In 1993, a small group of 9 and 10-year old children at Hillcrest Elementary in Ruston, LA, fairly decently used the crystal balls known as their imaginations to predict virtual education and developments in computer-mediated communication.
My fourth grade year I was admitted into my elementary school’s gifted program. One of our first projects after I joined was a “Future Fair” in which we presented concepts, services, and products we thought would come to pass. The station of the fair I was initially involved in was a large box (or group of boxes) cut to look like a computer and desk. I crawled into the box and looked out through the “screen” hole and interacted with another student as if I were a teacher in a real-time distance conversation going over assignments. We explained to fair visitors that in the future, students wouldn’t have to leave home to attend school – they could receive and submit work and interact with their teachers via computer. They could “go to school” in their own rooms in their pajamas! They could see and speak to their teachers via – what I know know to be – video chatting and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).
Skip forward past the 2004 to the mid/late 2000’s and services like Skype, ooVoo, and FaceTime start to stake their claims in the communication landscape. It has just been in the last few years that video-calling and video-conferencing has reached such a level that you have, for example, masters candidates [in non-technical disciplines] defending their theses via Skype. Or toddlers talking to their grandmothers and great grandmothers and aunts via ooVoo. It has taken time (roughly a decade and a half) for technology to catch up to what a bunch of kids in 1993 imagined would be possible. But that’s the way it works. People dream, wonder “what if?…”, and ask “why not?” a bit defiantly. There’s a gestation period, then something impossible is born.
Around the time VoIP was preparing to step out for real – 2003-ish – a cohort was born that are now about 9-10. Who knows what advancements they are dreaming up that someone else (or even they!) might bring into being? I, for one, am excited to think about that. And I am inspired to hold onto a skinny little kid back in 1993 who crawled into a box and, with the help of some friends, told the future.