5 Ways Rapid Technology Change Impacts Education

5 Ways Rapid Technology Change Impacts Education

08/23/2012, Terry Heick

Rapid technology change is here to stay. No sense in trying to change the way the world works–at least when you’re messing with the wallets of major corporations.

But rather than simply business and consumer–or even ecological threats–this kind of change also introduces significant threats to education. There is likely very little that can be actively done to reduce these threats, as they are first economic issues. But we can begin to understand them better.

1. Increases need for persistent, informal “PD”

As technology advances at a blistering rate, the inertia of institutions of formal learning keeps them from being able to keep up.

Technology policies, teacher growth plans, and even department structures are impotent against this rate of change, and this degree of fragmentation. Yet academic standards and cultural expectation necessitate educators to be on top of their game, and on the cutting edge of all that is learning, not to mention all that is technology. This makes the curiosity and professional diligence of the educators themselves supplant notions of top-down professional development. 

2. Arms “fringe” adoption resistance 

The mess that is proliferation, fragmentation, and short shelf-life is only ammunition in the gun of naysayers that stand on the periphery–arms neatly folded across their chests–and refuse to adopt new technology. Of course, this argument is like not brushing your teeth in the morning because “they’re just going to get dirty again,” but no one said obstinacy is a thinking person’s game.

3. Swells adoption cost

And when there is indeed adoption in lieu of the pace and nature of change, it comes with increased cost–financial and intellectual.

While it is obvious that replacing obsolete software and hardware will cost money, it also creates a moving target for educators trying to implement what is, by its very nature, innovative and original. Educators are often required to be both first experts in learning, then fluent technology purveyors, pioneering early adopters, and finally master managers of the entire process for 100+ students per semester/year.

4. Emphasizes role of learner

If technology is always aging, is inconsistent across hardware generations (e.g., iPad  vs iPad 2 vs iPad 3), and comes in an always-dynamic range of forms, this has the natural effect of de-centering the technology itself.

If there were only Android tablets and all other technology ceased to exist, they’d become as ubiquitous as textbooks and paperclips. But as technology remains first consumer-based, its evolution and proliferation aren’t going to slow down. While a challenge and certainly frustrating, once one can get past the spectacle of it all it encourages a re-centering of the learner–and hopefully curriculum and assessment design that support that learner. As technology is always moving and elusive, any single platform can’t be fully “trusted”–and that’s okay. In this way, such rapid change can have the effect of de-emphasizing the technology itself. 

5. Exposes needs for new thinking habits

But for technology to become “de-emphasized” as it constantly morphs, educators will have to change their thinking habits. Avoiding jumping to conclusions, drawing erratic inferences on too little data, trumpeting biases, refusing to consider alternative solutions are just a few ways the humans behind the technology will have to change. Technology is first a personal and cultural construct no matter how objective educators try to be.

With all the revisions of hardware and software, there must be similar change in how those tools are implemented–which first necessitates an adjustment of our dogma and cognitive blind spots. Otherwise institutions fall into age-old patterns of being led by the same handful of thinkers–those in PLCs with the most charisma, those in administration with the most energy, those at the district or state level with the most influence.

With these broken thinking patterns at the infrastructure-level, the macro-level of education will remain relatively unaltered in lieu of constant shifting at the micro-level.

New technology deserves new thinking.

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