Stanley Chodorow: We'll
start with Mark Taylor who is at present Parish Professor of Humanities
and director of the Center for Technology in the Arts and Humanities
at Williams College, and he's going to talk to us about educational
enhancement and change in the residential college, picking up
one of the themes that I mentioned. Mark.
Mark Taylor: Thank you Stan. Anyone who thinks change
is not coming faster than we expect need only reflect on the session
we had this morning. One of the things I found as I moved into
some of these new areas is that one really must become a student
of one's students, and that's liberating, but sometimes daunting.
It's curious as I listen to Stan's remarks because, thinking
in isolation in a very, very different institution, many of the
conclusions that I've drawn resonate with comments that Stan was
making, which I suspect says something about which way the winds
The April 20th issue of the New York Times Magazine included
an article by Louie Mignon entitled "Everybody's Elite College
Education." Most of you probably saw it. The headline captured
the thrust of the essay. The elite private schools are no longer
the temples for undergraduate education. This is good news for
all sorts of new students, but not for all who hope to teach them.
Mignon's argument exposes some of the anxieties that increasingly
haunt many of us in certain sectors of higher education. While
the reasons for the seismic shift in education are many, one of
the primary causes for concern among the so called "elite
private schools" is, of course, the rapid spread of information
technology. Nowhere are anxieties more pronounced than in residential,
liberal arts colleges. It is, however, impossible to separate
the problems and opportunities faced by liberal arts colleges
from other institutions of higher learning, as well as from a
broad range of changing social, cultural, economic, and political
forces. Hence some of the resonance, I think. How are we to
assess our situation in a way that makes it possible to respond
effectively and proceed creatively?
First, we must become more critically aware of the historical
genealogy of our institutions and practices. The roots of today's
colleges and universities can, of course, be traced to medieval
universities and, by extension, to certain monastic practices.
Perhaps more important in this context are the ways in which
our educational institutions remain wedded to the tenets of modernism
and the practices of industrialism. At the end of the 18th century,
Kant provided the blueprint that has become the modern university.
The entire range of intellectual presuppositions and institutional
practices that continue to influence everything from the structure
of departments to the organization of the curriculum are outlined
in Kant's essay, "The Conflict of the Faculties". Emerging
information on communication technologies call into question all
or most of these assumptions and practices. It is our responsibility
as educators to reflect critically on educational implications
of the shift from modernism and industrialism
to post-modernism and post-industrialism.
Since our purpose is discussion, I will list in more or less
summary fashion some of what seem to me to be the most critical
issues raised by information and communication technologies for
colleges and universities. I will organize my remarks around
three themes: Picking up on time and space, since Kant's the
one I think of here, the time and place or space of learning
Stan referred to, the content of education, and faculty research
First the time and place of learning. It's obvious that telecommunication
technologies are transforming temporal and spatial conditions
of experience. Kant was right: all experience is mediated by
time and space. But he was wrong: those forms of mediation are
not universal. They're tied to technologies of production and
reproduction. First let us consider the multiple aspects of the
time of learning. And Stan's anticipated, as life-long careers
as well as jobs become less common, there will be a movement away
from higher education focused primarily on 18 to 22 year olds.
People will need different kinds of education at different stages
of life. Age diversity therefore will be added to racial and
ethnic diversity, and this will impact even schools, I think,
Second, there will be a notable shift away from synchronous and
towards asynchronous education. This change will take place both
on campus for residential students, as well as
off campus for non-residential students. And it's important to
note that this asynchronous education will not only be text based,
though surely it will be that, but will also be audio and visual.
Needless to say, in the setting that I teach in and many of us
teach in, most of our education is synchronous education. So
this shift will have an extraordinary impact on colleges.
