On February 12 Dr. Peterson addressed the IEEE Board of Directors, as well as committee members who focus on regional, educational, and technical aspects of IEEE, along with more than 300 other guests at their meeting in Atlanta.
February 12, 2010—Thank you—I am honored to be here with you today. I want to start off by saying how fortunate you are to have Mr. Pedro Ray as your new president. Pedro is an active business and community leader in Puerto Rico. He's also a Georgia Tech alum, having received both his bachelor's and master's degrees at Georgia Tech. He actually completed his masters in one year, which is rather unusual, given the academic rigor at Georgia Tech. Today, our students typically don't use the term freshman, sophomore, junior or senior anymore. Instead, they refer to themselves as first, second, third, fourth, or fifth year students.
True to form, Pedro is working very hard to spread the IEEE message here in Georgia and around the world, and we are very proud of his many accomplishments and to have him as a Georgia Tech alum and president of the IEEE.
Georgia Tech has many very strong ties to IEEE through our alumni, our faculty, our staff, and our students. Our alumni are active in IEEE throughout the world. In the Atlanta section alone, which serves more than 5,100 students in northern Georgia, four of the five of its 2010 executive officers are Georgia Tech alums. Georgia Tech faculty, staff, and alumni are in leadership roles in all eleven IEEE technical chapters here in Atlanta. The School of Electrical and Computer Engineering has 38 IEEE Fellows among its faculty, and we have many other members and fellows of IEEE who serve and work with the Georgia Tech Research Institute, the College of Computing, and in other areas at Georgia Tech.
Tech is one of six U.S. universities to have five faculty members elevated to IEEE Fellow this past year—the highest number in the United States. Dr. Jim Meindl, who some of you may know, is director of the Microelectronics Research Center and the Nanotechnology Research Center, has been the recipient of one of IEEE's highest honors—the IEEE Medal of Honor.
We're also very proud of our IEEE Student Branch. It's one of the largest in the United States with more than 800 student members. Joining us today is Drew Blackburn, president of our IEEE student chapter. Drew comes to Tech from Annapolis, Maryland, and is an Electrical Engineering major. He is, in fact, a third year student and will graduate this May, with what most of us believe will be a 4.0 GPA. We're very pleased to have Drew with us here today.
As a member of the educational community I am gratified to see professional societies such as the IEEE reach out to our student membership. The organization that Drew leads, the student chapter of IEEE at Georgia Tech, has received and been recognized as the Outstanding Student Branch of the Year and for the fourth year in a row received the Exemplary Student Branch award. These students are among the 80,000 IEEE student members throughout the world.
That's just a little bit about the relationship that Georgia Tech, our students, our faculty, and our staff have with IEEE. Today, I would like to spend a few minutes speaking to you about two questions that I think are enormously important. They are questions that we as educators are faced with, and ones that we're working very hard at Georgia Tech to try to address. The first of these is, "How will we prepare our students for a future that's so uncertain and that we can hardly imagine?" Just think about our incoming freshman class, the class of 2013. This year's freshman class was one of the largest, best qualified, and most diverse in Georgia Tech's history. With one third women, it brought our student enrollment to nearly 20,000, 30% of which are female, both firsts here at Tech.
The majority of our incoming freshmen were born in 1991. They have never used a card catalog to find a book. They've never used an eight-track, cassette tape player, VHS, or a music LP. The only typewriter they have ever seen has been in a museum, and to them a Blackberry is not a fruit. Now, try to think ahead and imagine what type of career, what type of job environment these students might experience during their lifetime. Think about a career when they're 45, 25 years from now, when these students have graduated and are in their mid-forties.
