recent years, the phrase "classroom
of the future" has become increasingly prevalent in the
discourse of educational institutions and foundations–in mission
statements, internal and extramural funding proposals, compacts
made with industry, outreach parternships between higher education
and K-12, etc. To take one example, the San Diego County Office
of Education's "Classroom
of the Future Foundation" works in league with "the Joe
Rindone Regional Technology Center, Regional SONY Centers,
and classrooms in San Diego County schools" to ensure that
California's students "log on to the future." The foundation's
mission statement asks:
should the power and potential of emerging technologies be harnessed
to service California classrooms? How can student opportunity
be expanded using new communications media? How can we use what
we know about student learning, combined with what we are learning
about computers, networks, and videoconferencing to improve
again, a press release of Jan. 2000, advertises the fact that the
UC Davis "Classroom
of the Future" initiative will partner with a local high school
to assess the use of instructional technology. According to one
of the education professors involved in the project, "This partnership
is exciting because it couples a firm like Pac Bell, which will
supply its equipment and expertise, with the university and its
understanding of effective instructional practice."
by grants from business, government, and other sources, many other
such initiatives are now starting study projects and/or breaking
ground for experimental "wired" classrooms.
outside of the circuit of discourse that now races between administrators,
education specialists, businesses, and technology specialists, the
level of awareness about what the "classroom of the future" might
actually look like is low–not just at the K-12 level but in higher
education. Nowhere is this more true, perhaps, than in humanities
education at research-level institutions, whose faculty are in danger
of missing out entirely on the chance to contribute to the discussion
before the ink has dried on the funding contracts that are likely
to affect the whole tenor of education in the future–in the way,
for example, that past decisions about the nature of academic architecture
and even furniture (e.g., fixed seats) have doomed instructors to
environments that seem actively to work against them.
purpose of this panel in the inaugural conference of the UC Digital
Cultures Project is to investigate the feasibility of launching
the Project's proposed "casebook" series (see the project's original
funding proposal) with a volume that solicits the thought of humanities
scholars and artists (complemented by scholars in other disciplines)
on the "classroom of the future." Since collective discussion of
this topic among humanists is either at an early stage or non-existent,
the panel will start from the ground up with fundamental philosophical,
social, institutional, and practical questions. Several scholars
who have experimented with instructional information technology
will open the session with brief, informal statements. The audience
will then be asked to join in an open forum on the topic. In the
year following the Digital Cultures conference, a call for papers
will go out inviting scholars, artists, architects, engineers, administrators,
and others to contribute to the casebook. Several of the latter
group will also be invited to give advance versions of their papers
in a follow-up panel at the succeeding year's Digital Cultures conference.
(see Responses for
further thoughts suggested
participants or visitors to this page)
a means of priming the discussion in advance of the proceedings,
this year's panel on the "classroom of the future" is putting online
the following starter set of questions suggested by the panelists.
(To suggest additional questions or revisions, please e-mail
- In the humanities, what was the
ideal of the "classroom of the past"; and how should that ideal
guide or be superceded by the ideal of the "classroom of the future"?
Can the model of the Socratic "seminar," for example, benefit
from the paradigm of the "network," and vice versa?
people talk about "distance learning," what philosophically, socially,
or otherwise does "distance" actually mean? What kind of distances
were built into the structure of education in the past? What other
kinds of distances are created by distance learning and/or the
"classroom of the future"? Is distance good, or bad?
is the role of the visual in the "classroom of the future"?
research-level humanities programs have evolved so as to differentiate
between advanced learning and skills learning–such that, for example,
classes in which skills or competence is uppermost (e.g., composition)
are taught most regularly by lower-level, temporary, or graduate-student
instructors. Yet the ascendancy of information technology has
meant that technical skills become ever more important in advanced
classes where instructors ask students to experiment with the
Web or other new media. Is the time that instructors and students
must put into learning the new skills justified? What conceptually
is "skill" or "technique" in a postindustrial era that has passed
beyond both the preindustrial era of "craft" and the early industrial
era when the "idea of the university" (as Cardinal Newman called
it) originally arose in contrast to the polytechnic?
difference does it make phenomenologically, psychologically, socially,
or otherwise to teach with the Web over one's shoulder (e.g.,
thrown by a digital projector on a screen)? Is the text or picture
show on the screen the same as the one about which an instructor
can say, "Class, turn to page 15"? How, in other words, does information
technology in the classroom (not to mention outside the classroom)
change the scene of instruction?
- How do we perform the classroom
of the future and observe it at the same time? How do we assess
the ways in which the new technologically mediated classroom is
redefining: technological skill; rhetorical skill; knowledge;
- How do we assess the new combinatory
of skills that comprise a student's performance?
- What are the discursive and political
differences in the media of exchange, among, for example: (a)
email archives, (b) moderated lists, (c) IRC-chat, and (d) newsgroups?
funding was unlimited, how might a group of humanists working
with architects, education specialists, engineers, programmers,
and others design a "classroom of the future"? What would that
classroom look and feel like?
for further thoughts suggested
by panel participants
or visitors to this page)