Position: Let’s get beyond the emphasis on ‘technology’ in reforming education.

The question is not what technologies will be used, but what sits behind it.

In underdeveloped countries, in the poorest neighborhoods and slums of the world, it is still about the actual technology, about getting equipment and connectivity to the student. But in the US, we are largely beyond that now. If we are using the word technology to imply everything electronic, well them maybe. But technology is still mostly a vehicle for content, and content has to fit into the proper context.

Gartner Research, a global authority on information technology trends, implies it’s not about the technology at any level. In commerce, the focus has shifted from the device to the service. That we have personal computers, cell phones, or even the Internet of things; technology itself, especially in the context of the classroom, cannot remain all the buzz. Today it’s about continuity of access and the equitable creation and distribution of content. It’s about services, productivity, and self-facilitation. Teachers and administrators, one would hope, are no longer focused in the devices and technical metrics – computers per school, computers per student – but are intently focused on the interactions these devices will support and the algorithms being used to collect and analyze data. Given that, maybe we should be saying it’s all about the math.

Clayton Christensen, in Disrupting Class, predicts that by 2024, 80% of classes will be flipped. Content streaming from online sources will form the lessons, and teachers will be in a new role, freed up to give more individualized attention. We will also be turning to each other in facilitated networks where we will help each other learn.

The question is not what technology will be used, but where the content is going to come from. That issue will be explored again and again in this series, but the first thing to realize is that it cannot, and should not, all come from the providers who feed the system today. They will own much of the future but intellectual cliques have also proven limiting. Let’s all build content. May the best ideas prevail.

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