Third, there will be a movement toward 'round the clock and 'round
the year scheduling of classes. And partly this development will
be related when I talk about in a minute again the globalization
of education. But here as elsewhere I think it's interesting
to look for models that we're going to face to changes that have
taken place in the financial markets. The kind of 'round the
clock use of technologies in financial markets is a precursor
of changes that are going to have to take place I think in colleges
Now these transformations in the time of education are
directly related to changes in the space of learning. The boundaries
of educational institutions are shifting and becoming more porous.
First it's obvious the classroom is no more limited to a specific
place than it is to a particular time. Distance learning and
distributed learning, which have become so common, decentralize,
in effect, the classroom, rendering physical presence unnecessary--no
longer necessary for education. But distance learning, and this
is something that as a person who teaches at a liberal arts college
I want to emphasize, distance learning takes multiple forms.
The most common form I think of which administrators are often
enamored is the broadcast model of one to many, which in effect
extends the notion of lecture hall and has certain economies of
scale by virtue of that extension.
Second, and more interesting from my point of view, is the interactive
use of distance learning, or the many to many, which you might
understand is much more seminar-like. As opposed to the broadcast
model, which can involve economies of scale, the interactive seminar,
many to many type is often intensive. It requires more work,
rather than less, and more expense very often, rather than less.
Now whether in broadcast or in the interactive model telecommunications
technologies create the possibility of the globalization of education.
What's a long time ago now in terms of the world in which we're
living, back in 1991-92, a colleague in Helsinki and I mounted
a semester-long seminar using telecommunications technology.
It was fairly primitive at that time, but it worked extraordinarily
well and has really, I think, changed the way I've thought about
many things in more recent years. I'm now in the process of developing
another similar such seminar--it's taken a while for us to get
the infrastructure in place--with a colleague in Australia. It's
out of that context that this shift in the time of education I've
thought a lot about, because with Helsinki we had the problem
of synchronizing time of day. With Australia we're having the
problem of synchronizing seasons as well as time of day. And
it complicates things. But this model, I mean the model that
I had in mind back in '91 when we started thinking about this
was a global classroom, which in effect we created. And what
I think is important for us to think about now is how we can move
from the global classroom to globalize our colleges and universities
in ways that I think harbor rich potential.
In all of this, what we have is a reconfiguring of institutional
boundaries. There seems to me that there will be growing consolidation
within and cooperation among educational institutions. This will
involve, I think, a movement away from the conception of the college
or university as a self-contained whole, toward a model or a notion
of the institution as connected and integrated networks of exchange.
Institutions no longer will do all things locally, but will in
effect out-source some of their programs and departments. New
strategic alliances will emerge which will involve networks of
exchange ranging from the local to the national and the international.
Within these networks, new institutions will take form. And the boundaries of these institutions
will not be like we have them now it seems to me. These new alliances
will, and here's again a point I think about which Stan is right,
involve not only associations with other educational institutions
within this country and elsewhere, but will involve alliances
with business and media and the like. The global programs, and
even global colleges, will emerge, and these institutions, or
institutions within institutions, will not necessarily be place-based.
Along with these changes in the form as it were of education,
the content of education will also change. The form and content
of knowledge cannot, of course, be separated. What we think is
determined in no small measure by how we organize knowledge, and
how we organize knowledge is in large measure a function of the
technologies of production and reproduction in a given period.
And again I think it's important to think critically about the
way in which the current structure of knowledge is wedded to certain
technologies. Not just print in any simplistic way.
As we move from industrialism to post-industrialism, the structure,
and thereby the content, of knowledge change. When a curriculum
is no longer departmentalized in a way that both reflects and
promotes something like assembly line production, but is configured
as something like a hypertextual network, the content of knowledge
undergoes a significant change. And this change in the curriculum
will have a significant impact on the way in which the college
or university is structured. That is departments. Departments
are as obsolete as the curriculum that they for the most part
now reflect, it seems to me.
These new technologies will call for new literacies. In particular,
we will have to develop among ourselves and with our students
digital literacy, and by that I mean not simply something like
learning how to use computers, but something much more complicated.
