Masthead CMC Magazine / April 1, 1996

Education and Computer-Mediated Communication

by John December

The promise of new technologies to improve education have often enticed educators to invest time, energy, and resources to learn them. Certainly, the Internet and the World Wide Web have caught the imagination of many educators. But has computer-mediated communication on the Internet actually helped students learn? We covered computer technology in education in our June 1995 issue. It is now time for an update: I'm interested in case studies, opinions, and experiences in using CMC for education for a special issue of CMC Magazine for September 1996. I'd like to hear about:

  • Case studies of how CMC was used in a classroom and its results;
  • Essays exploring the problems and pitfalls in using CMC to assist in education;
  • Descriptions of Web sites that educate and support education, including teaching, teacher support, or administrative support;
  • Descriptions of how institutions are integrating CMC into the delivery of education.

Another reason I'm interested in these issues is because I will be giving several speeches over the next months dealing with the potential of the Web for education. I'll speak this month in the United States at the open house of the State University of New York Institute of Technology, in May in Mexico City at the Multimedia InterCD 96 exposition, in August in Beijing at the Asia-Pacific World Wide Web Conference, and also in August at the Second Hong Kong Web Symposium. In preparing my speeches now, I'm optimistic about CMC's potential for education, but realistic.

I'm realistic about the fact that commercial forces dominate Net technology deployment at this time. I find that the hype surrounding the Internet and Web to be disconcerting. Full of technologically deterministic views of the world, the commercial forces providing products and information on the Net reveal little of the true promise of CMC for education. Instead, these products often simply exploit a niche technical need for networking and communications, leaving a gap in supporting the more complex educational needs of Net users.

I'm realistic that the CMC knowledge curve lags far behind the explosive technological growth curve. Internet-based forms of CMC are still so young and expanding so rapidly that educators struggle with technical issues of how to access and use Net communication and information. Larger issues of how to teach online literacy, for both using and shaping online information, communication, and interaction, are still very much left untouched.

I'm realistic about the limits of government censorship in affecting online communication. I think that the United States and Chinese governments are enacting policies that limit the creativity, connectivity, and benefits of online communication. Out of some fear of the perceived chaos of online environments, these and other national governments are foolishly pursuing censorship and isolationism--neither of which, I believe, hold promise toward enriching educational opportunities online.

But I'm optimistic about the very real integrating power of online communication and its potential for education. There are already many excellent examples; I'd like to learn about more.

Please query me about contributing or if you have some examples I might mention in my speeches. For more information on submitting material to CMC Magazine, check the CMC Magazine Index and the links under "Policies." I will need to receive your final draft by August 1, 1996. [TOC]

John December ( is editor of CMC Magazine.

Copyright © 1996 by John December. All Rights Reserved.

CMC Magazine Index
Contents Archive Sponsors Studies Contact