Last week was the first week of fall semester. It’s a busy time for me, and every moment counts. There is so much to do to launch four classes and begin a new doctoral course.
Day two, my computer got a virus which shut it down completely. Being the first week of school, the help desk wizards were swamped. I went from Tuesday to late Thursday without a computer — no email, no blog, no Twitter, no Facebook, no student records, no Blackboard, no nothing. It was painful.
But it was also instructive. We are totally dependent on computer and internet technology to do anything anymore.
In reading today about the history of technology and learning, I was struck by the praise once heaped on a technology that would revolutionize education. This technological breakthrough was touted as the greatest system to contribute to learning and science ever invented. The wording was from 1841, and the “system” was the blackboard. That’s the chalk blackboard, not the computer-based Blackboard.
Education has suffered through many such “breakthroughs” that were believed to be capable of transforming education. Among these are:
- Audiovisuals using projectors, made less effective by expensive, high-maintenance equipment in the early days plus poor quality and variety of films.
- Radio, which was simpler than film, but lack of equipment limited diffusion of the medium.
- Television, loudly and fervently hailed as the greatest innovation to improve education, but didn’t.
When new technologies did not gain wide acceptance and live up to their hype, teachers were frequently blamed as being unwilling to adopt the technology or merely incompetent.
But computers are different. They work in education. Computers are by far the most effective teaching and learning machines ever to be tried in a classroom. But to be truly effective, computers must be used effectively by knowledgeable and dedicated teachers.
Add to that computers and computer systems with adequate virus prevention and correction.