I think we're in a transitional period now in which there's a
great deal of experimentation with, you know, repackaging old--presenting
old wine in new wine skins. If you can do a book version of a
multi-media project, you probably haven't done a multi-media project.
There are different logics involved with digital technologies
it seems to me. Think of it this way: once you're in a digital
environment, bits are your ink, and what one has to then begin
to do is to learn how to think not only with words, but also with
images and sounds.
I've been working with students in a media lab that the students
have developed for the last several years in which they are required
to create analytic considerations with philosophical implications
of electronic technology in a hyper-textual, multi-media format.
In addition to that, I've worked with two students in particular
for almost a year and a half now to create a multi-media CD ROM
on Las Vegas, or a reading of contemporary culture through Las
Vegas. And it's taught me that there are different kinds of thinking
involved when you're in this digital environment.
Finally, faculty research and evaluation. New technologies create
the possibility for a more effective integration of research/ publication/
teaching, which can help overcome certain imbalances that have
developed between scholarship and teaching. We do not yet know,
as Stan suggested, how to evaluate the publication in an electronic
environment. Both what is produced and how it is produced are
changing. While individual research will continue, new forms
of collaborative work among faculty colleagues and, and this is
crucial, between faculty and students will emerge which both pose
rich possibility and complex questions of evaluation. Administrators,
I believe, must find ways to create inducements for people to
work with these new technologies. And most important among that
is finding ways to consider this kind of new production in the
evaluation process for faculty.
Universities will have to consider the kind of graduate education
they're providing more seriously it seems to me. In many fields
today, graduate programs are producing a product for which there
is no market and transmitting skills for which there is virtually
no demand. If we are honest, we all know that much of what is
published is not published because it needs to be published, but
is published because people need to publish. Economics and electronic
technology combine to change the landscape of scholarly publication
in ways that are very, very difficult for us to anticipate. The
changes that must be wrought on the undergraduate level will necessitate
a thorough overhaul of graduate education.
Indeed, it seems to me--I do quite a bit of editing, and it seems
to me that much of the most innovative and creative work that
I see coming across my desk is not coming from people working
in the graduate environment, but from people working at the undergraduate
level. And I think the reason for that is the hyper-specialization
of many graduate programs. Had I been teaching at
a graduate institution, about 90% of what I've written and published
in the last 15 years would have been impossible to have done.
If education can learn anything from business practices--and I
think this is crucial for us to think about, because if it is
the case that the university as we now know it is basically an
industrial model, then one of the things we have to think about
is what is the analog to changes that have taken place in the
corporation on the university level as we move into a post-industrial
or post-modern, in my terms, university. If education can learn
anything from recent business practices, it is that two of the
primary requirements for survival in an information economy are
flexibility and adaptability. The rate of change requires a work
force, or in our case a faculty, that can change quickly, effectively,
As was suggested this morning, one of the greatest impediments
to this kind of flexibility and adaptability is tenure. Market
conditions in the broadest sense of this term will, I believe,
lead to the demise of tenure. This issue will, of course, be
long and contentious. But there seems to me, at least, to be
little doubt that the days of tenure are numbered. The institution
that will really get a jump in the 21st century will be the institution
that takes the lead by abolishing tenure. Unthinkable, but perhaps
inevitable I suspect.
Though change is increasingly rapid, the changes I have been
discussing will not be abrupt, but will be phased in to create
layered institutions that are at different stages of development
and in a state of constant flux. While the forces of resistance
to these changes are very strong in many circles, nowhere will
the hesitation be greater than among, and I speak as one, many
faulty members. The danger for institutions that many of us represent
is to think that we can continue doing business as usual. Indeed
the temptation will be to reinforce a familiar world that
is passing away, rather than to promote a strange new world that
is already here. To meet the challenge of responsible change
requires strong leaders who are dedicated not only to preserving
what we do well, but also committed to finding new ways to prepare
our students for the world in which they live and work. Thank