Gov. Mike Leavitt's call for a wedding between education and technology should be accepted for just what it is - a concept.
In a recent meeting with education leaders and legislators, the governor proposed a course that he says will lead to a more efficient way to teach children in the public school system and adults seeking higher education.The proposal is expected to give direction to state leaders over the next few years as they set policies and budgets. Over time, the governor's vision could have a profound effect on how Utahns of all ages learn.
For those concerned with the lack of detail in the governor's pronouncement, he suggests an interesting analogy. His concept is a wagon train headed West, he says, with a definite objective in mind but no mile-by-mile detail of the rocks, gullies and rivers that lie ahead.
To fail to set out on a technology odyssey because the future isn't absolutely clear would be a mistake. The world of the future will be defined by the advances being made daily on every hand, and Utah's students will be part of that future. They deserve every effort to make them competitive in a rapidly changing world.
By its very nature, the current explosion in technology makes it impossible to make precise plans very far into the future. Obsolescence is a well-accepted reality of today's technological world.
Utah can't wait for a technological plateau because the near future may not hold any. The governor is right in noting that you must start some-where.
A phenomenon as significant as the technology boom throughout the world is bound to affect education over the course of time. Leavitt correctly suggests that Utah should be with the wave and not behind it. Utah students unquestionably will be the beneficiaries if technology can be harnessed to make their learning more effective.
But the governor has set a challenging task for all concerned. In Utah, education is a huge undertaking, and huge institutions are resistant to change. What the governor is calling for is not only an infusion of classroom technology, but a change in how people think about education. He's calling for the courage to try something new.
Thousands of educators now in the system must be brought along to his way of thinking, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of students and their families who may find their current perceptions of education challenged. The cooperation of everyone involved will be essential.
Some are concerned that the value of the interchange between a student and a real live instructor will be supplanted by electronic gadgetry. The sci-fi world of high-tech wizardry used to the exclusion of live teachers is a long ways away and may never arrive. Effective educators will use the technology available to them as a tool to enhance the human exchange.
Education can't be put on hold in Utah while the new imperative is put in place. Technology will have to be gradually injected into classrooms as it becomes economically feasible and as teachers are trained to use it effectively. To this point, the training component has lagged behind the intro-duc-tion of computers and other technological advances into class-rooms.
Leavitt says his concept can be realized within current state revenues. He may find that keeping the existing system going while making significant changes is a financial challenge as well as a philosophical challenge. Radical, rapid change is not likely, given the reality of limited resources in a state with more school pressures than most.
The journey toward Leavitt's vision could be prolonged and expensive. But the first step has been taken, and that's promising.