Sunday, June 26, 2011

Technology In Education

I've said it so many times before: technology in education is a means to an end, not the end itself. It seems that Curmudgeon and I agree:
The real world requires that a problem exist before it feels the need to go buy technology to solve it. The RW needs to know what to do with the new tech and be convinced that the new tech is an improvement, that it will provide better, cheaper, faster, more efficient output. Testing is done by the tech seller in order to create the glossy brochures and advertising. All this happens BEFORE purchase. Tech is an answer to a problem in the Real World...

Education, on the other hand, operates differently. Here, Shiny and New is purchased because it's Shiny and New and then teachers go try to justify the purchase and attempt to find a problem that this Shiny and New solution will hopefully solve...

That's American education for you. Buy shit without knowing what, if anything, it will do. Throw out what's working to focus on the Shiny New Toy and completely forget about the real purpose of education: education. This is the only chance at an education this group of kids will ever get and we have no compunctions about testing new theories on them ... and we don't even give a damn about the results.

Some day I'll write a blog post about all the "stuff" that was being stored in the math department's Crap Storage Area before I turned it into a computer lab for my statistics classes. Shiny and new, indeed.


allen (in Michigan) said...

Unfortunately Curmudgeon doesn't do anything to actually understand and explain the attraction of New and Shiny. Simply repeating that the attraction's because it's new and shiny may be a clever way to obscure the lack of elucidation but obscuration it still is.

So, breaking out of the contentlessly clever self-referential "the attraction of New and Shiny is because it's New and Shiny", why hasn't technology ever made any worthwhile contribution to education?

Darren said...

You'll notice that I only snipped from his post; he went into further detail.

As for why technology hasn't contributed to *education*? For the most part, it can't--education is mostly a social process. Sorry, that's just how our brains work.

Anonymous said...

"...why hasn't technology ever made any worthwhile contribution to education?"

You really think all the documentaries on History/Nova/Discovery channel are worthless?

Many of them provide much more information visually than could be provided by a simple book. Look at the "Battlefield Britain" series, as an example. Or "Engineering an Empire."

I'll grant that many/most tech innovations in education don't pan out. But that isn't the same as "all."

-Mark Roulo

Darren said...

Come now, Mark. You left out Schoolhouse Rock, from which most of us learned the Preamble and a bit about conjunctions and interjections. The statement was about contributing to "education" in the big sense, not any one video or something in particular. None of the things you've mentioned have "revolutionized" or changed education at all--and I say that as someone who wrote this:

Anonymous said...

The words were "contributed to education", not "revolutionized" :-)

And I had forgotten about schoolhouse rock, but this would be another example of contributing ... Sneaking ejumakashun into Saturday morning cartoons was genius!

I'd also suggest some of the simulation games: Railroad Tycoon, Sims, etc.

-Mark Roulo

Rhymes With Right said...

Come on -- all of us in education know that the reason folks in admin go for "New & Shiny"/"The Latest Thing" is that there is grant money available for it, whereas they have to find money in the budget for what is tried, true, and effective.

I learned that early on in my career, when the district spent two years training us all in a new writing program, only to bring us all in for an in-service at the start of the next school year and informing us that we were adopting a new writing program -- and that use of materials from the old program would be punished with a write-up. Why? The old grant ran out and the new grant required we use the new program. That edict continued for three years. . . right up to the day the grant money ran out.

allen (in Michigan) said...

Curmudgeon was referring to the public education system and so, by inference, was I. Therefore Nova/Discovery/History/Connections/Battlefield Detective/etc, don't count. It's worth noting that all those efforts, including Nova, have their basis in the private sphere where innovations are rewarded when successful and punished when they fail.

But if you limit the question of the impact of technology to the public education arena the effect has been negligible, if not non-existent, although not for want of trying.

If you don't limit your definition of technology to Internet-connected computers running graphics user interfaces the list of failed technological innovations that various folks have tried to apply to public education is truly impressive. Phonographs, film strips, movies, radio, television, airplanes (yes, airplanes), audio tape recorders, video cassette players have all had their brief moment as public education watersheds and quickly forgotten.

That's a pretty long list and it represents a whole lot of money, a whole lot of time and a whole lot of effort by some pretty smart people. So how come we have bupkus to show for all that time, money and effort? I think "cause they like shiny stuff" is both insultingly glib and worse, worthless.

To be comprehensive though we ought to add the whole category of what I call edu-crap; whole word (or whatever it's most recently morphed into to escape the stench of failure), new math, new, new math, child-centered learning, learning styles and many more similar crashed-and-burned, better-forgotten travesties. They're all hailed as innovative educational technology so what about them? Any relationship between real, change-the-world innovations and edu-crap? Any unifying themes that explain one, the other or both? Without descent into glibness or the assumption of contagious stupidity by preference.

Darren said...

I'm sorry you find my comments insultingly glib and worthless, but since no one has ever explained *how* technology is supposed to help education, I stand by my points.

Darren said...

I reviewed a book called Liberating Learning in this post: