It’s not technology, it’s us

Weller and Reiser present a learning technology landscape littered with discarded machines and hopeful concepts.

For the past century, there has been much enthusiasm about the latest technology, which almost always is soon dampened by the challenges of applying that technology to learning.

Reiser describes Thomas Edison’s prediction that film would quickly become the primary media for delivering education. That never happened however Edison was right in many respects. Film has changed how we learn. A feature film can change the views of a nation (Apocalypse Now and the Vietnam War). A powerful documentary can bring about change in society. But as much as any teenager would like it, you can’t earn a high school credit by watching movies. The classroom model of learning has prevailed. Why is that? What learning elements were missing from film? Or conversely, what was missing from the education system to take full advantage of this technology?

Reiser also presents the disappointment of educational television. Again, shiny technology bursts on the scene with a bubble of optimism and imagination. Slowly, as expectations are not met, excitement fades. Weller describes the mixed results of integrating the computer in its various evolutions into the learning environment.

So what have I learned? I could be an unrealistic optimist, but this moment in education and technology is different. We are getting closer to success. Why? Because today’s online technology is pervasive. Moreover, it’s a push and pull medium, a two-way street. This robust interaction was largely missing in the past. The dialogue between instructor and learner online is now rivaling that of real time interaction. It’s connectivism. Something else is new: participatory learning. Web 2.0 allowed anyone to publish blogs, text, and video.

Here’s what I am learning: I am optimistic, just like the century of hopeful individuals who came before me. What I think needs to change is not the technology, but our inability to adapt our institutions of learning to the new technology.

One thought on “It’s not technology, it’s us

  1. Hi Jeff,

    Your observations have, IMHO, have neatly identified a key issue and a mitigating factor.

    “what was missing from the education system to take full advantage of this technology?” This is an excellent on point question and one I’d expect has been asked and repeated over the years.

    As you well noted, “that today’s online technology is pervasive” which is very important distinction between yesterday and today. Back in 1906 teaching machines were foreign to everyone that wasn’t within touching distance of the originator and therefore easily dismissed as a fanciful idea or more likely, entirely unheard of. Now the students that sit in today’s classrooms have an expectation of some technological implementation. Or, more accurately, expect the use of items as common to them as the shoes on their feet and the coffee in their hand. This will be the factor that ultimately drives the change. These students will become tomorrow’s teachers and bring with them all the things that they view as common place.

    So for this reason, I too would agree that we are poised on the precipice of a change. Social acceptance of entire programs using digital delivery of materials, assessments and the credentials conferred by these programs.

    As well, at a post secondary level, the acceptance of attendance in person by choice in a bricks and mortar delivery model. The realization that learners are taking responsibility for their own learning and becoming active learners not passive absorbers of data.

    Curious to know how you see the development of WEB 3.0 fitting into all this?

    Will this enhance or disrupt the coming digital learning era.


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