Bill Gates recently shocked a lot of people when he told a room full of educational technology entrepreneurs at the ASU GSV conference in San Diego that educational technology hasn’t really improved student learning. This was a blockbuster confession from the man behind Microsoft. While Gates said he still thought technology could be a difference-maker in schooling, his words offered a stark reality check for those hyping technology-infused innovation.
In truth, Gates’s observation should not have surprised anyone who has been paying attention. After all, technology has long been offered as the miraculous balm that will transform and improve teaching and learning. Enthusiasts have said this about iPads, laptops, the Internet, desktop computers, videotapes, televisions, the radio . . . and even chalkboards, if you go back far enough. With each new advance, schools spend heavily on nifty new gizmos, make grand promises, and get enthusiastic reviews. And then, each time, nothing much changes.
Unfortunately, most technology in schooling has involved haphazard attempts to slather new devices across classrooms, with little vision of how or why these will make a difference.
Learning is human; it’s one-to-one. It means those with knowledge, with the experience of learning, speaking with friends and young people. In some cases (many, maybe) it can mean the dead speaking to the living. That said, Fraser Speirs seems like someone applying technology in an intentional and focused way.