On Asynchronous Technologies #1

Posted on Sep 8, 2009

The following is discussion question #1 submitted to the IDE-611 Discussion Board:

Thomas P.M. Barnett is a warfare analyst who wrote a popular article in Esquire magazine in 2004 based on his book “The Pentagon’s New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-First Century” [ C-SPAN lecture 2004].

Whether you agree with his political position or not, there was an aspect of his thesis that I found intriguing: the Pentagon builds, trains and maintains our military forces based on a hypothetical conflict with a known enemy until that situation is “shocked” into obsolescence by an event.

An example would be the 9-11 terrorist attacks causing the United States’ preparedness for an air and ground conflict with a conventional opposing army to be rendered obsolete. This shock forces a re-evaluation of the entire military operating theory until a strategic stasis is met against a new hypothetical conflict.

I believe the same applies to education, and for that matter, instructional design. The “shock,” in this case, might be described as a “perfect storm” of near ubiquitous network access, mature open-source software, cheap data storage, and a digitally literate student body, among other factors.

If you examine the ISTE National Educational Technology Standards and Performance Indicators for Teachers (NETS-T), you will see a clear imperative to model teaching methods to include the use of digital tools and asynchronous communication communities. Second, the 2008 Horizon Report indicates numerous trends that show momentum behind the use of shared knowledge over networks, and it predicts the adoption of even more sophisticated asynchronous methods over the next few years.

Further, implicit in the discussion of learning using asynchronous communication is a statement that, by doing so, “we are preparing our students for the demands needed to succeed in the 21st century.” This presumably refers to providing students with the literacy to function in an advanced labor market and in post-secondary efforts.

If educators invest in asynchronous technology as a learning tool, we must admit that we are placing a substantial wager that there is a critical purpose for doing so, and that we are also prepared to confront both the known and unknown by-products of this commitment.

Question #1:  Could the use of asynchronous communication technology as a learning tool create a population of workers that will be proficient in the technology, but potentially destructive to the businesses in which they work?

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