Volume 2 Issue 4 (Winter 1998)
Psychology, Technology, and the Twenty-first Century
In the twenty-first century, now- nearly upon us, the profession of teaching may experience something like the reverse of the adage. It might be said that "The more things remain the same, the more they change." The challenges of giving form and meaning to an ever-expanding body of knowledge in disciplines old and new and of meeting the needs of new generations of students by developing relevant and effective strategies for teaching are not brand new problems; there are perennial concerns of the committed educator. Apart from this essentially structural and even archetypal aspect of the profession, however, changes already fully in progress are likely to be quantum in scope and exponential in their rate of progress.
In his article "Skipping on the Brink of the Abyss: Teaching Thinking Through Writing" James J. Sheridan calls writing "a thinking heuristic," and describes a large number of practical and obviously experience-derived teaching strategies for using writing as a means of learning and the development of thinking skills. The underlying thesis of this article, however, is that the greatest needs and the most basic imperatives of the humanities and social sciences, and no doubt other disciplines as well, are those of understanding how and why learning takes place and using the knowledge gained to develop new paradigms of instruction. Sheridan's approach is both psychological, involving getting inside the mind to determine how it operates in retaining and processing data, and practical, determining what conditions a teacher can establish to cause learning to take place.
A second imperative for teachers of the twenty-first century is that of becoming proficient in the management of a vastly more sophisticated and wide-ranging instructional technology. Sponsored by the National School Boards Association, the twelfth annual Technology and Learning Conference, which took place October 29-31 in Nashville, Tennessee, focused on the technologies, hardware, and software currently being made available and being used in many of the nation's primary and secondary school systems. The scope of the dynamics of change in teaching methods and resources demonstrated at this conference, as well as the eagerness of administrators and teachers to embrace new ideas and new systems employing computer-related technologies, was striking and even somewhat daunting to community college professors self-assured that their institutions were at the "cutting edge" of computer-based instruction.
The new century offers unprecedented opportunities for the creation of a new world of teaching and learning for those educators flexible and proactive enough to be truly dedicated to the improvement of our understanding of how the mind works and how learning can most readily take place in traditional. electronic, and hybrid classrooms, and perhaps in other environments yet to be imagined.