James L. Morrison
[Note: This is a re-formatted manuscript that was originally published in
On the Horizon, 1996, 4(4), 2-3. It is posted here with permission
from Jossey Bass
We anticipate the future by searching for signals of potential change in the
environment, defining these signals in event statements, estimating their
likelihood of occurrence, and judgmentally forecasting their impact on our
organizations. This process provides us with as much lead time as possible to
take action to shape our future.
This approach can also be used to shape our individual futures. As with
planning for our organizations, we need to be aware of high-impact,
low-probability potential events, for these are the events that can, as we say
in North Carolina, “hit you upside the head.”
One such event happened to me early in the spring semester--I had a heart
attack. Although a heart attack is an event, it is also a continuous variable.
Mine was mild; I have no discernible heart damage. But it was certainly a
signal, and one that I am heeding by a radical change in diet (to nonfat
vegetarian) and by a new resolution to rest, relax, and meditate periodically
during the day.
The illness took me out of the work loop for several weeks. Fortunately, we
have developed a backlog of manuscripts for On the Horizon, so there
was no immediate deadline pressure in that regard. Too, I could maintain Horizon
List and Horizon Home Page from my hospital bed (when they moved me into a room
with a phone so that I could connect with my modem) and later from home.
Manuscript review and correspondence with authors was delayed, but not
The major work problem was what to do about my course on the social context
of educational leadership. In an earlier column I described how I intended to
integrate technology tools to assist me in teaching this course (Morrison,
1995). In essence, we were to use a class listserv and the Issues Challenging
Education section of Horizon Home Page to implement the course objectives, which
were: to conduct an analysis of critical issues in education and the social
context within which they are formed, to use information resources (including
those on the Internet) for issue analyses, and to use effective written and oral
expression in presentations and critiques of issue analyses. The listserv was
used to communicate between class sessions; the Web site was used to maintain
our record of progress through the semester. The goals were for students to
develop competency in issue analysis, in using productivity software (e-mail,
Internet search engines, word processing, and presentation), in using the Web as
an information database, and in writing constructive critiques.
Fortunately, by the time I had my attack (several weeks into the semester),
the students were accustomed to using the class listserv, had subscribed to
other listservs, had identified the issues they were to work on (in three-person
teams) for their projects, and had had one class on the use of search engines to
gather data for their papers. During the time I was inaccessible, students met
in the technology lab with my assistant, K. C. Brown (who maintains Horizon Home
Page), and Tiffany Davis, a technology instructor, who assisted them in using
Internet search engines while they began writing their papers. Via the listserv
and e-mail, I was able to keep tabs on their progress. The class was not
dependent upon my physical presence to continue functioning.
This experience illustrates an emerging trend of using technology
productivity tools in teaching and what may be a concomitant change of
instructional style, from sage on the stage to guide on the side. At this moment
in history, relatively few teachers use this technology in their teaching, but
the numbers are growing. We will know that this trend has reached the status of
an event when educators change their current query, “You teach your course on
the Web?” to “You don’t teach your course on the Web?” Is your school prepared
to compete in such a world? The key to successful planning is to anticipate the
occurrence of events by deriving their implications for your organization and
then forming action plans to move forward.
In my column in the May/June 1996 issue, I elaborated a number forces driving
the increased use of the Internet in teaching: the rapid growth of courses and
programs being offered on line, mergers of cable and phone companies to provide
interactive multimedia programming, the exponential growth in the use of the
Internet and computers by corporations and by individuals, and so on (Morrison,
1996). My experience this semester reaffirms another force behind this trend
that I had read about but had not observed first hand: the idea that one’s work
will be posted for the world to read is a powerful incentive to seek and use
critique in order to improve the communication of one’s ideas and arguments.
My own efforts to focus on improving my students’ writing skills in the past
included a requirement that they each critique a colleague’s draft manuscript;
my evaluation was then based in part on the extent to which the critique would
be helpful in a rewrite. However, owing to my illness, I was not able to provide
them with a timely critique this semester. I requested via the listserv that
they prepare their abstracts for K. C. to post to the Web without my review.
They did so, but only after agreeing that they would get critiques from their
teammates before revising the abstracts for Web posting. The students were
reluctant to take the WWW plunge without the benefit of a safety support system.
The pressure of publishing a paper with a unique Web address where anyone in
the world can easily access one’s work with Internet search engines can do
wonders not only for students’ attitudes toward the value of critique and of
rewriting, but also for teachers’ attitudes. Teachers want their students to
produce creditable products, for their professional skill is also on display.
Bernard Glassman, in responding to my request to review this article, said:
“Imagine a scenario in a community where students post their first draft on a
Web page, where teachers post their critique, where students respond by posting
their revised paper, and so on. Anyone in the community will be able to see the
quality of student papers and the quality of teacher caring, critique,
and guidance. What a marvelous way to obtain accountability in an increasingly
competitive academic marketplace.”
I enjoy teaching students how to use productivity tools and how to explore
information sources on the Internet. It opens up a new world for them to
experience, a world directly relevant to understanding the coming changes in the
way we conceive of and practice education. Don’t let this world hit you “upside
Morrison, J. L. “Issues Challenging Education.” On the Horizon,
June/July 1995, 3(5), 3–5.
Morrison, J. L. “Anticipating the Future.” On the Horizon, May/June
1996, 4(3), 3–5.