Let’s Be Honest: Education Technology Has Been Underwhelming So Far

Education Technology Has Been Underwhelming So Far

by Terry Heick

At one point, email seemed like magic.

And here we are, nearly 30 years after its inception, still watching the magic act but numb to what it’s done to communication.

It’s hard not to take technology for granted–especially digital technology, a field that makes a spectacle of itself by design–tolerance levels and all. It always takes more.

Technology developers are almost always businesses first and foremost. This implies a need for marketing, demographics, branding, and so on–knowing your audience, and selling them something that they know they need. This requires a bit of illusion, allusion, slight of hand, and posturing on behalf of companies–#edtech developers, for example–to make their products seem indispensable, and “indistinguishable from magic.”

And this is part of what makes giant leaps forward difficult. There is so much inertia–both in our collective infrastructure, and in our thinking–that clean-sheet design seems impossible. Like crazy talk. Technology connects almost everything. That’s something that will take generations to internalize.

The problem–or a problem–for #edtech companies is one of scale. Digital platforms like apps, learning management systems, MOOCs, and so on–can’t resist “scaling.” Anything digital that doesn’t “scale” is considered broken. It’s mass appeal or bust.

This leaves little room for vision and paradigm-shifting thought because new thinking has to visibly connect with existing thought and practice. So what we’re left with instead is iteration. Simpler messaging. Easier sharing. More streamlined skills practice. Learn to read, learn your times tables, learn the capitals and the flags and maybe another language and coding and good gracious.

A lot of bursting fireworks, but very few huge leaps forward. Today’s younger generation is abandoning email en masse. For what? Less robust tools like texting and facebook messaging.

The irony.

Education technology cannot be a synecdoche for teaching. To transform learning, technology will have to embed itself inside of communities, curriculum, classrooms, schools, books, and everything else and shred it from the inside out in such a way that we can’t put it back together again.

Not in service of a company or to streamline an existing need, but to haunt us with possibility.

When We’ll Know If Education Technology Is Working; When We’ll Know If #edtech Is Working