As much as people want to believe in the revolutionary power of technology, technology advance more closely resembles evolution than revolution because new technology is developed in light of previous technologies (McArthur, 2007). Usually, new technologies are simply a recombination of older technologies. Because new technology reflects previous technologies, educators should carefully consider the past. That is, in what ways do new technologies simply reflect past approaches to education?
Not all developed technologies are adopted on a wide scale. What technologies are adopted is likely of greater consequence than what technologies are developed. As new ideas are more likely to be learned if they fit within existing mental frameworks (Piaget, 1970; Posner et al., 1982), new technologies are adopted if they fit reasonably well into and existing framework. For example, consider why the interactive whiteboard makes so much sense to many educators. The chalkboard, the overhead projector, the whiteboard, PowerPoint and the interactive whiteboard are all intricately related. One wonders if the interactive whiteboard would have ever been developed had the chalkboard not been so widely used. More curiously, one wonders if lecture-based instruction might be less pervasive had none of these technologies been developed. By not recognizing how technology evolves and why new technologies are adopted, educators miss the ways in which new technologies often reinforce ineffective teaching strategies and further add to the institutional momentum that prevents systemic change in education.
This post is from a paper I recently presented at the Association for Science Teacher Educators. For the full paper and citations, click here.