Why isn’t the future what it used to be? part 2

I ran across an interesting article, which relates to my previous post about how tecnology in education rarely meets the expectations of those who see its potential for improving teaching and learning. The authors draw upon the Technology I, II and III framework for describing technologists’ attitudes and beliefs about achieving desired results in learning. The framework can be described as follows:

  • Technology I: the belief that using certain tools will inherently lead to better learning. The problem with this belief is that the complexitites of human learning can rarely, if ever, be addressed wholely through a single tool, or even a collection of tools.
  • Technology II: the belief that using certain design approaches or processes will automatically lead to better instruction, thus increased learning. The problem with this belief is that every learner’s brain does not operate in the same way, and the complexity of learning environments will invariably disrupt any systematically designed instruction. Having been the designer of instruction for several years, I know from experience that the best laid plans are at the mercy of hundreds of environmental factors which the instructor may or may not be able to anticipate or control.
  • Technology III: the belief that learning situations should define which technologies and design processes to use. Practitioners who ascribe to this belief are likely to embrace many design approaches and use a variety of tools. The problem with this belief is that it’s hard to maintain due to what the authors describe as technological gravity. Given time, even the most rigorous and thoughtful Technology III practitioners will slip back into patterns of preferring one tool or design approach over others, regardless of their compatibility with the task at hand. I mean, some days we just feel like standing in front of the class and lecturing from slides.

The authors propose three “habits of mind” that, if one is disciplined enough to actually do them, will fight off technological gravity. I won’t go into those three disciplines right now, but they are worth considering and may work.

I’ve read countless articles which start off by recounting the unfulfilled promises of educational technology. I even had a section in my dissertation on this very topic, describing the prophesies of educational film, radio, television, computer-based instruction and the Internet, and their failure to deliver the goods. Just as in sports and movies, hype surrounding educational technologies is rarely lived up to. New innovations are commonly seen as a solution before we even really know what the problem is. What if the innovation causes even more problems than previously existed? Boy, talk about disappointment! Educational technology should address pre-addressed problems or goals.

The Technology III mindset is practical, and I don’t think it’s hard to achieve. Just be flexible and don’t put too much faith in one tool or approach to teaching. Pretty simple.