wasting bandwidth since 1999

That’s Certainly Debatable

The Economist, one of those specialties magazines I’ve seen but never read, is currently holding a series of three debates dealing with education topics on their web site .

The first proposition being discussed deals with one of the issues regularly ranted about around here.

The continuing introduction of new technologies and new media adds little to the quality of most education.

The last time I checked the voting was split 55% to 45% against that statement.

However, at the risk of losing my edtech geek license, I have to come down on the pro side.

We have been introducing new technologies into the classroom for years now (decades?). Have we really seen any substantial increase in the quality of teaching and learning as a result?

As to “new media”, there isn’t enough of it (whatever “it” is) being used in American classrooms to know how it might affect things.

But the bottom line in this debate is that new technologies and media will add little to education unless we are willing to make some major changes to the whole institution.

To take full advantage of the power that comes with these tools, we need to start by dumping the traditional structures of our current schooling process.

And that a whole ‘nuther debate.

Incidentally, the next debate topic at the Economist will be “National Competitiveness – Should countries compete to attract qualified students regardless of nationality and residence?”, which doesn’t really apply for those of us in K-12 education.

The final question will be “Social Networking – Does it bring positive change to education?”. Now, that should be a lively argument.

instructional technology, economist, debate


  1. Tom

    I’ll second that. Technology is lazy and never has done any work on its own. It’s always people.

    Education (specifically public education) is running scared while putting up a brave front when it come to this stuff. On one side “we love 21st century skills etc.” but we’re going to block anything that might show a nipple or possibly allows a student to share the impolite words they learned from their parents or prime time television. God forbid they engage in “unauthorized communication” (exactly what I heard described today by a co-worker in the hushed tones you’d use to talk about a serial killer).

    At some point I believe hypocrisy, fringe groups and fear will stop driving the bus. I just hope that happens sooner rather than later.


    -I apologize for this unusually rant-y comment

  2. markds

    Magnetized blackboards were “new” technology at one point. I’m sure there were some teachers who didn’t want them in their rooms at the time. “Students with metal on them will stick to the board and disrupt class!”

    Now we are at a point in history in which students with no technology exposure at all would be at a rather stunning disadvantage when they arrived at college.

  3. Darren Draper

    Interesting post, Tim. Thank you for sharing.

    In response to your final paragraph, I’m left wondering why social networking must be such a controversial topic in education. It seems to me that those that criticize the educational value of social networking simply don’t understand it very well. Besides, isn’t that what school really is – a social place for people to network together?

    Take the Classroom 2.0 social network, for example. Is it not obvious that a tremendous amount of learning is taking place there as teachers interact with other teachers from around the world?

    For what it’s worth,

    Darren Draper

  4. Tim

    Tom, you are welcome to rant around here any day. :-)

    And I share your hope that we will quickly get past the paranoia that seems to be driving the use (or non-use) of the net in our schools.

  5. Tim

    Darren, I agree that school should be a center of social networking. Unfortunately, that’s not what I see in most of the classrooms I visit. Especially in high school, students are strongly discouraged from sharing anything, especially what they’ve learned (we call that “cheating”).

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