I've noticed a lot of talk about using technology to teach. Not just teaching the technology as a goal of its own but actually using technology to teach better. I think the first thing I noticed recently was Pat Phillip's call for stories about using technology to teach computer science at the CSTA Blog. Pat's looking for CS teachers to share ways in which they use technology to make what they do better, easier or more successful.
The Economist magazine weighed in with a debate on their web pages. They decided that technology does help education. Or as they put it:
This house REJECTS the proposition that "The continuing introduction of new technologies and new media adds little to the quality of most education".
I dare say that the debate is not over everywhere though. I posted some links to videos that use Tablet PCs in education the other day. They ideas sound very good. Are they making a big difference though? That's an open question.
The issue of technology and education is not just in the classroom though. At Educause last week the issue came up in regards to managing the business of education. The question asked was:
“Do you see IT as a means of reducing costs, or is it itself just an additional cost that drives up tuition?”
“I think technology has created the greatest productivity improvement in history over the past 20 years across every segment of our society — except in education.”
I worry that the education field is often too slow, perhaps even too fearful, to really use technology. We're afraid of change. All too often we hesitate to spend time and money getting and really learning to use technology because both resources are in such short supply. We wait for someone else to try things, test things and then document the success. The External Research & Programs group at Microsoft Research has been funding some experimental projects (Take a look at their site under Supported Projects for some examples) and that is a help I'm sure.
Part of the problem though is that when the efforts that do work are reported back the people who need to hear about them most are not their to hear them. The people who show up to conferences are largely the ones most willing to take chances and try things. They just need a little encouragement to get going. The curriculum directors, school board members, administrators and most classroom teachers just are not hearing about the success.
I'm not sure what the answer is to getting more people to try things and more people to hear about what is actually working but I do believe it is an important thing to work on.