A Cautionary Note on Educational Technology

One of the biggest problems in modern education is the widespread belief that educational technology is going to solve all our problems. This is not a new phenomenon, with every new wave of technology (radio, television, video discs, personal computers, CD-ROMs, laptops, the web, and now smartphones and tablets) there has been hype about how everything in education will change.

This video illustrates the waves of technology change:

Please note the design of the classrooms in the pictures used in this video.

In fact, the predominant educational experience has not changed significantly with each wave. The lecture still dominates as the main educational method and the multiple-choice test as a main assessment method.

An excellent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education illustrates this point:
Lectures Still Dominate Science and Math Teaching, Sometimes Hampering Student Success

This quote illustrates the thrust of this article:

“Using a curve separates students’ performance from the grades they receive. It is part of a general pattern often seen in STEM courses, say several experts, in which rote tasks obscure the subject matter’s underlying concepts, and tests and laboratory activities are disconnected from authentic scientific practice.”

Technology does have the power to change, but only if we change our methods as well.
There is a famous Einstein quote “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. Educational insanity might be doing the same thing over and over again with a different technology and expecting different results.

There is a sense we are finally seeing a push to change methods of education and not just the technology. This may bring a new reality to the educational market. In the commercial world, companies that have not been able to adapt to new realities (e.g. Kodak, Circuit City, Borders) have fallen by the wayside. Educational institutions may not be immune to the same thing happening to them.

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