1303 L Wed 23 Jan 2002
Last night I listened to Background Briefing on Radio National.
It was talking about the internet being used for education, doing
degrees online, asking questions like "Will it destroy the
university?". It describes how companies are providing content
to the universities and how parts of universities are becoming
It reminded me of a book I bought in 1995 "In Search
of the Virtual Class" by John Tiffin and Lalita Rajasingham.
Here is an extract about being an apprentice plumber in 1922:
... Of course there was no books to learn from in those days
and no one wanted to teach you. they didn't like giving knowledge
away. The few knew how to do plumbing the better your situation
was. They were supposed to teach the apprentices but they didn't
want to because we were seen as a threat. So we had to learn
by watching. ... (pages 53-54).
The benefits of the virtual classroom are outlined on page
Getting the mass markets in education that will bring about
economies of scale will depend upon the quality of instruction
being better than that which is possible in classrooms. With
millions of paying students it becomes possible to invest in
courseware development, hunt out the latest reasearch, find the
best authorities on a subject, contract tope instructional designers
and create imaginative virtual realities of the phenomena under
study. With the incentive of global markets, we could imagine
knowledge-based companies investing in the design, development
and marketing of virtual environments for education in an information
society in the way that the giants of the automotive industry
now invest in motorcar manufacturing for the industrial society.
How could a conventional teacher with conventional resources
I think part of the answer is in politics: power structures
in society, people being more inclined to teach what it is profitable
for them to teach, useful information being sold, rather than
being provided freely, etc.
I was impressed with an article on page 13 of The Australian.
Here are some extracts:
No sense in bleeding hearts
Extreme tolerance leads to a moral swamp rather
than the high ground, suggests James Morrow
... These a just a few examples of a broader problem in the
intellectual life of Australia and other countries in the West:
the extreme discomfort many feel with identifying not just rights
but wrongs in a society where tolerance is more highly prized
than anything else and being judgmental is the greatest sin.
Copyright J.R. Lilburne, 23 January 2002.