A lifetime of learning is the idea that forms the foundation of the eLearning movement. This is no passing fad, although specific delivery technologies might be quite transient, the eLearning phenomenon itself is quickly becoming one of the cornerstones of our social order. There is widespread agreement within and across various communities (e.g. business, government, education, etc.) that continuous learning initiatives are central to maintaining our competitiveness and standard of living. The goal is clear, even though there may be ongoing and widespread disagreements concerning where and how the appropriate investments should be made. That said; let us not delude ourselves into believing that because of our technical prowess we will naturally or easily dominate the global knowledge based economy.
At the European Council in Lisbon in March 2000, Heads of State set an ambitious target for Europe to become within ten years “the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion”. The EC appears to be making significant progress:
These efforts are producing encouraging results. The eEurope benchmarking for the Report to Barcelona Summit shows that the initial eEurope target of connecting all schools to the Internet is all but achieved, and that attention must therefore shift to better connections and wider educational use.
All signs indicate that the EC has indeed moved on from basic concerns of connectivity and infrastructure:
At school we are seeing greater emphasis being placed on the quality of e-learning products and services, and in the pedagogical context for their use. We are moving beyond questions of connectivity and infrastructure, to ones associated with content, teacher training and organizational implications, including new social interactions inside and beyond schools. In many cases ICT fosters the opening of the school to other sources of learning, such as multimedia libraries, museums, local community resources, research centers, and transnational co-operation. It may also foster new relationships and new roles for pupils acting as researchers, creators, designers, etc.
I am in no position to comment regarding whether or not the EC has attained a position of leadership vis-à-vis the U.S., but they certainly appear to be doing interesting work and achieving measurable results. They are focused and committed and apparently have a strong desire to control their own destiny.
This is an arena where the U.S. government should take a lead role. The building of the necessary educational infrastructure and connectivity should become a national priority similar to the federally funded construction of the interstate highway system. The amount of tax dollars spent by the U.S. military in simulation and eLearning R&D should find its way into our universities and into the private sector. If we get caught napping we are certain to get our collective asses kicked!