When I was asked to write about good uses of technology in education…
Nick Kind

As an educator in an elementary school, I agree with your assessment. Since it has begun to appear in schools, there has always been this sense that technology was going to ‘do’ something. At first it was the devices themselves, and then it became the software, or the internet, or the app. Teachers became passive and in most computer ‘labs’ the devices were set up so that students faced away from the teacher and only at one specific device — in actual fact making it almost impossible to teach and creating an environment that quietly reinforced this idea that the computer was there to do the work, and the role of the teacher was about control (making sure they weren’t doing something they weren’t by looking over their shoulders). We even gave kids headphones, increasing this isolation from the teacher and from peers!

The best that we could get out of such labs was limited data around literacy and numeracy — information that I dare to add, we could get just as easily and with far more depth when we actually worked with students. However, our systems seem to like the fact that gold stars and levels and other elements of software were measurable and somewhat scalable. You could point at your lab and talk about how it was improving skills. Totally bogus, but it was what the printouts said.

Very little has changed since these early days, at least in terms of improving practice or transforming education for students. What is most distressing to me is that what was bad about technology when it was first introduced in schools seems to be getting even worse. As Graham and others have pointed out, we seem to be going down a road where standardization and AI are making teachers even more passive when it comes to technology, and systems even more addicted to the ‘hard data’ that it produces.

Personally, I think the way forward has to be a re-thinking and re-imagining of teacher education. Technology will not transform education — people will, and we need to develop the professionals capable of doing the work. It is my contention that we won’t doing what we are currently doing.

Your article came at a really helpful time for me as I am writing about what we can do to change professional development for existing teachers and how to better develop teacher education for those who want to enter the profession. I appreciate your thoughts — thanks for sharing.

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