Computer programs have a habit of being used for very different purposes than the programmers imagine. Particularly by resourceful teachers.

One piece of software which found a wider application was a program called My World by NW SEMERC. It was supposed to be a useful piece of software for students with special educational needs, but uses for it in elementary schools (and beyond) rapidly proved its effectiveness in a wide variety of contexts. Mathematics teachers found some use for it, and then the Modern Foreign Language (MFL) specialists got hold of it. This resulted in Le Monde a Moi and Meine Welt being distributed.

Its chief attractions were its simplicity of use and its flexibility.

Without these two key features, any ICT tool has the potential to become a monster - either dominating the curriculum so that the course is tailored to the limitations of the software, or taking up so much of the available time that the communications medium becomes the message itself.

ICT specialists sometimes talk of killer-apps. Spotting what will be the next killer-app is an uncertain business., perhaps better left to those who enjoy futures trading or horse racing.

What we can say for certain is that there will be change. New skills will have to be learned, less appropriate tools and technologies put to one side. The potential of the internet has yet to be realised. When I look over literature from both the cognitive and behaviourist side concerning the early development of computer assisted learning, there seemed to be no inkling of the impact that the computer would have as a tool in entertainment. I'm sure people like Lord Reith thought the same about television. With the internet, we can already see it starting to become an integral part of the leisure industry of a modern consumer society. Along with this, we see nostalgic people hankering back for the days of ARPANET who wish that the internet was still in the hands of academics and the military.

If I was to stick my neck out, I would say that I anticipate a greater polarisation of societies into two camps; the consumers of information who will be satisfied with being fed edutainment and infomercials ad nauseam; and the producers of information. Personally, I would (as Seymour Papert would say) prefer to teach a child to program a computer , than have the computer program the child.

I also anticipate a merger of the roles of linguist, ICT specialist and librarian. This will become a necessity as we come to terms with how to teach students to become information literate, whether as adults or juveniles. Each of these three specialisms has a unique strand to offer in developing students' skills in communicatiing,designingand manipulating data.

It will be interesting to see how the Information Age develops. However, it would be even more exciting to be involved in pushing back the boundaries of this new territory as together we explore it further...

Back to Index