Thursday, May 29, 2014

Education and Technology

Adriene Hill of Market Place (the Public Radio International program) just started what will become a year-long series on technology and education.  Started today with a short history of tech's supposed promise for making education so much better.

A most interesting line from today's installment--
The idea was simple.  Broadcasting would transform education by making it possible for students to learn from great teachers wherever they were—so long as there was a radio in the classroom.

We've been down this road before.  As early as the 1920s, The Society for Visual Education formed to encourage wider spread use of the film strip in education. “Today (1981), the filmstrip is playing an important role in classroom instruction in all types of educational situations. Filmstrips are being used in all sizes of schools, from the small rural school to the large school in urban centers” [LaMond Beatty, The Instructional Media Library, (Englewood Cliffs: Educational Technology Publications, 1981), 4].

Change the word “internet” or “computer” for “filmstrip” in this paragraph from Beatty's book, and you could easily find it in numerous articles and books today. 

Or take another angle.  Suppose you support President Obama's 2013 initiative to establish high speed internet connection in 99% of schools in the next 5 years.  Hill's story goes on to point out that the mere presence of radios in rooms, and the commitment by public broadcasters to make educational programs didn't amount to much...the programs weren't very good.  But the commercial broadcasters made shows kids wanted to hear (and later see).  Same ol' issues about commercial content providers there....

Or think about technology infrastructure (the 99% in 5 years deal).  The brilliant Neil Postman had this to say (about technology in general):  Even when the problem of the access to technology is solved so that anyone who wishes can have access to technology, there still remains a problem.

For a more thorough explication of what those problems are in education, see chapter 7 of The Normal Accident Theory of Education.