Jeffrey Gandz, Associate Dean (Programmes), Richard Ivey School of Business, University of Western Ontario
TECHNOLOGY: THE DEATH OF TEACHING, A REBIRTH OF EDUCATION
Chairman: Julie K. Hannaford, Past President, The Empire Club of Canada
Head Table Guests
Ed Badovinac, Professor, Department of Telecommunications, George Brown College and a Director, The Empire Club of Canada; Marilene Martins, Grade 12 Student, Bloor Collegiate Institute; David Weiner, President, Ivey Alumni Association, Toronto Club and Partner, National Public Relations Limited; Mary Margaret Laing, Vice-Chair, The Ontario Parent Council and Product Manager, H.J. Heinz Company; Allen Bell, Executive Vice-President, Human Resources, Toronto Dominion Bank; Lindsay Green, Editor, The Training Technology Monitor; Mike Garvey, Partner, Price Waterhouse and Chair, Friends of Ontario Universities; Blair McRobie, Executive Director, Royal Bank of Canada Charitable Foundation and a Director, The Empire Club of Canada; The Rev. Philip Bristow, Associate, St. Paul's, Bloor Street; Georgia Sievwright, Director, Corporate Relations and General Counsel and Secretary to the Board of Directors, Hewlett-Packard Canada Inc.; Jim Rush, Senior Vice-President and Executive Director, Institute for Learning, Bank of Montreal; and Harry Seymour, Executive Vice-President, GBC Asset Management Inc., Chairman, Pathfinder Learning Systems Corporation and a Past President, The Empire Club of Canada.
Introduction by Julie Hannaford
Peter Drucker--who, I'm pleased to report, was recently promoted from the status of Management Guru to the elevated title of Management Sage--has confidently predicted the demise of the university within 30 years. He sees this mainly as a consequence of new technologies in telecommunications, multimedia, information processing, virtual reality, and so on. I'm reliably informed that Professor Drucker--who is now in his late eighties--has firm plans to stick around to see if he's right!
With some degree of temerity, if not humility, I'm here to argue that Drucker is dead wrong. Indeed I'm surprised that the same man who wrote "The Post-Capitalist Society," which argued for the ascendancy of the educated, well-rounded person should embrace such technological determinism.
The Role of the Educator in a Technological Age My conviction is based on four arguments:
First, I wish it were true that people in developed societies want education but the evidence is far from conclusive. Educators are a key element in this motivation and my hope is that they will learn to use technology to reach many more people with high-impact, exciting learning experiences.
Second, the proliferation of information has created a need for excellent educators. Someone is going to have to assist the information gatherer to filter, assemble, aggregate, and arrange this information toward some purpose or end. Technology will itself improve our ability to do this, through more effective search engines, but it will need educators to develop individual abilities.
Third, education has much less to do with information gathering than it has with the development of individuals' thinking and reasoning so that they can appraise that information, separate the relevant from the irrelevant, and the important from the trivial. This requires that individuals develop useful models for absorbing or rejecting this mass of information, critically appraising its validity. Those who help people do this are educators and they will be required in the future as never before, simply because of the excessive amount of information that will bombard students.
Finally, I will argue that the development of such critical abilities is essentially a social activity, ill-suited to the solitary Internet surfer or CD-ROM spinner. I believe that as long as there are people, they will gather in places to engage in the social activities of learning and developing themselves. Technology will enhance and support this learning but Oxford and Cambridge, Harvard and Yale, McGill and the University of Toronto and--yes--the Ivey Business School will still be around.
Before I flesh out these arguments, let me make three disclaimers. First, I was educated in England at what is commonly referred to as an English public school--which North Americans refer to as a private school. Oscar Wilde once observed that: "The whole theory of modern education is radically unsound. Fortunately in England, at any rate, education produces no effect whatsoever. If it did, it would prove a serious danger to the upper classes... " Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), Anglo-Irish playwright, author. Lady Bracknell, in "The Importance of Being Earnest," Act 1.
My second disclaimer is that I am an unabashed technology addict! I was struck with acute technolust at an early age and, when the day of judgment comes and the phrase "he who has the most ties when he dies wins," I will be in the winners' circle. I have owned every generation of computer, I used the Internet before it was called the Internet and, yes, I actually bought an Apple LISA!
My final disclaimer is that I have little experience of education at the primary or secondary school levels. All of my experience has been at the undergraduate and graduate levels and most of that has been at the Ivey Business School. So I shall make my arguments in the context of that experience and leave it to others to extend or reject them on the basis of broader experiences.
In particular I'm going to build on the experiences of our own students at Ivey in their undergraduate, MBA and Executive MBA programmes and on my experiences working with them. I will be using some audio, video and graphic materials that I have culled from various sources. I was going to apologise for the blatantly promotional nature of some of the material until I thought better of it. Since this was a prime audience for the Ivey School and, since we will henceforth be dependent on private funding for our future success, and since we have some very heavy investments to make in technology, and since my Dean is sitting out somewhere in the audience, a commercial is not only excusable but downright essential.
