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Richard Doty

Curtis Bonk
School of Education

Last modified: Thursday, June 20, 2002

IU technology expert predicts wireless explosion and interplanetary chats

Wireless access to information will explode this decade, according to an Indiana University expert on educational technology who foresees interplanetary chats from Mars, the moon and space stations within 20 years.

Curtis Bonk, associate professor in instructional systems technology and educational psychology in the IU School of Education, said that in the years ahead computers will revolutionize society in ways many people would find hard to comprehend in terms of today's technology. For example, Bonk said many universities that fail to keep pace with technological advances will close.

"Wireless online learning will allow working adults to fit Web-based training into their busy lifestyles," he explained, "as more than a third of computer users will have access to wireless within three years. Wearable computers already have been developed."

Bonk promotes educational technology in lectures and presentations throughout the world to educational leaders, corporate executives and the U.S. military. In recent years he has published two books, 20 journal articles, 14 book chapters and numerous technical reports on various aspects of innovative online learning and interactive technologies. He recently received a "Cyberstar" award from the Indiana Information Technology Association for his work.

During the past decade, Bonk and his students have worked online with students in Finland, Korea, Peru and other locations worldwide to share experiences and internships. "Online mentoring and collaboration is very popular right now in both higher education and corporate settings," he said, adding that his national research shows that thousands of freelance instructors will soon emerge to teach wireless learners.

Bonk said peer-to-peer collaboration will soon move from just sharing music files to sharing notes from team meetings, while scenario-based simulations will enable students to experience work realities before committing to a particular degree or set of courses.

"Interplanetary chats and guest experts from Mars, the moon and space stations will be typical educational activities by 2020. Realistic simulations will allow students to debate with historical figures just a few years later," Bonk said.

Before then, Bonk predicts that by 2010 intelligent tutors and agents will be embedded within most software applications to make finding, filtering and evaluating information extremely easy, while language translation tools will help students communicate with those in other countries and cultures. His work with electronic book companies indicates they soon will become extremely popular by offering ways to learn that were previously not possible, such as displaying a physics principle or visually replicating a historical battle.

He believes students will soon expect access to courses on demand while designing their own programs. "The job of the college instructor will be divided into many tracks, including technical specialist, personal guide, online facilitator, course developer, program manager or work-for-hire online instructor. That will be simultaneously exciting and challenging for future professors," he said.

Bonk said many universities will close because of factors such as lower state funding and inability of university bureaucracies to respond to rapidly-changing student learning demands involving technology. "Some universities will grow by incorporating virtual universities, some will find a unique niche market, and others may be transformed from educational institutions into resort complexes or apartments," he said.

For more details, contact Bonk at 812-856-8353 or