Technology in Education: Why Being a Luddite is No Longer an Option

On Twitter, educator Justin Tarte wrote about technology in education no longer being a luxury but a necessity. Larry and Laurie, the campus Luddites and technophobes will need to retire to make way for the new tech-savvy teachers of tomorrow. Technology will not be for the rich districts; it will be for everyone. Every school will have some form of 1:1 and all teachers and administrators will need to be able to adapt to changing software and technological tools in the future. Good teaching and good pedagogy will still be needed, but we are approaching the science of learning from a different place than when I began teaching. This is a great change.

Educational Fads

The following list are educational fads or trends that I have experienced personally—this list is certainly not exhaustive, and not all of these are poor ideas, but they represent a cross-section of annual emphases administration has pushed or ideas out there in the educational ether

  1. Competency-based learning
  2. Learning styles
  3. Multiple intelligences
  4. Detailed lesson plans
  5. Madelyn Hunter 7 step lessons
  6. Direct instruction without questions
  7. Socratic seminars
  8. Flexible seating
  9. Brain-based learning
  10. Plain/empty/non-decorated classrooms
  11. Classroom decorations as teacher/class personality
  12. Class walls as only for student work
  13. STEM and/or STEAM
  14. Performance-based assessment
  15. Authentic assessment
  16. Formative and summative assessments
  17. Data-driven instruction (using both standardized tests and data from own class)
  18. IEP for every student
  19. Individualized learning
  20. Personalized learning
  21. Blended learning
  22. Online learning
  23. No homework philosophy
  24. Homework is necessary to teach responsibility
  25. Guided practice and independent practice
  26. Cooperative learning
  27. Creative conflict
  28. Grades should be used as behavior modifiers
  29. Grades should be only used to measure learning, not modify behavior
  30. Course and unit materials stored in an online tool (never to be looked at again)
  31. Standardized test flavor of the month/year/decade
  32. No Child Left Behind (NCLAB)
  33. Every student Succeeds Act (ESSA)
  34. Educational technology
  35. Computerized learning
  36. Program improvement school
  37. Various school funding initiatives
  38. Common Core
  39. Writing across the curriculum
  40. Response to intervention
  41. Amazing lists of acronyms

While some of these are clearly pseudoscience and others are repackaged academic puffery, there is one thing that has seemingly remained a constant in my career—technology. That is one trend that is not going away. As part of my teaching induction program in 1986, I had to write a computer program in Apple Basic computer language. In 1995, I wrote for and received a technology grant for $5,000 from the State of Indiana. I was able to purchase a computer, a printer, and a few peripherals. In 1998-99, I received a fellowship to teach at the Indiana Academy for Science, Mathematics, and Humanities, a school that was an early pioneer of distance learning using the internet and broadcast facilities. Both there and in years following, I learned about educational technology and shared my knowledge with others at teaching conferences as well as serving as technology mentor at multiple high schools and informally on social networks.

We can go back to the idea of automated learning machines of B.F. Skinner. Or the reading machine that I used in middle school in the 1970s to measure my reading speed by automatically changing the text on the screen. Science fiction has promoted technology as learning tool from Star Trek: The Next Generation both in the 1701-D ship classroom and the training programs on the holodeck. Star Trek 2009 gave us the Vulcan School’s Learning Pods with a verbal and haptic computer interface encompassing the entire child for learning any subject.

Perhaps the most invasive illustration was in The Matrix, in which Neo learns entire fighting styles within moments by having the information downloaded directly into his brain. “I know Kung Fu.”

Those who are paying attention to the changes in educational technology will see the focus on skills presented by ISTE, the International Society for Technology in Education, with skills and standards for both students and teachers.

ISTE Standards for Students
ISTE Standards for Teachers

Each iteration of technology to assist teachers is advancing at a speed so quickly, it is challenging, if not impossible, to keep up unless one is no longer in the classroom. There are the naysayers who did not experience much in the way of technology use in either their training or in their own personal educational experiences. “Look, a pencil is technology” they will assert. Perhaps it was in the 1800s, but no longer. Cutting edge technology is no longer an overhead projector, a 16mm film projector, a VCR, or even a laptop computer. Technology is seemingly limited only by the minds that learn about it.

We can do education, that is the teaching and learning, so much better. Smarter technology allows us to help our students learn more effectively, though differently than we did as children. As educator George Couros (author of The Innovator’s Mindset) has asserted many times, “technology won’t replace teachers. . .but teachers who use technology will probably replace teachers who do not.”


About the Author

Chuck has been teaching psychology and many other subjects since the 1980s. He currently teaches AP Psychology, Psychology, Sociology, and World History at Mountain House High School in Mountain House, CA. Chuck serves on the APA/TOPSS Board and is lead author of the new review book, Psychology: Preparing for the Advanced Placement Psychology Exam by Perfection Learning. He is also co-creator and moderator of the Teaching High School Psychology blog. Outside of school, Chuck enjoys reading, hiking, and feline care.
  • hngjohnson

    That the above list of fads is so long is also indicative of foundational issues that yet remain unresolved. The introduction of technology will not solve such an issue. While Chuck Schallhorn’s analysis is very likely correct, the introduction and integration of technology into teaching is inevitably going to occur, but how it occurs is important. Large sums of money are being invested in Education Technology and the surest way to earn a return on investment is to enact some form of the uberization of education. If we don’t get this right, that fad list will only grow while the actual resources available for education may very well be degraded.