For several decades now, technology has been heralded as a solution to many of the challenges that schools face.
On the one hand are tech proponents like Clayton Christenson, author of Disrupting Class, who argues that technology can lead a revolution in individualizing a child’s education to his or her unique needs.
On the other hand are those like Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, who calls educational technology “a $60 billion hoax.” He argues that much of the investment going into technology would be better used elsewhere in education and that chasing the latest tech in schools is a fool’s errand.
Given this debate within schooling circles, there are some things that should be considered before deciding to apply a particular technology in the classroom:
- Technology is never neutral. Like any educational tool, it contains pedagogical biases and sends explicit and implicit messages about what is being learned. Some of those biases can be leveraged for good, such as its ability to promote collaboration on a project between people in different locations. Other times it can be more problematic, such as giving the impression that all ideas are equally important and valid because they are all equally accessible.
- Teaching is an inherently personal task. Education is the science of relationships; i.e., the relationship of ideas to other ideas, of ideas to the learning, and ultimately of the learner to the teacher. “When a student is fully trained, he will be like his teacher.” Relationships matter in education and technology can either enhance or diminish those relationships.
- The law of amplification. Perhaps the most insightful claim that Kardaras makes is that technology only amplifies what a lesson already would be. It will not make a lesson great or even effective by its presence. But it will make a lesson that is already well-designed and executed even better. Conversely, it will make a poor lesson even worse.
- Consideration must be given as to whether a high tech solution is the best tool for the job. Sometimes a pencil and paper or a printed book can still be the best tool. The teacher must design the lesson backward and determine whether high tech or low tech is the best tool. Our students will be introduced to tech outside the classroom at a much more rapid pace than they will ever inside the classroom. So part of our instruction must be to show them how to use it judiciously.
Technology isn’t going away, of course, and schools will benefit from its use. But this implementation must be done with wisdom and judgment, without buying into promises that technology can’t or shouldn’t fulfill.