What Is the Promise of Educational Technology?

Guest post by Chris Lehmann

Since the early 1980s, K-12 schools have been enamored with the promise of educational technology. Computers were going to revolutionize education, and yet, I’d argue that the changes we’ve seen in school due to technological innovation lag far behind what we have seen in the rest of society. In many ways, education has proven to be powerfully resistant to the changes we have seen in every other sector of our world.

I’d argue it’s because, too often, we’ve tried to make technology use in school allow us to do what we’ve always done, only slightly more efficiently.

And that’s a shame. If the best we can imagine technological innovation in our schools to be is the next generation VCR and Scantron, then the failure of our vision is both great and terrible.

Smiling college students working on digital interface in university library

The promise of educational technology isn’t that it allows students to move through standardized content at an individualized pace. Nor is it that it allows schools to better monitor and track everything a student does or tries to learn in school. Nor is it that we can now export our lectures and consume them whenever and wherever we want.

The promise of educational technology is simply this—it allows the walls of our classrooms to become permeable membranes, where our students can now leverage these incredible tools to both bring the world into our classrooms and publish their ideas and thoughts into the world.

When we fully embrace a networked, technology-rich educational environment, we change the dynamics of our schools completely. No longer do students come to school to get the knowledge from an expert in the front of the room. Now, students can come to school because the experiences, ideas, and wisdom of their classrooms and their teachers can help students to synthesize the information they find from all over the world into a learning experience that we could not hope to define for them, but we, the educators, can instead co-create alongside them.

Why would we settle for anything else?

Chris Lehmann is the principal of the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, PA—which is being featured at Ignite ’16 in the School Showcase—and co-author of the recently released book Building Schools 2.0: How to Create the Schools We Need. Follow him on Twitter @chrislehmann.

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