What Part Does Technology have to Play in the Future of Education? (Part I)

The major theme of the Jean Piaget Society annual conference in June was Technology and Human Development. Since attending the conference, I have been part of several fascinating discussions that I would like to explore concerning the future advance of technology within education.

In his book Singularity, Ray Kurtzweil talks about how human beings are very linear in our capacity to think, develop, and learn, whereas we live in a world in which many things change exponentially. We are surrounded by non-linear processes such as population growth, global warming, the spread of disease, and especially technology. Technology is changing at an exponential rate meaning that not only is technology always changing but the “rate of change” of technology is always increasing as well. While our frame of reference concerning the change in technology seems to be linearly advancing, it is in fact changing at a much greater rate. For example, 100 years ago there were only 8,000 cars in the U.S. with 144 miles of paved roadways, and the average speed was 10 mph. Today, with exponential growth, there are over 254 million passenger cars in the U.S. with almost 4 million miles of road. While it might be hard to imagine, it is estimated that in another 10 years, driverless cars will dominate the roadways in some parts of the U.S. Another example, 100 years ago we were just beginning to understand how manned air flight might be integrated into our world. Now, we have a permanently manned space station and are planning to send a crew from Earth to Mars within a decade. I used to tell my students that we can’t imagine what technology will be like in 20 years. I now contend that we cannot imagine what technology will be like in 5-7 years. The rate of change of technology is just that fast. Maybe the best way to think about it is that it is hard to see a rate of change unless you step outside of the change and view it from a different point of view.

So, what does that mean for education? Can those of us in education anticipate this exponential change in technology to comprehend what it means for the future? Do we understand how technology and instant access to global information are changing how each of us think, learn, and come to know concepts, whether in school or outside of school? These are the questions that I banter around in my head on a daily basis and would like to explore within this blog space over the next few weeks. I do value your experience and opinion on this complex subject as well. So, as I present some of these ideas, please feel free to comment in the space provided below and let us start a dialog around the future of technology in education.


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