Modern Luddites aside, most of us have accepted that technology is not going to go away; it is replacing the old technology we grew up with. It surrounds us and is an accepted part of modern life. Anyone entering high school now will have difficulty remembering a world without computers, gps, fablets, wearables and other marvels.
Yet, we live in an exciting time where technology is evolving more scary-rapidly than it ever has. We live in an age of technological experimentation where the final outcomes can be only guessed at. Machine learning, natural language generation, artificial intelligence, BigData, the — all technologies that have incredible potential for good and bad and we probably don’t give enough acknowledgement to the bad. Here, though, I will focus on the good.
Whenever change occurs, there will be adopters, addicts, detractors… This is certainly the case in the world of education where technology is at times a double-edged blade — ready to cut on the hand that wields it if not used with care. Yet a former mentor often told me, when I got frustrated with my !$$*!$ computer, that the machine was only doing what it had been told to do by the operator. So operator beware — or at least handle with care.
technology is at times a double-edged blade
Much like the original Luddites, some decry the intrusion of technology into education as dehumanizing, generally bad and probably the end of us all. I will suggest that “all things in moderation” it perhaps the more pragmatic view. If we accept the potential for good and bad and use technology as a tool, as it should be, rather than a way to eventually squeeze out and replace the humanity in education, we gain an appropriate perspective.
As a tool, technology has the ability to free the educator.
Technology allows a teacher to present content with color, motion, sound, and detail that would be impossible to replicate through speech. One is able to hear the actual words and see the faces and gestures of some of history’s famous and infamous personalities. It is possible to access information in a fraction of time it took just a decade ago and the scope of the information available grows daily. As a tool, technology has the ability to free the educator. With the aid of technology it is possible for the teacher to become less of a speaking head that needs to try to get knowledge across the gulf between the desks of the teacher and student and more of a guide through in an educational odyssey.
The greatest benefit I see to the student is the democratization of learning…
For the student, technology enables learning to transcend the traditional confines of the classroom in ways that resemble science fiction novels of a decade or three ago. Information is readily accessible and new pathways for learning are available on demand and often for free. While this is potentially sending students into uncharted terrain, we again have a reason to return to the teacher as a guide.
The greatest benefit I see to the student is the democratization of learning that is being enabled by the technology today. The rise of MOOCs, even with their shortcomings, it providing access to college level content to anyone with the technology to access it — anyone have a phone on them? I’ve written and will continue to write that the ability for students to access and review learning material on demand is one of the great improvements to learning that technology has enabled. While the technology needed is actually not that revolutionary, the ability to review and review and review original lectures, examples and other learning materials is an incredible improvement for the process of both teaching and learning.
We will necessarily continue to shed the traditions of lecture-based education, experiment with new and emerging technology technology while at the same time refining our use of more tested technologies. As long as we remember that technology is a tool in the learning arsenal, it will serve us well in conjuring up new ways to enable and engrain learning experiences.