Have you had a hard time adjusting to the information age? If you are an educator, have you just not quite come up to speed on all the ways to use multimedia-based computers to enhance learning in your classrooms? If you are a parent, businessperson, or other community member interested in the improvement of education for all learners, have you been overwhelmed by all the fancy new computerized gadgets that promise to bring the merits of the information age into offices, classrooms and libraries in your community?
If so, take a deep breath and let out a sigh of relief. I have comforting news for you. You do not have to worry about the information age any more - it is all over.
Yes, that is right, the information age is over, dead, kaput, finito, nada, history, finished.
What killed it? And, more importantly, what is taking its place? More on that in a bit. For now, let us look at some evidence.
In the beginning of 1993, IBM announced that its losses had taken a sharp turn for the worse, even though the company did away with about 40,000 positions in 1992 - roughly double the 20,000 it had said would be cut. When the dust settled, IBM posted an annual loss of $6.865 billion, followed by an $8 billion, or $14.10 per share, loss in the second quarter of 1993. Continued cutbacks in staff and facilities stemmed the bleeding, but the patient was wounded. IBM, the company that virtually defined the information age, was reeling.
The cause for this crisis was not that IBM was doing a bad job. Anyone who knows the company knows the high quality of its products and staff. No, the problem was not that IBM was doing a bad job; it was doing the wrong job.
IBM's loss was just one of the canaries in the coal mine; but, unlike those poor canaries that died in the presence of an odorless poison gas, IBM is not dead. In fact, it is rebounding. IBM Chairman Louis Gerstner announced in early 1994 that IBM was reducing its emphasis on mainframes and was going to get into the (are you ready for this?) communication business. IBM got the message: adapt or die.
In our time of rapid change (and things are moving so quickly that the very nature of change itself is changing), a paradigm shift is sweeping the planet, leaving in its wake the carcasses of the lethargic dinosaurs that just did not make the transition.
All of this is terribly important for schools, because the paradigm shift I am about to describe treats all institutions in the same way. Businesses are at risk; our schools are at risk; our children are at risk. Education is no longer immune to the changes that are sweeping the planet at the speed of light.
To get a sense of what is going on, let us look at some of the major paradigm shifts of ...