From continuing high school drop-out rates, to many students who are in university to get a degree, rather than an education, to people in the workplace who don't avail themselves of available training even though they know their skills are becoming obsolete, we see how critical it is to turn people on to education.
We see and have experienced those truly great educators--from kindergarten to graduate school--who managed to find those buttons in people that turn them on to learn. Their enthusiasm for their topic, their passion and belief that it will help us if we join with them in the education process, their creativity and commitment to turn the mundane into the exciting so that it will turn us on... these are critical dimensions of great educators.
I believe that technology has the potential to be harnessed to this motivational task. One has only to pass a video arcade to see the amount of concentration on a task that technology can bring to a teenager previously diagnosed with attention deficit disorder! However, it will be years, perhaps decades before technology will truly care for the individual, the way a great educator cares about her or his students.
Gutenberg's invention of the printing press represented the first freeing of the general population from the tyranny of education by elites. The Internet has let the genie out of the bag for the second time, bringing information into the hands of everyone who has access to a reasonable public education system although, as we shall see, certainly not on an equal-access basis as yet.
The veritable cornucopia of information that can be explored through the Internet and other electronic databases threatens our minds in just the same way that unrestrained and frequent visits to one of the glorious Chinese buffets threatens our digestive system. Gorging at Fu Lam City may provoke a Maalox moment; gorging at the trough of the Internet can produce a Microsoft Moment which is every bit as painful.
It is not unusual for me to walk into class in the morning to teach a case about doing business in Vietnam--which I have never visited--to find several of my students having spent a couple of hours researching Vietnam's political economy, trade statistics, legal system, currency convertibility, and so on. In many respects they know more than I do about Vietnam.
So what value do I add? Well, early that morning I too had hit the Internet--yes, there is no place to hide! And I had found at least three different estimates of the unemployment rate in Vietnam, ranging from 2.9 per cent on the official communist party's home page to an estimate of 27.6 per cent by a Vietnamese economist who was working at Harvard. Did it matter, I asked my students, which of these estimates was right? Would that affect the decision to invest in automobile assembly in Vietnam? What was the critical level? By the way, how good did they think the Vietnamese equivalent of Statistics Canada was, and did that matter? I believe that they learned more about the importance of using valid statistics in making management decisions in that case because they had used information without thinking about its validity and I had called them on its use.
Another great step forward in information technology has been the bringing of the thoughts and ideas of many others into our radar screens. We are able to read, see and hear peoples' ideas and views almost immediately, without the censoring effects of publishers, no matter how benign they are.
Let me give an example. One of the great moral and practical debates of our time is over the doctrine of constructive engagement--the issue of doing business with countries with what we term repressive political systems and in which our concepts of human rights appears not to be respected.
In our Global Environment of Business Course--which seeks to inform students of the major political, economic, social and technological forces shaping global business activity--this issue is dealt with using a case study of a company thinking of doing business in Myanmar and worried about the response of its customers. Lets look at the way technology can be used to illustrate the debate.
My class starts at 8:00 a.m. At 7:00 I hit the Internet. Yes, Just-in-Time production has reached the universities. And here are just some of the perspectives that I was able to bring to bear on the class.
Inserted at this point was a demonstration of the use of the Internet for preparation of a class.
My role as an educator is to seek out this information, present it in a way that stimulates thinking, in a way that informs opinion and transforms mere opinions into cogent arguments. But I must do all of this fully aware of the fact that every student in my class has the same access to the same information. What I am trying to do, to quote one of my colleagues, Dick Hodgson, is to raise peoples' views from the edge of the rut to the horizon.
The Nature of Learning
One consequence of an English public school education was that I had my fill of having knowledge forced or thrashed into me by autocratic, didactic and downright pedantic teachers. While I can remember little that happened yesterday I can still conjugate the pluperfect subjunctive of most common Latin verbs. My teachers had access to the fount of knowledge and they controlled our access to it. They determined what we ought to know, what information we could work with. With difficulty we could get access to other information but, let's face it, a single copy of "Lady Chatterley's Lover" took a long time to circulate in an all-boys school in the 1950s. They had control!
Without any doubt, technology will replace teaching that merely conveys facts. When it comes to presenting facts, in a high-impact, entertaining, complete, and accurate fashion it's hard to beat multi-media presentations, especially those using advanced "game" techniques. And, increasingly, these are becoming available over the Internet. It is even possible that certain theories can be taught using multi-media, especially when they can be expressed as simple rules. An example is a simple skill-training module on teams produced by one of the other business schools although, having painfully worked my way through one of the CDs, I'm ashamed to admit that I did not open the wrapper on the others.
I was fortunate to be brought up with an additional dimension to my education--that of a Talmudic tradition in which eight year olds would debate with 80 year olds about things that seemed to be inconsequential but which had laid the basis for fundamental beliefs of humankind throughout the ages.
Without knowing it, I was being exposed to what we sometimes call the Socratic method in which the instructor or facilitator draws not only on his fount of knowledge but on the knowledge of his pupils, on their experiences, on their perspectives. He encourages them to argue different points of view in the belief, the faith, that they will emerge with models of their own to help them make sense of the issues. This modality has long been at the core of the Ivey Business School approach as it was at Harvard Law School and at numerous institutes of learning in the ancient world.
