Editorial Graphics and Visualization

By Dr. Sylvia Charp Editor-in Chief Prices are down and performance is up for graphics products. Features like high-speed image processing, video RAM and cross-platform capability result in increased efficiency. Pictures are clear with excellent color saturation and quality. Desktop products are easier to use, faster and more powerful. Authoring software that handles video as well is available. New software builds directories to handle large quantities of images. Hardware and software vendors demonstrated new graphic capabilities at the two meetings held in October: The National School Boards Association's Institute for the Transfer of Technology to Education (ITTE) and EDUCOM. For example Autodesk presented its latest release of computer-aided design and visualization software. Silicon Graphics showed its new line of graphics workstations. They also introduced Web Space Author, an authoring tool for creating 3D virtual environments for the World Wide Web. Apple Computer demonstrated its Quick Draw 3D technology for the Power Mac, which will give users advanced capabilities previously available only on graphics workstations. Future Graph Inc., had available a new version of f(g) Scholar, a math/science engineering package that combines graphing tools with a calculator. One cannot but be overwhelmed by the multitude of graphic applications; they have become more appealing and do present complex solutions in an exciting manner without risk or high cost. They also provide a compromise between static teaching methods and hands-on experience. However, use of graphics, no matter how sophisticated, is not itself a solution. We still need to determine how graphics enhance learning. Glutted with images, what is happening to the way we learn? Observations from Frontlines Based on attending conferences dealing with both K-12 and post-high school use of technology in education fairly close together, let me share a few observations: Planning is considered essential. State, local and institutional plans exist and do get modified. Partnerships involving business, education and the community have increased and are encouraged. Libraries are playing a more active role, especially in universities. Librarians and information professors are serving as partners to the educational community. Students have greater access to technology and are demanding better functionality. Teachers, especially at the post-high school, are reluctant to develop their own software applications. This was so stated at a meeting presented by Dartmouth college on an assessment of their 25 years of using technology. Faculty communication with and among students is improved. Conferencing by software is a dynamic and enjoyable experience. Distance learning is expanding and deemed to be successful. Meetings on Electronic Conferencing, use of Internet and the Web are usually the best attended at these conferences. Interest in administrative systems, especially at the K-12 level, is growing. This is likely due to the large amount of data available and a need to use this data to meet accountability requirements. Cost efficiency still looms over education. We Need a New Yardstick As Dr. Chris Dede, Professor, Graduate School of Education, George Mason University and new T.H.E. Journal Editorial Board member stated in his testimony to the U.S. Congress, House of Representatives, Joint Hearing on Educational Technology in the 21st Century, committee on Science and committee on Economic and Educational Opportunities, October 12, 1995: "One of the major reasons educational technology has made a limited impact to date, is that cost and productivity calculations for educational technology have largely been framed in the limited context of a budget for schooling (e.g. dollars divided by students), rather than assessed against the larger economic context of human resource issues in our society (i.e., international competitiveness, workforce productivity, costs of crime and welfare, more complex responsibilities for citizens)."

This article originally appeared in the 12/01/1995 issue of THE Journal.