It’s the difference between ‘Technology for Learning’ and ‘Technology in Learning’

Excerpt from our Exciting Learning eBook.

When I think about technology and life, I find it hard to think of examples where technology has not revolutionised or had a profound impact on what we do, how productive we are and even how we behave.

Some examples include:


Don’t misunderstand what I am saying here. There is still a place for going to the shops or the bank, playing outside and meeting people for a coffee. It’s just that sometimes technology helps us make the actual purpose of why we do these things easier.

Of course, there is one area of society where, in my opinion, we are yet to consistently see truly revolutionary transformation as a result of technology. This is sometimes illustrated well by the example first told by Dr Seymour Papert in the early 1990’s and has been re-told in various forms ever since.

“A mid-nineteenth-century surgeon is magically transported though time to a modern operating theatre. Once there, he finds himself completely at loss to know what to do or how to help. In contrast, a mid-nineteenth-century teacher is transported through the years to a modern classroom. Once there, he picks up seamlessly where his modern peer left off”.

As Facer (2011) explains, ’The implication of the narrative is clear; unlike medicine, the education community has failed to appropriate the technology advances of the contemporary world’.

The key here of course is not to flood a classroom with technology, as we know that, alone, this normally has very little impact on learning and teaching. What we need to do is modernise the classroom in the same way that we have modernised the operating theatre and other aspects of society over time. We need to make investments in technology for the right reasons and because there is a need. Rather than investments in technology because we think that it is the right thing to do. So, after keeping children safe, what is the number one thing that we are trying to do in our classrooms, schools and education systems?

Surely, we are trying to improve learning, because improving learning will deliver better outcomes and provide better life chances for children. Put simply, it’s the difference between ‘Technology for Learning’ and ‘Technology in Learning’. The learning must come first and the technology should be invisibly supporting what we do.

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