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Guest Editorial (untitled)

by Dr. Robert E. Allen CEO & Chairman, AT&T The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein once noted that "if a lion could talk, we could not understand him" -- the lion's experience and point of reference being so unlike our own. We're in a somewhat similar situation with technology today. Technology has brought us to the hinge of history. It's about to deliver on the promise of the information age and, in the process, change our lives in ways more profound than anything since the Industrial Revolution. The future technology is fashioning, though, is so unlike the past that we are just beginning to decipher its shape and grasp its implications. Yet even the initial outlines suggest it will transform not only how we live, but also how we learn. The metaphor of the moment to describe that future is the information superhighway, the speedway that is sending advanced information services around the globe at the speed of light. Called interactive multimedia services, this new mix of media may yet have us watching the telephone and answering the TV. The information superhighway is already transforming the way we communicate; now it's also teaching us a few things about how we learn. On that highway, for instance, we can bring a world of ideas to school kids at a cross in the road. We can virtually bring the reality of the ocean bottom to the classroom at the highest summit. In short, on that highway we can develop a new breed of "Road Scholars" -- kids freed from the tether of time and space; kids inspired to explore worlds once closed to them; kids eager to travel new roads to find new ways of learning. No single technology, of course, will solve the problems plaguing education. But the whole of technology, added to the commitment of all parts of our society, can begin to multiply our children's possibilities. The Commitment of AT&T For most of this century the people of AT&T have turned both their technology and time to giving children the skills not only to work in business but also to lead this nation. Today, we're trying to strengthen that commitment by focusing our efforts. Information technology is an obvious aim. But we're also concentrating on teachers, the people given the awesome charge to catapult a generation into a new century; and parents, the people trying to shore up support in a time when the family and community are being redefined. And finally, we're focusing on the critical fields of science, math and engineering. That commitment comes to life in our philanthropy. But it's also joined, on any given day, by concerted efforts -- large and small -- of AT&T people who give not only to the business but also the communities we serve. You'll find AT&T's commitment to education in a program that helps prepare new teachers for the unique challenges of inner-city classrooms. Or the AT&T Teachers and Technology Institute, a two-week session that lets teachers explore the latest AT&T technologies and translate those lessons for the classroom. It's at work in an early childhood program that's applying quality principles to child care, and in the AT&T Hispanic Mother/Daughter program that encourages young Hispanic women -- not to mention their mothers -- to enter college. And it's rooted in the AT&T Learning Network, which crosses time zones and borders as it pleases to let kids in classrooms around the world collaborate on projects. AT&T's commitment to education in these and countless other endeavors is not just a corporate nicety, but a corporate necessity. We support education to ensure a skilled workforce and to fuel a strong economy. We support education -- from early childhood education through higher education and worker training -- because we live in an age that demands all people be educated at levels once expected only of the privileged few. And we support education for the knowledge it imparts, the values it engages, and the lifetime of learning it inspires. In short, by investing in education, we invest in futures. There can be no greater goal. Nor can there be a more exciting prospect for revitalizing education than the one that information technology affords us. Technology is already expanding access to the world's knowledge. It is erasing boundaries that confine education to four walls and traditional classroom hours. And in extending the reach of both teachers and resources, it is increasing productivity and the quality of education. Indeed, it has become both a lesson and a tool that will let us learn -- anytime, anywhere and at any age. n No Need to be Overwhelmed A word of caution: Do not be overwhelmed by the ever-changing technology and the often seemingly prohibitive start-up costs. Find out what you need. It certainly appears to be the direction in which we are heading. n

This article originally appeared in the 02/01/1995 issue of THE Journal.

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