Introduction – A Student in the Not Too Distant Future

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Dr. Dee McGonigle, Editor in Chief
Dr. Renee Eggers

This article was made possible by an educational grant from
Chamberlain College of Nursing


McGonigle, D. & Eggers, R. (June, 2011). Editorial: Introduction – A Student in the Not Too Distant Future. Online Journal of Nursing Informatics (OJNI),15 (2). http://ojni.org/issues/?p=620


Nell walks up the steps of the Diamond building on Chamberlain Campus. It’s a nice day, and Nell quickly uses her Cyber-vision contacts, or “Cyves,” to check the weather. Appearing before her in midair is a map of the local area, with weather data on her visual periphery. Even though the map looks all clear, she flicks here eyes towards the data, causing it to move towards her center of vision. Sure enough, there is a 20% chance of rain by 4 PM. Bummer. Nell dismisses her private heads-up display with another flick of her eyes and proceeds into the building. “Oh well,” she muses, “At least I’ll be home well before then.”

Nell steps into the classroom for the first time. She’s early – only a few other students have preceded her. Sitting down, she again calls up her Cyves and checks her social networks. One friend is at the beach, and broadcasting live a view of the tide coming in. Another is at work, lamenting the slow, archaic T3 connection he has to the Internet.

More students file in. Nell fires a quick note to her friend. “Archaic! You should see this classroom! Probably the same chairs my grandmother sat in!”

Hey!” her friend replies. “I read all about the Diamond building. It may look old, but it’s outfitted with the latest stuff. Wait ‘till you get one class in – you’ll see!”

Nell takes a moment to scan the results of a smart scan she started last night on the upcoming gardening season; correlated for her are a set of recommendations for her gardening efforts this year. It looks like it will be a dry season, so the tomato variety she grew four years ago will probably do well, although the report notes she only rated them a three out of five on her personal taste scale. The smart scan also lists a number of new tomato varieties she might want to use, inferred from her personal taste scale she’s added to over the years.

Just then an older woman enters the room. She is dressed casually, but has an air of authority about her. “Must be the prof,” thinks Nell. A quick scan with her Cyves confirms it. Around the woman springs virtual data, visible only to Nell:

Name: Dr. Janice Stephenson
Occupation: Professor of Sociology, Chamberlain University
Hobbies: Golfing, reading

The rest of the data is scrambled. Only those Dr. Stephenson has given rights to can view it. “Probably pictures of her cats,” snorts Nell.

While Nell is sizing her professor up, the professor is doing the same to the entire class. A quick stare and a brief smile as she glances at Nell, leaves her a bit disconcerted. “What did she read? What DIDN’T she read? Oh, boy.”

“Welcome class!” begins Dr. Stephenson. As she speaks, a large video screen behind her springs to life, and an avatar of her uses sign language to also greet the class. The text of her voice is also visible. Nell realizes that everything is being recorded for all to view whenever they want. She wonders if a summary personalized to her learning styles will also be available.

“This class is an introduction to Chamberlain U, but it’s really more about how to make the most of your experiences here. Many of you probably think this classroom is old-fashioned, and until recently, you’d be correct! But take a closer look. Embedded in each chair is a full connection to the Internet. Just push the green button on the side – go ahead, it’s OK,” she prompts.

Nell pushes her button and sees her classmates doing the same. Sure enough, a virtual monitor and keyboard appear in the air before her. The chair must have read her public info, for it is displaying information just as she views it from her home computer.

“Now,” Dr. Stephenson continues, “Most of you have Cyves, so you probably don’t need this. But it’s here for those that do not. You might also notice that the chairs are highly mobile, automatically adjust to your contours, and can be configured in several ways. So breaking up into groups is easy. We can also pull up screens from the floor to partition the room off, if need be. Lighting is controllable via several quadrants, making the room very flexible. Imagine what it was like for your parents in college. Can you believe some classrooms had no technology, the chairs were fixed to the floors, and people were actually uncomfortable as they learned! Amazing! Even the classrooms that had technology were limited. Usually only the professor had access to the video projectors and the Internet. In fact, some professors liked it that way! They actually discouraged students from bringing technology to class. I can’t imagine how anyone could really learn without the constant access to information we now have.”

“But I digress. Sure, we all know that learning happens many ways. Hopefully, you’ll even find me useful as part of your learning experience! You also have access to sources of information that continue to astound me. Most important, you have access to each other. Remember that.”

