs for education within the dynamics of educational change and reform.
- Continuous program evaluation and adjustment.
Where does this leave decision makers and planners?
Questions about the potential of ICTs and their effectiveness will continue to linger, yet some decisions have to be made. The next set of questions has to do with how to rationally and realistically maximize the contribution of ICTs to the realization of effective learning and other educational goals.
The worst that could happen is for each country to deal with these issues in isolation by reinventing the wheel and failing to learn from the experiences (and mistakes) of others. It is therefore essential for decision makers, planners and practitioners to be well aware of the wealth of worldwide knowledge, research, experience and thinking. This awareness should not lead to transplantation of ideas and experiences but should rather enlighten, guide, and inspire locally conceived and implemented decisions and plans.
This tool draws on this worldwide body of knowledge and provides a summary of what is known about the potential and conditions of effective use of ICTs for education and learning.
More specifically, this tool
- Analyzes the rationales and realities of ICTs for education,
- Examines the options and choices for leveraging the potential of ICTs in achieving national and educational goals and solving educational problems, and
- Outlines the pre-requisite and co-requisite conditions for effective integration of ICTs into the educational process
|1 Seymour Papert. 1984. "Trying to Predict the Future", Popular Computing.