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Executive Summary

This report on instructional technology, It's a River, Not a Lake, presents two central ideas. The first is, simply, that technology changes.

Not only does technology change within itself, but it changes us. Like a river, technology moves and changes. New technologies become available and older technologies improve or sometimes fade away. Like living on the river, we expect the relative instability of living on the current and we prepare ourselves for surprises. In the context of technology, we have grown to expect the relative instability of the technology marketplace because it is changing so rapidly. The technology marketplace will not allow us to remain fixed at one particular state-of-the-art.

This report examines the implications of this stream of changes on a number of issues, including: the cost of technology and related software, and the increased attention to learning for employees. We have traditionally thought of technology purchases as capital purchases. However, with a replacement cycle of six years, even with intermediate upgrades, we recognize that most of our technology lacks the permanence of many other capital purchases. Once we have committed to the technology stream, it costs every year to stay in that stream, by retiring and replacing obsolete technology.

Equally important to the health of the Maricopa Community Colleges, however, is the change in employee development, from a training paradigm to a learning paradigm. All employees need to learn more: faculty, professional staff, management, maintenance and operations, crafts. No employee comes to the job knowing everything they need to know for the next 20 years. In fact, most employees now spend part of every workday learning. The change of paradigm implies, among many other things, the district office and colleges will support employees who consider: What do I need to learn to do this better?, rather than the more limiting question now: What training seminars are being offered that I might need?

The second main idea in the report concerns the future of technology, specifically computing technology. The report concludes that we need to regard the network as the computer. The network is what unifies two apparently diverging developments. On the one hand technology is becoming smaller and attending to special purpose needs, as in electronic Rolodex, graphing calculators, CD-ROM books, or portable computers. Other developments attempt to unify many media into a single box to create a rich, multipurpose, multimedia environment. To regard the network as the computer may be the most useful way to approach the future.

It's a River, Not a Lake: Executive Summary
© January 1994 Maricopa Center for Learning and Instruction (MCLI)
Maricopa Community Colleges

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