Monday, 23 January 2012

Technology and the Development of Teaching

As Seymour Papert inquired in 'The Children's Machine' (1993), if using a time machine and you were to bring a group of teachers and a group of surgeons from 100 years past into present time, how would they fair at their craft?
The surgeons would probably have a hard time adapting to the new tools and techniques used in hospital theatres today, but despite the new technologies in today's classrooms, the teachers would probably find it easier to adapt and teach nearly as effectively as teachers do now (apart from getting overwhelmed with the increase in unruly, undisciplined, knife-wielding kids).

If this were they case, Papert asks, then why? Why has medicine developed far more than education? Is it because the ways we used a century ago were the best ways to teach? Is it because the pressure to improve surgical methods has been greater than for education? Or maybe the success of new medical procedures are far more quantitative and obvious than a new teaching technique.

Possibly for medicine in many ways, the tools have dictated the techniques. New technologies have directly influenced how a medical professional works on their patients; from making diagnoses easier to making incitions smaller. In schools however, the influx of technology has only recently been making a direct effect on teaching methods.

This, I expect, is due mostly to how the technology is packaged. Desktop computers have been in most classrooms for nearly a decade, but its only until the screens could be projected onto whiteboards did the power really be injected into every lesson. Now with the new wave of tablets, the technology is not hindering the learning experience but complementing it.

The development of technology:

The fast development of technology is most certainly a double edged sword. In one sense it is greatly enabling;  the stuff only realised by science fiction authors a short time ago is entering our homes (and classrooms), providing us with media and services in ever more convenient and fast ways. But on the other hand, the speed of progress makes everything around it seem dated as quickly as version 2.0 comes out.

Look at any physics textbook thats 5 years old, and apart from the omission of Pluto you will most likely see very little difference between that and a book published yesterday. Do the same with a book on ICT and you would have a hard time following it. Despite a PC now having very simliar tools to one 5 years ago, the volatility of software has caused those to be changed and updated beyond recognition.

Therefore, learning resources associated with such technologies must be built so they utilise technology rather than rely on it. Rather, the learning resources must be backed up by a skill-set, methods rather than specific tools should be the backbone of this work.

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