Standing at the crossroads

Not quite on the road to Damascus, but perhaps taking a look at the signpost!

As a long time supporter of the benefits of technology in education I feel that the current trends are making me more concerned about its use. My concern is this: what I see is not technology being developed to meet the learning needs of students, but the learning needs being changed to meet the capabilities of the technology both in terms of the delivery and testing.

Changes to curricula, particularly at the primary level, to turn learning into a number of more discrete components, more suited to computerised delivery and diagnostic seem to be the order of the day. It may well be that this is the best way for the curriculum to go (although I am one of many who remain to be convinced of that) but it is perhaps convenient that it should happen at just the same time that technology reaches a point where it is able to provide such support.

I’m not one who thinks that the only reason technology hasn’t thus far transformed technology is that teachers, generally, are not up to using it correctly. The primary reason is that education has been taking technology designed for one purpose (supporting the needs of industry) and has tried to subvert it into use in an educational setting.

The disappointment is this. We have finally reached the stage of technology development where devices and the apps that drive them are becoming more personal. They are also becoming more classroom friendly in that they are less cumbersome, with day long batteries. They are less prone to hissy fits and quicker to get working. The technology is less intrusive. It is not just the devices that are getting better but the software infrastructure, where local input/output is backed by massive cloud based processing system essentially enable you to hold a supercomputer in your hand. Think about what Google Goggles is doing and consider how that infrastructure could be used to advantage education, if left in the hands of teachers.

All these changes would have led to improved technology support for education as providers and educators learnt how to implement this infrastructure. This has now been curtailed as we change the curriculum to meet the needs of the technology, whilst some seek to replace the teacher with it.

We need to have higher expectations of technology and not accept what it can currently give us as the best that it could do.