Technological evolution, not revolution.

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.

This entry was posted in Learning, Nature of Learning, Nature of technology and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Technological evolution, not revolution.

  1. Interesting thought applying Piaget’s stages of development theory to explain technological advancement. Does Piaget’s stages apply to group learning in the connectivist social construction context? It probably does to some extent. This is what makes Sugata Mitra’s hole in the wall experiments and the latest deployment of OLPC via air drop so interesting. Its been observed that third world countries can skip stages in technological advancement but to what degree? When a child in a remote jungle village who has never seen an automobile or a calculator suddenly comes across a tablet pc what will the response be?

    And what about non-digital social technologies? School is a technology but somehow alternative learning options are only socially acceptable and credential worthy if they resemble school. If you could skip the technological stage in a culture/society where formal education is necessary what will that society look like? Is it even possible?


    • jerridkruse says:

      Thanks. You raise some important questions that no one has the answer to. I wonder how a future in which formal education is not necessary might actually resemble aspects of our past.


  2. Naniinge says:

    Thanks. i have few questions to raise.
    what are the most important ways modern technology can improve education?
    what are the modern educational technology to assist teaching?


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