Has technology really improved education over the last 15 years? That is the question explored in The Economist this week in a piece called “Catching on at last”. While technology in the early 2000’s promised to solve all problems in the classroom, anyone who has been in school in the last two decades knows that putting on a video about global warming or letting kids play Oregon Trail does not enrich learning very much.
But technology is changing. Software now exists that can tailor information to each child, so that they learn at the appropriate speed. Wikis, Podcasts and Youtube have allowed everyone to access information that might have otherwise been unavailable. And while 60 Minutes and other news programs have always featured stories about novel charter schools using new techniques to increase test scores, it now appears that access to online learning platforms like Kahn Academy can replicate these success stores with far fewer resources and at many more schools. Big organizations are spending billions betting that that the “gamification” of education will prove successful both for students and investors.
But not everyone is happy. Teachers unions are scared that technology will replace them or at least hold teachers more accountable for the performance of their students. Some are worried that all of the data collected on students might be used improperly. Ultimately, I believe that “ed-tech” is critical. Any new technology, whether it be an online lesson planning app, a brain-boosting chewing gum, or a Youtube video that enables students to learn more effectively is a step in the right direction and should be widely embraced.