From 1969: Education's high-tech future

Computopia offers a Japanese view from 1969 about the high-tech world of 1989, including the classroom of the future. The teacher appears on a giant screen presenting a math problem while students work on their desktop computers. Students revise incorrect answers with a light pen until the computer says they’ve got it right.

For the purpose of maintaining order, the future classroom will come equipped with watchful robots that rap students on the head if they lose focus or act up.

Dream on, teachers of 2009.

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Comments

  1. It is funny although mostly in a rueful ‘what the heck went wrong?’ kind of way.

    Fact is, the history of the use of technology in education has been a long history of utter failure and not for want of trying or funding.

    Most of the excuses – you can hardly dignify the assessments with the word ‘reasons’ – for the failure of technology in education, when there’s been much of an effort to dig into to the reasons, have been self-referential if not distinctly self-aggrandizing.

    There’s a distinctly ‘Emperor’s new clothes’ effect in operation in which everyone studiously ignores the obvious until someone, in some very public setting where it’s impossible to ignore, notices what’s been waving in all our faces for so long.

  2. Allen, tell us what it is that went wrong!

  3. If education doesn’t matter then why should improving education matter? If professionals don’t benefit from incorporating efficiency or productivity improvements why should they?

    When education matters then improving education will matter.

  4. George Larson says:

    Education is important. We spend a lot of money on it.

    Lurking on this site I see we cannot agree on what works. There may not be a single solution for all students or even a single student over time and subject matter. We should have a good idea on what does not work.

    We need to accept that for some kids almost anything works. For others maybe nothing will work. We need to reduce this second category and experiment on the 3rd group.

    Automating a failing process does not improve anything. At best automation makes it cheaper and faster to fail.

  5. Sorry George, education isn’t important and yes, we do spend a lot of money on it.

    If education were important there would be penalties for professionals who aren’t very good at whatever bit of the educational world they’re responsible for and rewards for the professionals who excel in their particular area of expertise and responsibility. There are neither.

    So you tell me George, in what sense is education important if it merits neither rewards nor rebukes?

  6. George Larson says:

    allen

    “If education were important there would be penalties for professionals who aren’t very good at whatever bit of the educational world they’re responsible for and rewards for the professionals who excel in their particular area of expertise and responsibility. There are neither.”

    Excellent Point. Professionals have standards they have to meet. Teachers do not. Therefore they are not really professionals. A lot of people on this site would say their unions keep them from meeting professional standards. I would add the Schools of Education.

    I do not see the absence of professional teachers meeting professional standards as proving that education is not important. It means the unions and professional schools have captured and subverted the profession and labor laws and local and national politics keep the situation frozen.

    The reason this happens is that in most schools the situation is seen as tolerable. In urban districts where it is the worst there is not enough political muscle to change anything. Unions are too strong and the population does not really care. Maybe this is what you mean by education is not important.

    I cannot imagine people people rioting over the poor quality of their schools. Maybe they should.

    I should point out that Department of Defense Schools are unionized and have a good reputation. I think the children have better parents.

  7. I just want the robot.

  8. Don Bemont says:

    “I do not see the absence of professional teachers meeting professional standards as proving that education is not important. It means the unions and professional schools have captured and subverted the profession and labor laws and local and national politics keep the situation frozen.”

    George, if you taught in my hallway for a year, you would never say such a thing.

    I teach in a poorly functioning school in a poor community. Not every teacher does a great job, but, as a group, the teachers are the ONLY players who are pushing hard for quality education.

    Year after year, people who run the schools see standardized test results and graduation rates as sporting events to win at, in competition against similar schools, and anything goes to make those measures look good. Near-cheating is SOP, outright fraud frequent. Anyone who speaks out gets crucified. Teachers who don’t cut expectations and raise grades get punished.

    And, to be honest, a hundred home contacts about students attending poorly and not trying to learn will be lucky to yield five parental responses.

    Not so surprisingly, student motivation remains low, and many teachers lose their enthusiasm after a few years.

    The teachers union? I guess you can criticize them for not speaking out, but the cause of the problem? You have to be kidding — they are irrelevant, especially since the schools rarely try to discipline ineffective teachers, only outspoken ones.

    I am always stunned how completely the anger against poor education has been diverted away from the people who run public education.