Yet the Socratic method had its practical limitations. The problem was that the teacher inevitably had much more knowledge than his students. He was learned, he could access facts to debunk any hypothesis--indeed he could probably make some up if he needed to. For the student had limited experience and, realistically, limited access to information. He had to go to a library, master the Dewey Decimal System, order books from other locations, conduct elaborate cross-referenced literature searches, and so on.
No longer. Students can have access to the same "fount of knowledge" as the professor. Indeed, if they have access to modern technology and a facility for using it--the latter of which is regrettably lacking in many teachers--they will have access to more knowledge. When everyone is immersed in this bath of knowledge, what is the role of the teacher?
This is where the teacher must become an educator. Ensuring that everyone benefits from access to not only the information in the teacher's mind, but also to the collective experiences of the students and those represented in the total body of knowledge that is available to all, requires outstanding motivational and communications skills, humility, and commitment to the learning experience. The phrase "I don't know" has become the most used in my teaching vocabulary, followed closely by "how do you suggest that we find out?"
Education and Development
With much factual material available, with CD-ROMs dispensing the advice of the great gurus of management--why then should people come together to learn? The famous Italian educator Maria Montessori summed this up when she noted that:
If education is always to be conceived along the same antiquated lines of a mere transmission of knowledge, there is little to be hoped from it in the bettering of man's future. For what is the use of transmitting knowledge if the individual's total development lags behind?" Maria Montessori (1870-1952), Italian educator. "The Absorbent Mind," ch. 1 (1949).
A former master at Eton College in the nineteenth century also addressed this when he talked about great schools:
But you go to a great school not so much for knowledge as for arts and habits; for the habit of attention; for the art of expression; for the art of assuming at a moment's notice a new intellectual position; for the art of entering quickly into another person's thoughts; for the habit of submitting to censure and refutation; for the art of indicating assent or dissent in graduated terms; for the habit of regarding minute points of accuracy; for the art of working out what is possible in a given time; for taste; for discrimination; for mental courage and mental soberness.
William Johnson Cary
The real value of education is not in what one learns but in how one develops.
I will argue that this development is a social interaction. Listen to three of our students (ranging from 21-year-old undergraduates to executives in their forties) talking about their experiences.
Inserted here were three video clips in which students talked not about what they had learned but how they had changed and developed as a result of the Ivey Business School experience.
The Promise of Technology in the Developmental Process
One of the key advances that we are exploiting at the Ivey School is affordable, studio-quality video-conferencing. This enables us to offer our highly-interactive, case-based programmes in both high-tech and lo-tech modalities. Our lo-tech mode is the classroom, our high-tech mode is the video-conferencing mini-studio.
The advantages of operating in hi-tech mode is obvious; we can bring the student to the institution and the institution to the student. And we can do this without sacrificing interactivity, if we are prepared to invest in high levels of technology. And by using technology, we can take students into the world and bring the world to students, often using technology to do this.
Technology has enabled us to reach out to more people who could never have taken a programme such as ours, people who may be unable to take the time to return to school or, indeed, must somehow integrate their education with their workplaces.
But we have found that even with the best available interactive video-conferencing technology in the world, backed up with full e-mail and Internet capabilities, we still require a strong element of person-to-person contact. Therefore, we use residential periods at our Spencer Hall facility as well as convening classes in various parts of the country. Our experience is that hi-tech must be accompanied by hi-touch if real learning is to take place.
Education and Business
Technology will enable education to be delivered just in time and in the right place, a boon to the integration of the need for education with the realistic constraints of the workplace. Ongoing communication and interaction with educators will be enabled through telecommunications technology and a variety of supportive relationships that will develop between educational and business institutions. Students who could not take time out of their lives for graduate study can now avail themselves of the very best, at a time and place that makes it feasible. The concept of training and education in the right place at the right time has been enabled and, within the next two years, it will be widely affordable.
The combination of telecommunications technology and information technology has made the educational network a realistic proposition for the first time. Twenty executives in Canada can meet with 20 executives in Mexico and 20 in the U.S. in one "classroom," sharing professors, sharing experiences, sharing perspectives about doing business in the Americas. Three customer service representatives in Yellowknife who find a new way of selling Registered Retirement Savings Plans in the first week of February could put on a seminar for all other Customer Service Representatives in a bank the following day. Individuals today have unprecedented access to education both as a consumer good and an economic input; those who do not take advantage of this will fall behind.
Organisations that encourage and--through effective use of technology--enable everyone to be both learners and teachers will advance; those that confine the gathering and dispensation of knowledge to the few will lag behind. Those whose information is organised on a need-to-know basis will lag behind those who make information widely available to people who will use that information in ways never thought of before--including ways that are functional for the business. Those who can master the tools and embrace the ideology of distributed teaching and interactive learning will thrive in the information age; those who need to control the gathering and dispensation of knowledge will become anachronisms.
The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by Harry Seymour, Executive Vice-President, GBC Asset Management Inc., Chairman, Pathfinder Learning Systems Corporation and a Past President, The Empire Club of Canada.