This quote is the perfect place to dive in:
“Educators are confronted with a new medium for public instruction whose magnificent possibilities daze them, but whose technical and psychological peculiarities they do not yet fully understand.”
At first glance, you may assume that the authors were referring to the digital Pandora Box of the internet. In actual fact, the quote is from 1935, the authors (Cantril & Allport, The Psychology of Radio, 1935) were writing about the groundbreaking communications technology of the time: radio. The quote is contained in The First Wave: The Beginnings of Radio in Canadian Distance Education by George Buck.
So we are not the first generation to struggle with the challenge of applying technology as a teaching tool. The potential is obvious. Technology stretches across time and space to create a means of communication more far-reaching and long-lasting than speech or conversation. It’s been happening for thousands of years. Our knowledge of the dialogues of Plato is fully dependent upon the existence of the technology of the time, the written word. But could Plato have foreseen the millennia of impact his ideas and words would have thanks wholly to the ability of technology to bring them to an audience far beyond that of ancient Greece?
Plato’s writings were part of the first wave of technology-enhanced learning: print. Radio was at the vanguard of the second wave of distance technology learning: electronic communication. Large countries with scattered populations like Canada and Australia were early adopters of this new radio technology for learning. Radio could overcome time and space to connect learners across vast spaces.
In Canada, the earliest educational radio programs were produced in the 1920s for passengers riding on the Canadian National Railway. Passengers would gather in the parlour car, don headphones and listen to broadcasts on subjects such as opera appreciation. Fast forward to today, and we can observe passengers on commuter trains listening to educational podcasts they’ve downloaded. Perhaps some are learning about Plato. The “magnificent possibilities” are being realized.