4. Conclusion.

Technology changes the informational resources available to students, teachers, and school systems. We have argued elsewhere that digital libraries integrate teaching, learning, and working and lead to the development of virtual schools [Marchionini & Maurer, 1995]. By sharing informational resources globally, the local investments in computing and communications technology may pay off at the local level. Possibly, these local payoffs will propagate upward toward global benefits. One scenario is that the entire educational enterprise will be radically recast. Just as the introduction of the monitorial method enabled mass education to become cost effective in the early nineteen century, networked technology may enable demassification of education in the early twenty-first century. Once the concept of free public education was adopted through law and custom, the monitor level of the monitorial system collapsed to allow more student-teacher interaction while maintaining the cost advantages of group instruction. Likewise, technology may initially enable demassification from a cost effectiveness perspective and lead eventually to some hybrid model in the middle decades of the 21st century. In any case, the results will be measured in terms of tangible and intangible costs and benefits to individuals, groups, the educational system, and society at large.

Back to Overview