Will Technology Fix Education?

techclassroomThere are a lot of problems with the educational system, as many will acknowledge.  However, not everything is wrong, and we can definitely do a lot to help it out with technology.  But is is going to be like putting a band-aid on a gaping wound?  It’s hard to say.  It greatly depends on how the technology is harnessed by teachers and school systems.

In this excerpt I found from an article, it’s strongly thought that technology is not a “fix” per se, but merely a tool that can (and has to be) properly used in order to be of much use.

“There’s not going to be any technology fix for education,” says Seymour Papert. “Change,” he says, “has to start with a new perspective on education. Our present system is fundamentally wrong. It’s out of date> it’s obsolete. Technology can help us to think in a bolder way about alternative education, but [there are] still too many people thinking only about how to use technology within the present system. They’re treating the symptoms while the patient is dying.”

According to Papert, educational technology will fulfill its potential only as fundamental changes occur in schooling over the long term. In that regard, he believes that there are several significant developments to look forward to in the coming decade. “First,” he says, “the computer is going to be established as an integral part of learning in the ’90s.” This, he says, will help to “create an atmosphere in which really radical and novel ideas can be born.”

In grappling with the fundamental issues of teaching and learning, Papert and his colleagues at the Media Lab are experimenting with a number of new educational uses of technology. One exciting project involves the development of robotic kits that allow children to build computer intelligence into a robot. (Most existing kits require the robot to be attached to a standard computer.) The Media Lab has already developed a matchbook-size computer, equivalent in power to an Apple II, that resides within a LEGO brick. This onboard computer, which will run Logo, has the potential to extend the power and flexibility of products such as LogoWriter and LEGO TC Logo, creating an even richer set of construction elements.

Papert and his colleagues are also working on a post-Logo programming language. “Current programming languages,” he says, “still reflect the basic programming structures of the ’60s and ’70s. In the ’90s we’ll need to develop programming structures that can take advantage of advanced hardware.” One practical example, says Papert, is multiprocessing: “Multiprocessing is important because it makes it easy for children to work interactively with several objects at once.” Researchers at the Media Lab are working on a post-Logo prototype in which a child can have 1,000 different turtles, each simultaneously running a different program. Such a language allows a user to program a colony of ants, for example, with each ant programmed to interact with many other programmable objects.

Unfortunately, such languages require more sophisticated hardware than that currently found in schools. But Papert is optimistic that machines with the power of today’s Macintosh IIs and high-end IBM PS/2s will become widely affordable to schools within the next two to three years.

In addition to hardware and software development, Papert is very interested in “empowering teachers to be bold enough to think about and be open to change. We can’t create a new education without people who will do it,” he claims. He sees his group’s projects not so much as products that will change schools, but as ideas that will help “change the minds of enough teachers to begin a movement that will ultimately change education.”