The technology of teaching

March 7, 2008 at 2:49 pm 5 comments

Learning looks set to undergo a big change as novel technologies make it into the classroom, says Bill Thompson.

Children taking exams, BBC

New technology in schools could radically change what gets taught

When Conservative Prime Minister Harold MacMillan was asked what was most likely to cause problems for governments he famously replied “events, dear boy, events”.

Coping with the completely unexpected, the sort of thing that simply cannot be anticipated, is a skill in itself and one that all politicians have to develop if they are to stay in power.

Often, however, apparently unpredictable events were in fact only unobserved, and the things that threw a government off course managed to do so only through a lack of planning or awareness.

Author: BBC News, Technology, 3rd March 2008

Full article available here.


Entry filed under: ICT, Interaction, Learning, Pedagogy, Social Impact, Trends. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. sanjay mehra  |  March 8, 2008 at 5:51 am

    so there is a problem. I just dont see this article as providing a solution or solutions. Ofcourse there is bound to be issues like learning grammer or not in the age of sms, learning tables in an age of lookup. But what is the solution and at what age do you stop rote learning and start teaching the process of using technology to find the answers. And in the end who is creating the information if everyone is only looking it up somewhere or the other.

  • 2. hughvic  |  March 9, 2008 at 2:28 am

    I agree, and please indulge my American English. In the U.S., several states are, rather quietly, coming to grips with the sheer obsolescence of the structure of the school system. To understand what I mean by that, please consider health care for a moment. Health care is a service, yes? A service requiring delivery, and so a service with a delivery system.

    Well, same with education. It’s a service delivered systematically, and the system of delivery is obsolete. American states such as California no longer can afford the physical plants—the schools—as they were conceived mid-century. At that time, U.S. high schools were to be “comprehensive”—“the People’s colleges”. California has seven million students crammed into overcrowded, worn out and even seismically unsafe school campuses. The State is afraid to tell the taxpayers how far it has fallen behind in unmet floorspace need for schools: some 400 million square feet, or approximately $40 billion USD. And that’s just California!

    So this BBC yarn—which to me reads like a soothing 1950s Sci-Fi bedtime story for a public still scared by Sputnik—actually envisions a dystopian future, unawares. It’s a future in which, for California, the world’s most expensively bad education system, a system that is grossly counterproductive and far beyond affordability, is made still more unaffordable by the impulse to gold-plate secondary schools that already have climbed out of the realm of cost-affordability in lockstep to their neverending and necessarily accelerating mandate to remain “comprehensive”. It’s an injuriously irrational delivery system to which the BBC would have us add the insult of blue-sky technological wizardry.

    The ludicrous aspect of the design charette described in this story is that it was doomed from the start because it was predicated on the assumption that legitimate learning has a delimited precinct, the classroom. Someone who truly understands the implications of the new information technologies would grasp that their application is not to be construed in archaic, architectonic metaphors such as “the classroom”. Classrooms are artifacts, in the true anthropological sense: they still exist among us, but are in disuse, and obsolescent.

    If the BBC wish to sell us anew on flying cars and space vacations and the like, they should write another article—this one about how the new technologies are making learning more continuous, affordable and location-independent. Then the follow-up piece might discuss how this development calls for a reinvention of the roles of professional educators.

  • 3. Brett S. Taylor  |  March 9, 2008 at 7:07 pm

    Technology that teaches is one thing. Motivation and personal presence is another.

    There needs to be a new wave of technologically sophisticated curriculum that (a) diagnoses deficiencies, (b) provides instruction requiring responses by the user, and (c) provides immediate feedback to the user and customizes further reinforcement needed.

    As for motivation, the curriculum can, with some effort and skill be fun for the user. Check the times table learning video game by Ben Harrison ( ).
    But teachers are needed who care and have the ability to interact effectively with the learner to motivate them, How else can this be done but in a brick and mortar school?


  • 4. Alexandra Matthews  |  March 10, 2008 at 10:05 pm

    Brett pointed out an educational game called Timez Attack by Big Brainz. I came across the game recently on along with other interesting and varied forms of digital game-based learning.

    Have a look at my post on it HERE.

  • 5. hughvic  |  March 11, 2008 at 2:10 am

    I’m sorry. This is going to be blunt, and I do hate to be boorish this way, but this discussion, these distinctions—all of it—was hashed out fifteen years ago, and the technologies discussed by the BBC are already old news.

    I can’t think of how to explain without being inexcusably pedantic, but it would help considerably, I believe, were one not to construe the magnetic and digital media in metaphorical terms drawn from our experience with the conventional school system. Distance learning, for example, does not constitute an “online classroom”, educational workstations are not digital “teachers”, and nor are laptops and handhelds to be likened to textbooks. For that matter, it no longer helps to explain automobiles by calling them “horseless carriages”. While it is an epistemological precept that things must be defined in terms better known, nonetheless when something is new, it’s new.

    I didn’t mean to diminish the preeminent importance of educators—not one bit. Nor would I suggest that there is a substitute for a clean, safe, dry and warm place wherein very young educands can be kept in line of sight of qualified educators. Not at all. But the new technologies—and most especially this very multimedium—are sending school campuses the way of the Main Branch bank.

    And although it certainly does sound counterintuitive, great efficiencies will be garnered—far more accomplished with significantly fewer resources—by the sheer duplication, to a certain degree of ubiquity, of points and modes of educational service delivery. Again, consider what has become of retail banking.

    For what it’s worth, I’m closer to a Luddite than to a techie.


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The purpose of this blog is to provide insight into the impact of computer games and pop culture, and effective ways of incorporating the positive surplus into learning experiences.

Please feel free to add comments and email me with any queries. I am also interested in relevant project collaboration.

Name: Alexandra Matthews
Location: UK

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