What on earth will it take?
The NY Times ran a story the other day about an Arizona school district that has spent millions of dollars on classroom technology over the past 5 years, with little to show for it when it comes to assessing learning. How many such stories do we need before we come to realize that the way to improve learning is not to replace the teacher’s chalkboard with an electronic one, it’s to replace the teacher’s style, approach and materials.
Stories about how technology has failed to make any gains have been around as long as technologies have been touted as silver bullets. It’s true – look it up. It doesn’t matter whether it was the radio (yes!), television, computers, the internet or smart boards – every one of these was championed as the thing that will solve the educational problem- the holy grail of education. Not one ever did. Not one ever will.
The problem, as has been written about extensively in this space, is one of style not technology. The solution lies not in how we present content to learners but in the very emphasis of presenting content. Conventional education remains what I call a “content delivery system” with its emphasis on passing along content, as if that’s what learning amounts to or how it occurs. Until we come to recognize that learning is something the learner does, through a process of self-directed, self-initiated action, we’ll not make any meaningful, long-lasting improvements to education.
Has our culture been so permanently hoodwinked by flash and speed that we can no longer see the issue for what it is?