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Portfolio Preface

Who is the learner, George North?

Born in May 1946, I was always curious about being the oldest in my class. Only recently did I consider that I was born nine months after our armies returned to the US at the end of WWII, making me the oldest baby-boomer. My time in grammar school was not fun -- always the last-pick for Friday's spelling-bee and made-fun-of because I couldn't read aloud. I likely made up for this by being a teacher's pet. This followed me to high school where I was often called a "brown-nose." Only recently did I discover that I am dyslexic, and that these problems were not my own intellectual shortcomings.

Through my sophomore year of high school I was not at all enjoying my mediocre experiences. The turning point came when I transferred to an Orleans Parish public school from an all-boys Catholic school -- girls in all my classes, and my aunt vice-principal. She was the main reason for my transfer ... a strong-willed woman and very supportive of all her students. She built my confidence. She made certain I was scheduled with the best teachers this school offered. One chemistry profession was especially helpful.

Entering LSUNO (now UNO) in 1964, I was, of course, a chemistry major, and a draft evader. By the end of my fourth semester, I was already on and off of scholastic-probation and getting C's in chemistry and A's in Math. This precipitated the seminal event of my early education. Math 95 was a course in computer programming. Finally, I found a discipline where misspelling was an advantage, not a disadvantage, where slow reading, deliberate and cautious consideration forced on me by dyslexia was an asset. I left UNO after three years to raise my family and began my thirty year career as a computer scientist.

Spring 1998 is the beginning of the fifth year of my second career as a student. I received a BS in Liberal Arts from SUNY (State University of New York) in March 1995. In December 1996, I received a MS in Computer Science from UNO. Today, I am a Ph.D. student in the College of Education, Curriculum and Instruction. My goal is to be a college professor working with teachers to integrate Information Networks into curriculum. I find myself again at a great disadvantage. I am an expert in my discipline, but a novice educator. This time I can't blame my shortcomings on dyslexia, but I am still a brown-nose.

The seminal event of my second education career occurred in May 1996. In the middle of working on my master thesis came my fiftieth birthday, the fiftieth anniversary of digital computers, and the fiftieth anniversary of hypertext. This month also marked the first anniversary of Sun Microsystems Java programming language. It was now apparent to me that my profession was in the midst of a paradigm shift. It is not apparent to many of my colleges, but that is the structure of scientific revolutions -- most of the old guard defends the established paradigm.

The only simple way I know to explain what is happening can be gleaned from the statement: "The Network is the computer." Before Java, computers were like brick walls, individually painted to best represent their owners. Today, computer are windows through which the world can be seen and through which the world sees its owner. In the future, ubiquitous software will make computers invisible to their owners. This will make possible the construction of "Information Networks." The World Wide Web is like a starting line where educators of every persuasion are lining up. This may or may not be a race, but it is important to understanding that Information Networks haven't started ... yet. The web is a prototype, a practice field.

Is the world moving from an Industrial Revolution to an Information Revolution? If it is, Education will be the only industry, learner the only occupation.