Can Education Keep Up With Tech World?

In an opinion piece for CNN, a “security technologist” asks “Can laws keep up with tech world?’. If you accept Betteridge’s law of headlines, the answer of course is no. But the relationship between the legal and technical is certainly far more complex than a binary response anyway.

Traditionally, new technologies were adopted slowly over decades. There was time for people to figure them out, and for their social repercussions to percolate through society. Legislatures and courts had time to figure out rules for these technologies and how they should integrate into the existing legal structures.

That’s just not true anymore. A new technology can go from zero to a hundred million users in a year or less. That’s just too fast for the political or legal process. By the time they’re asked to make rules, these technologies are well-entrenched in society.

Much of what he’s saying, including the original question, could very well apply to technology in education. In their time movies, radio, television, video tape, even computers were new technologies that had some impact on the classroom. But these technologies worked their way into society over years and decades, giving schools plenty of time to figure out how each innovation fit into their instructional model.

As with the legal structures, that’s just not true anymore in education.

In less than a decade, we find large numbers of students (if not a majority of them) coming to school with powerful communications devices in their pockets, devices can connect them to most of the world’s knowledge, both the good and bad. Those new technologies that rapidly go from “zero to a hundred million users” are often through the classroom door before teachers have even heard of them.

As much as school administrators would like, the solution is not to slow down the entry of technology into the learning process so we can carefully design new research, craft new policies, and edit curriculum. Educators do not have that kind of control anymore. It’s also far too late to try banning the tech from the learning process.

Even if we did have the time, there’s really no way force these new technologies to fit into our traditional instructional model, not even with special “walled garden”, “EDU” versions. That teacher-controlled delivery of information, paired with curriculum-approved context doesn’t work anymore, no matter how hard we work to graft technology into it. Our traditional system is not one that will prepare students for a world “moving too fast for the political and legal process”.

So, regardless of Betteridge’s law, the answer to the title question of this post is certainly no. Which means we need reconsider what part schools play in that current tech world, and how we can help students learn to successfully adapt in the world of whatever comes next.

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