In his recent blog post on Harmonizing Learning and Education, Michael Feldstein takes up a set of issues related to, well, the differences between learning and education. He pivots off a similar post by Dave Cormier on our failure to take learning seriously by delving into some recent data on the relationships between caring about learning/being excited by learning and “being a high-performer in your job, and being a happy, fulfilled and economically well-off person.”
In the middle of the piece, Feldstein turns his attention to educational technology, which is the focus of much of his writing. Given his larger discussion on engagement, caring, and the clear and strong connections to teachers and teaching, what should we do with all this educational technology? Does it hurt or help?
Feldstein’s answer, as we might expect, is “it depends.” He writes, “obviously, anything that helps teachers and advisers connect with students, students connect with each other, or students connect with their passions is good.” But he goes on:
The core problem with our education system isn’t the technology or even the companies. It’s how we deform teaching and learning in the name of accountability in education. Corporate interests amplify this problem greatly because they sell to it, thus reinforcing it. But they are not where the problem begins. It begins when we say, “Yes, of course we want the students to love to learn, but we need to cover the material.”
The question to ask of educational technologies, then, is do they support great teaching and facilitate student learning? Or do they amplify the problems caused by ineffective teaching, test-driven curricula, and the phenomena of sitting students in front of computers to quiz their way through the day?
Just as importantly, are those making and selling educational technologies “selling magic?” That is, are they pushing a magic box that by itself makes teachers better and students smarter?
Great education is a function of great teaching: engaging, caring, and exciting.
Harmonizing Learning and Education, by Michael Feldstein