It was in the early 60ies that a University first experimented with using computers to teach kids maths, according to Wikipedia.
That was 50 years ago. That’s half a century!
If technology could really revolutionize education it has had plenty of time to do so.
According to technologists, the problem is that schools simply aren’t exposed enough to it to work its magic.
Only when every kindergarten child has an iPad will we know for sure!
We might be terribly wrong.
1. U.S. Education-Statistics Are Down
The biggest players in the computer industry are from the United States.
And it’s not just Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook or Twitter. Also, most of the more well-known start-ups in the education sector are built and based in the U.S.
While all of that speaks in favor of American Entrepreneurialism, one would think that if there’s any country in the world that would show the fruits of technology in education, then the U.S. should be it.
The over-all exposure to and acceptance of technology is relatively high. Online learning courses are an official part of many American Universities and study programs.
Unfortunately, if you take a look at the numbers, education is not sky-rocketing in America, at all.
Here’s a statistic from the Broad Foundation
Here’s another one:
“Since 1971 , educational spending in the U.S. has grown from $4,300 to $9,000 per student. But reading and math scores have flatlined.”
According to a study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development “the U.S. placed 25th out of 30 countries in math performance and 21st in science performance.”
Will replacing textbooks with iPads really create a magical shift or result in the same picture of spending with no change?
2. Feeding Off The Need for A Major Paradigm Shift With Toys
The problems of education systems in the U.S. and many European countries are far from simple.
As I’ve discussed here one of the problems is that our schools are run like factories. That worked for the Industrial Age but doesn’t work for our times, anymore.
It has been said many times that our education systems need to be updated.
But just buying expensive gadgetry and transferring timetables to the Internet is not enough.
It’s not even close to enough.
It’s a bad joke, in fact, like dressing a steam-locomotive up like a bullet-train while leaving its innards untouched and then expecting it go 200 miles per hour.
Sure, it seems almost impossible to change the established structures of the “old system”.
Maybe it is. But putting all the money on the tech-horse won’t change the fact that we need more than toys.
3. Compartmentalization instead of Communication
Have you ever wondered what made Isaac Newton such a genius?
He was not just a physicist and outstanding mathematician but also a nature philosopher, theologian and ..yes…alchemist.
What about Einstein, the father of modern physics?
He was not a science-nerd, either but wrote more than 150 non-scientific publications, as well.
How many physicians and chemists that are in University today will graduate well-versed in literature, theology, philosophy and the arts?
Put differently: Why should they?
Furthermore, trying to measure competitiveness of national education, statistics generally look at the subjects of science and basic reading and calculating skills.
Rarely is there a study that ranks countries based on their knowledge of French literature, Anthropology or even Social Studies.
Mostly, it’s hard sciences like physics, chemistry, engineering, etc.
They are “competitive”. In other words: They can easily be turned into money and political fame.
Don’t believe me? Look at the highest paying degrees. All of them are hard-science related. And the lowest-paying ones are mostly education-related.
Now, back again to Newton: Everyone knows that he was a genius.
But maybe what made him so smart is that he wasn’t just being a left-brained nerd exclusively but engaged his mind in a broad variety of different topics?
It would be an understatement to say that the nerd of today has become culturally accepted. He/she has become a cultural phenomenon!
If you’re as terribly good with numbers as you are bad with people, you can even be proud of this disability and join a Silicon-Valley startup.
And while that may work as a business-strategy, education should not be about developing a one-track mind, or should it?
NOTE: I am saying all of this being someone who teaches online full-time using VoIP and whiteboard technology after having been dissatisfied with brick & mortar education. The point here is not to discredit the use of technology in classrooms and education but to encourage educators to go beyond mere technology-driven paradigms and focus on content and communication instead.