To try to understand what that environment might be like, I invite you to think back 25 years to what your life was like. Think about the technology that you had available. In 1984 IBM introduced the PC. Remember the IBM-AT and the XT, the Commodore 64? Less than 20 years ago, cell phones were introduced. If you had a cell phone 20 years ago it weighed three pounds, cost $3,000, held a charge for 20 minutes, and was the size of a toaster. Think about where we are today and what that technology is really like. Then think about how that technology affects our students and how they live their lives. Today, one of every eight couples married in the U.S. met online. The amount of new technical information is doubling every two years.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, one out of every four workers today is working for a company for whom they have been employed less than one year. And, in fact, the Department of Labor estimates that the average graduate today will have 10 to 12 jobs by the time they're 40 years old. I'm a little older than 40 and I have not yet had 10 jobs. As for the types of jobs they might have during their career, six years ago former Secretary of Education Richard Riley said the top ten jobs that will be in demand in 2010 didn't exist in 2004. And in fact, he was right. Add to that some of the things that are happening today: things like the Google library project, an effort to digitize every book that's been written in the English language and put it in a searchable database. The project is nearly 40 percent of the way complete—when our freshman today graduate, they'll have at their fingertips a searchable database that includes every book that's been written in the English language.
Think about the concept of telepresence. There's a great video on YouTube. If you type in Cisco and telepresence you see John Chambers, the CEO, and he's in India at a shareholders meeting. He says, "We're doing some really great things in telepresence technology. I wish our vice president for research could be here, but he has to be in California at another meeting." And at that moment a life-sized, three-dimensional holographic image of the vice president for research appears on stage, walks across, and they have a real-life conversation. That video is four years old. You can imagine how we in education might use that technology to enhance how we educate our students.
This in fact, leads to the second question: "How can we use technology to try to enhance the way we educate our students?" Or, addressing the bigger challenge, "How do we prepare them for what is to be sure is a very uncertain future?"
Karl Fisch, a high school teacher in Colorado, described the challenge very well in a YouTube video: "Today, we are preparing students for jobs that don't exist, using technologies that haven't yet been invented, in order to solve problems we don't even realize are problems yet." How can we use that technology to assist us?
Think about the technology we use in our everyday lives today. In the YouTube video, he goes on to say that "the number of text messages sent and received every day exceeds the population of the planet. There are nearly three billion searches performed on Google each month. To whom were these questions addressed B.G. (before Google)? Today there are over 200 million registered users of MySpace and the average MySpace page is visited 30 times a day. If MySpace were a country, it would be the fifth largest in the world, between Indonesia and Brazil. YouTube serves 100 million videos per day. It served 2.5 billion videos to nearly 20 million unique visitors in June of 2006. What is it today? American teenagers today are utilizing the interactive capabilities of the Internet as they create and share their own media creations. And in fact, fully half of all U.S. teens and 57 percent of teens who use the Internet are content creators for the Internet. They have created a blog, wiki, or Web page or posted original artwork, photography, stories or videos online. The average teen in the U.S. today spends an average of six and a half hours a day using technology and technological media outside of school."
How will all of this impact the way we educate our students or the way we should educate them? I will tell you that these students, and the impact that those various forms of media have on them will not allow us to have a professor standing at a chalkboard with a piece of chalk lecturing any longer.
Many other fields are looking at the impact of technological impacts. When you look at some of the things they're doing, it makes us wonder if we're really doing what we ought to be doing in higher education. Last year, Nintendo spent nearly $200 million in research and development, almost twice what the U.S. government spent on research and innovation in education. KFC is looking at using high-frequency sound to appeal to young people. They will deploy a mosquito ringtone on teens' cell phones, a sound that can't be heard by most people over 30, to give away free chicken buckets.
In order to succeed, we need to make sure that our graduates today have three new skill sets. We need to prepare our graduates to deal with massive amounts of information, and to understand how to take that massive amount of information and convert it into knowledge, because there is a difference. Second, we need to prepare our students to learn to communicate globally, starting in first grade and continuing throughout their lifetime. Third, we need to prepare our students to learn to be more self-directed in how they organize the material and information at their fingertips, and to take responsibility for their continued learning.
As Albert Einstein said, "We can't solve the problems we created today by using the technology and thinking of the solutions in the way we did when we created them."
So what are we doing at Georgia Tech to try to address some of these issues? Well, we're exploring big ideas. We started a strategic planning process to try to envision what Georgia Tech might be like in twenty-five years when it celebrates its 150th anniversary. We're exploring ideas that will help us ensure our research preeminence. We're looking at redesigning education, and exploring ways to best sustain and enhance our culture. We're seeking to understand what it is in the past that has differentiated our graduates from the graduates at other institutions throughout the country, and how in the future those things can or will differentiate our graduates from the graduates of other institutions around the world. We're exploring ways we can lead in big transdisciplinary, payoff areas.
