How can technology help us fix education?

I have been invited to speak tomorrow on an education panel at the state-spnosored Colorado IT Summit through a pleasant coincidence of connections, and think that the convergence of information technology and education, particularly K-12 education, is a darn interesting and critically important topic.
Here are the two questions I’ll be asked by the moderator during my portion of the panel:

  • From your recent experience, what’s an example or two of current technologies or methodologies that measurably improve educational results?
  • The U.S. is most innovative county in the world and yet we rank poorly against other developed countries in educational performance. In your mind how can we harness that culture of innovation to improve the U.S. ranking in educational performance?

What are your thoughts on these two topics?

I have definite opinions on the value – and cost – of technology in the classroom and when “Net Day” was such a big event, I even wrote, but didn’t publish, a bit of a screed about how wiring classrooms for the Internet was a colossal waste of time and completely avoided the real problems that our children face in trying to get a solid education in our massive, unwieldy public educational system.
You might not know this, but I have a Masters Degree in Educational Computing from Purdue and spent years in the top-rated Purdue School of Education, even guest-lecturing once or twice to undergraduate education students, the young people who have become the teachers of today and will be the teachers of tomorrow too.
And y’know what?
It was shocking to see how computer illiterate they were.
Sure, they could use Microsoft Word and probably manage basic Google searches (alright, when I went to grad school Google was still a gleam in Sergie’s eye) but their grasp of the implications of technology and its ability to help or hinder the basic educational process, or, heck, even just have computers integrated into a lesson plan, was non-existent.
But that’s another story. Meanwhile, I’d love to hear your thoughts about the two questions I’m going to be asked tomorrow…

One comment on “How can technology help us fix education?

  1. Oops, I’m a day late checking my RSS feeds, so I’m sure you’ve given your talk already. FWIW, I was going through school when computers were just being introduced. I recall LOGO on Apple II’s in elementary, and in high school we had some PC/XT’s in a computer lab for programming plus some Macs for writing papers on. Only thing they were networked to was a printer. The experiments I saw with “multimedia learning” in late high school were a complete waste of time.
    On question #2, I think our educational performance is hosed partly because America is the “most innovative county in the world.” We keep jacking with things when they’re not broken, in the name of innovation. Often learning is as simple as parking your butt and reading or having something explained to you by a teacher, then experimenting with it yourself. The path towards literacy, for example, necessarily includes a ton of reading and writing. A computer won’t help — it’ll just distract, and putting it on the internet will totally destroy any efforts toward real learning.

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