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.