  9. Sorry George but you’re confusing cause for effect although in this case it’s a forgivable mistake.

    We’ve got to go back to the days when the public education system was completing its political victory by becoming widely-accepted and widely-adopted. That’s to remind us that public education is the result of a political compromise and you know what Mark Twain had to say about people who love the law and sausage.

    So the public education system was the result of the confluence of interest of a number of constituencies some of which were bedfellows only due to that confluence of interest. The nascent union movement wanted to get rid of all that pesky competition from kids for jobs the union wanted to organize. A powerful group of factory-owners wanted to ensure that there’d be workers who could read, write and were comfortable with regimentation.

    There were the folks who opposed child labor on moral grounds and the anti-Catholic bigots who saw an opportunity to force what was then seen as a wealthy minority to foot the bill for the education the children of people outside their religion.

    All in all quite a political melange and something out of the common was to be expected.

    One item left out of that compromise was an institutional imperative that ensured education would be pursued by the resulting organizations. There’s nothing built into the public education system that’s analogous to the profit motive in the private sphere. Professionals and organizations, teacher, administrators, etc. don’t hang onto their jobs and schools and districts don’t survive or disappear based on how well they educated kids. However good or bad they are at educating, survival isn’t an issue. Education doesn’t matter.

    Notice, there’s nothing intrinsic to the institution to prevent an energetic and capable individual from making a mark. To prevent an excellent teacher from doing an excellent job of teaching or an excellent principal from running a very good school. There’s just nothing about public education that rewards that success.

    Under those conditions why would anyone exert themselves to develop a technology to improve upon the status quo? Even more important, why would anyone who is already a part of the system buy into such an improvement? Out of the goodness of their heart? Politics mandates that cardiac morality isn’t sufficient reason to cause widespread acceptance of a new idea.

    One thing you do have to get used to though as a public education heretic – being pointedly ignored. Where true believers can’t shut you up and have some modest claim on civility they are required to carefully ignore you.

  10. George Larson says:

    Don Bemont

    I don’t dispute what you wrote, but I do not understand how it undermines what I wrote. If a teacher’s union wanted professional accounable teachers why wouldn’t it be a collective bargaining issue to force on a reluctant management?

    “Near-cheating is SOP, outright fraud frequent. Anyone who speaks out gets crucified.”

    I think a teachers union could easily protect its whistle blowers or the union could contact the state’s attorney and the media for an investigation of the school district.

  11. George Larson says:

    allen

    I believe your point can be summed up with this sentence.

    “There’s just nothing about public education that rewards that success.”

    Isn’t this the definition of bureaucracy? I interpret this to mean the employees and managers are running the organization only for their own benefit. This is human nature. It is also the definition of unprofessional.

    I think I see your earlier point.

  12. Not quite.

    There’s nothing about public education that rewards *educational* success.

    Just because good teachers don’t get any recognition for their teaching skills doesn’t mean there’s no recognition of skills. It’s just that the skills that are recognized don’t have anything to do with educating kids.

    Grant-writing skills are rewarded as are public relations skills. Shielding the school board or the superintendent from embarrassment is a worthwhile skill as is providing opportunities for either to appear in a favorable light.

    That’s why edu-fads are popular and strongly-promoted.

    They provide an opportunity for the board and administration to display their commitment to being on the exciting, cutting edge with the attendant assumption that educational wonderfulness will follow even if the truth is that the fad currently sweeping through the schools turns out to be an abject failure and doesn’t make a lick of sense on the day it’s proposed.

    That’s why technology has never made a dent in public education. What would be the point?

  13. Don Bemont says:

    George, at least in New York State, the school district is not required to talk about educational issues during negotiations.

    When I was young and naive, I got involved in union activities for exactly that purpose, and a high percentage of the teachers supported me.

    Administration made clear that anything of the sort was non-negotiable, and, when I say non-negotiable, I don’t mean in the sense of pay: “No, we are offering a cut, not a raise” but in the sense of “The law says we don’t have to talk about that with you, and we will not.” I found a few school board members who were interested, but central administration totally refused.

  14. George Larson says:

    Don Bemont

    I suspected this would be your response. If the unions really had the lock on local politics like some claim the relevant law or the school board could be changed. It seems to me that making the difference a public issue would hurt management and the reelection chances of the school board that supported it. In this age of contracting media this might be difficult to do now.

    Your state and national union may also be in favor of keeping management responsible for school failure.

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