I think if you asked people ten or fifteen years ago, probably anyone in this room, "What are the big areas that technology is moving into?" they would have talked about the golden triangle. They would have talked about bio, info, and nano - biotechnology, information technology, and nanotechnology. What is it going to be in the next ten to fifteen years? Certainly those areas will be of great influence to us, but what are the new emerging areas that we ought to be looking at today?
Those are just a couple of the issues we're trying to address. We've incorporated and included hundreds of people. Last September, we had a half day event where we started the conversation and involved more than 700 people, faculty, staff, students, alumni, and other people from around the community to explore what Georgia Tech might be in twenty-five years. We have received more than 1,000 ideas about what Georgia Tech might be and I'll talk about just two of them this afternoon.
The first one is this idea of the rapidity with which knowledge is being created or developed. We no longer believe that in the future a four-year education will be sufficient to provide the required education for an individual's career. The future will require that individuals be continually educated and that they be lifelong learners. If that's the case then one idea, and we haven't committed to this yet, might be to provide an educational guarantee. What if Georgia Tech guaranteed the graduate's education for life, and told undergraduates that if they graduate from Georgia Tech with an undergraduate degree they can come back and take any undergraduate course for free for the rest of their life, on a space-available basis.
The second focuses on technology and how it will shape what we teach and how we learn. We talked a little bit about Cisco and telepresence. I know many of you are familiar with this idea of virtual realties. In one of these, the Linden dollar, which is the currency in that particular virtual world, is now one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Georgia Tech has a presence in the virtual world. And we are taking this a step further and working on what's next. We're exploring how we can use virtual realities and immersive technologies to teach and engage with students before, during, and after their time at Georgia Tech. These virtual worlds and immersive technologies will provide an extended, experiential place for our students to interact with each other, have fun, learn, conduct research, and experiment in what are truly virtual, living laboratories.
It's pretty easy to think about how you would use this Cisco teleconference idea in order to teach. In fact, we could have this conference, and we could all just beam in here and communicate that way. And that's not far off. That's the technology of several years ago. But, what if we had a virtual reality where we were all avatars. Where we came to class via our avatars. And in fact, extend it one step further. Cognitive scientists understand a great deal about how people learn. Some people learn from large issues or large ideas and then move to specifics, and others like to start with more specific examples and progress to the larger concepts. Some people are visual learners. Some people are audio learners. What if we had a situation or system that could create an environment where there was only one real student in a virtual classroom and all the other students were products of the system that could detect what that real student understood and what they didn't understand—kind of like the Truman Show. And the questions that those virtual students asked helped reinforce the information and knowledge that we were trying to convey to the real student. These things are not twenty-five years off; at Georgia Tech we are exploring them today.
These are the technologies that are going to be invented by the students that we're educating today, and the technologies that they're going to use to create their work environment. It's an amazing undertaking that we in higher education have embraced about how to prepare these students for an uncertain world and for the many new and exciting things that they'll see. The students of today have an incredible future. They will resolve climate change. They'll solve the issues surrounding energy and sustainability. They'll see interplanetary space travel become a reality, all in their lifetimes. How do we prepare those students for that type of environment? That's what we're trying to do in our strategic planning process. We're about halfway through the process and hope to complete it this summer.
I reviewed the first, very rough, draft of our strategic plan, earlier this week. In fact, Dr. Gary May, who is here with us today, is taking on a leadership role in helping us to create the Strategic Plan to try to understand what Georgia Tech will be like in twenty or twenty-five years. For more information on our strategic planning process, you can visit the Strategic Vision Web site, available from the Georgia Tech home page.
At Georgia Tech, we recognize that our place among the best universities is continually being challenged, and we will be judged not by how well we have done in the past, but how we'll do in the future. It's an undertaking we will take very seriously. It's a tremendous opportunity and a tremendous challenge.