An excerpt of a paper from an Early GLD’er… Terrence R. Redding, PhD
Success, as a concept has been addressed at the personal, family, community, national and global level. Global Learn Day concerns success for all of mankind and in particular recognizes the potential worth of all persons. Global Learn Day does this through the narrow lens of learning. In particular, we seek to recognize the importance of the acquisition of knowledge by circling the globe calling attention to and providing a platform for those with something interesting to say about learning.
Who will succeed in the Information Age?
What will be the difference between those who succeed and those who fail? On both a personal and a national level the difference may be as having to primary components. The first is access, which is increasingly stated in terms of access to the Internet. The second may be proudly classified as opportunity. Does an individual’s personal circumstances allow them to pursue knowledge, learn and improve themselves. Many who have presented in the past and celebrated a Global Learn Day have focused on ways to increase access, or ways to provide greater opportunity to individuals to engage in learning. I would argue that embracing Global Learn Day is a way to focus on those two points, but additionally it is a way to set aside differences and come together as a planet and as one people to seek ways to insure each individual’s talent and genius can be engaged in extending mankind through learning.
It may well be that a combination of access to education, a valuing of self-directedness, and chance will produce those few individuals that will be most adept at guiding their societies through the transition into the Information Age. Just as certain countries are by-passing a copper based infrastructure for their communications needs and moving to micro-wave towers, still others are moving to fiber optics, while still others to satellite based communications — and still others to a combination of all three. — These are nations embracing the importance of education to the point where, in some cases, they pay their brightest to attend school and base access to education on emerging technologies associated with distance education over the Internet.
Online education has fewer barriers and presents wider access to potential student populations than do traditional schools. Students who require special accommodations in a traditional setting (and who therefore may be at a disadvantage) may not be at a disadvantage online. Whether that disadvantage is age, sight, height, mobility, speech, hearing, or whatever, these disadvantages often disappear online.
I am reminded of the commercial for the United Negro College Fund that concludes with the sentiment that “a mind is a terrible thing to waste.” How many minds will be educated at a distance that might not other wise be educated at all? And what of the contributions those minds will make to the human race?
Eight years ago, I had a chance to make a presentation at an educational conference that focused on a Shuttle Amateur Radio Experiment (SAREX) that I had conducted for 3,000 children in 21 schools in seven cities in Southwest Oklahoma. I was pretty proud of myself. I had involved a large number of children in a program that ultimately led to a group of students speaking live to the astronauts in the Shuttle as they orbited the earth. The entire exchange was broadcast on educational television.
A NASA scientist followed me. He described the development of a special wheelchair for Stephen Hawkins, a scientist suffering from Lou Gehrigs Disease, who could neither walk nor speak. This wheelchair provided Hawkins with access to the Internet and thus the rest of the world, to include libraries and the ability to write manuscripts and generate artificial speech. A few months ago, I saw a presentation by Hawkins, from his wheel chair, using the artificial speech from the synthesizer in his chair-mounted notebook computer. He described being able to access the various research telescopes of the world via the Internet. His topic was the most recent discoveries by the Hubble Space Telescope and the implications for theoretical astrophysics and mankind’s understanding of the universe.
Eight years ago there were few that considered the implications of the Internet as a distance education tool. I was not among them. Today, I still believe my SAREX was a significant contribution in the field of education. However, I believe the Hawkins’ wheelchair to be the more significant contribution because it allowed one of the great minds of our generation access to knowledge and the ability to share his understanding with millions if not billions of his fellow human beings. While I, with my SAREX, touched the minds of a mere 3,000.
I would compare Hawkins’ wheelchair to the Internet for the globe, with one note: where the wheelchair was wired for just one man, I would compare the value of the Internet to the value of a billion human minds online, to the thought that a single mind is a terrible thing to waste. Access to distance education via the Internet will empower potentially billions of people.
What tools can we use to expand our knowledge? Are we accessing education in every way possible? Are we making sure our children have as many access points as possible?