A man three seats to Nell’s right raises his hand. “Yes, uh, Joe?” responds Dr. Stephenson.

“Meaning no disrespect, professor, but why do we need classrooms at all? We could all just meet virtually, couldn’t we?”

“An excellent question, Joe! You’re right – we could just meet virtually. We could use Cyves or our mobile devices. Yet despite all the wonderful technology we possess, people are still social creatures. We need to be with others, not all the time, but enough so that classrooms are still needed. For this class, we’ll meet once a week here. The other two classes will be virtual. Other questions? Ah, I see Mary has posed a question on the backchannel for the class. For those of you new to all this, we use the technology to create another channel of information, a backchannel, as the class proceeds. It’s a great way to strike while the fire is hot. In this case, our backchannel is simply text on a web page we can easily display. Let’s call it up now.”

Dr. Stephenson proceeds to display the backchannel page on the video screen. It reads:

Mary: I know this is supposed to be an introduction to life as a student, but I’m a transfer student. Do I really need all this?

Dr. Stephenson smiles. “Thirty years ago, you would have been forced to sit through classes where I, the fount of all knowledge and goodness, would have imparted redundant knowledge into your head. Today, we have ways to avoid that! Remember the battery of tests and quizzes you took as part of your entrance process? They’re not just busywork. We’ve used them to put information about you into our Learning Management System (LMS), Aether. The LMS will prescribe things to you here at Chamberlain U. Things you might be interested in, things you definitely need, and for things you already know, you’ll be given the chance to opt out of them. You will also receive instruction in the forms you like. Not all the time, but for example if you like games and there is a game “in the open,” meaning it has a Creative Commons License attached to it so Chamberlain U. can use it legally, and it covers the content you need, guess what? You’ll be playing a game! So I believe for you, Mary, there will be some specialized assignments you’ll receive – subject to my approval, of course. Maybe I’ll even ask you to contribute your information and insights for future classes! Yes, this class and its information is more than just me. It’s you! And you, and you, and you! You are all part of the process, so be prepared to be active participants in your learning, not just passive recipients.

“OK, we could probably get through today’s class just by me – and you! – answering your questions, but why don’t I go ahead with my outline, and whatever I don’t cover we can talk about afterwards. Oh, and please turn your GooglePlexers off or on color alert. I know some of you have to take calls and such, but please respect your classmates!”

Future Shocked – Key Technologies That Will Affect Education

The above story was a tiny slice on the many possibilities the future holds. It does not begin to touch on the possibilities that nanotechnology, cheap fusion power, or what embedded communication devices might bring to education. Instead, it concentrated on the more tangible possibilities that are logical extensions of what we can do today. The following key elements are alluded to in the story:

Next-generation classrooms

Web 2.0 Technologies, Social Networking, Collective Intelligence, and User-created Content

Cloud Computing

Semantic-aware Applications

Smart Objects

Open Source Technologies

Learning Management Systems (LMSs)

Personal Learning Environments (PLEs)

Specialized Educational Modules Delivered Just In Time

Mobile Devices

Virtual Worlds, Simulations, and Educational Gaming


Cyves stands for computerized yagi visual earshot sensations. They are computer processors embedded in contact lenses equipped with a visual display as well as auditory channels for communicating. A yagi is a sharply directional antenna.


Dee McGonigle received her baccalaureate degree in nursing from Penn State University, a master’s degree in nursing from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and her doctorate in Foundations of Education from the University of Pittsburgh. She is a Professor of Nursing in the MSN Online Program at Chamberlain College of Nursing, a Fellow in the American Academy of Nursing and the Editor-in-Chief of the Online Journal of Nursing Informatics (OJNI). She is actively involved in integrating active and collaborative learning strategies into traditional as well as on-line courses. Dr. McGonigle is interested in the educational impact of the human-technology interface. She is committed to the insightful analysis of ethical dilemmas brought on by this volatile information age.

Dr. McGonigle has co-authored a textbook, Nursing Informatics and the Foundation of Knowledge that was published by Jones and Bartlett in August of 2008 and a second text on teaching with technology is in progress. She is a consultant to the Hartford Center grant at University Park and has developed a doctoral level course on teaching with technology, assisted with the recruitment videos and moderates the Hartford Center Radio Shows. She is searching for a way to facilitate translation by helping those who know (researchers) and those who do (clinicians) communicate and share. Dr. McGonigle’s current area of interest is in the diffusion of innovative technologies, especially those impacting learning.

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