From Now On
|Vol 11|No 3|November/December|2001|
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These prescriptions are folly - an example of tools driving curriculum. Digital is automatically aligned with the notion of progress and improvement, even though history is littered with the wreckage of technologies that failed to please the public.
The dot.com phenomenon should serve as evidence that not all innovations lead to improved conditions, operations and results.
Smaller is better?
At one point I overheard an Apple rep brag at a conference that a small laptop offered a "full half screen."
Wanting to see "the big picture," participants often printed out the six pages of the diagram and then taped those pages together in a large mind map.
In some cases, the mind map sprouted a flock of yellow sticky notes.
Wisely, these teachers were supplementing the digital resources with print resources. The paper technologies proved superior to the digital in a number of respects. Viewability and flexibility were features of paper that were high on the list.
Since starting FNO Press four years ago, I have been astonished by the large number of books sold to educators who might find much of the same information and many of the same articles available for free online at FNO. Sales of these books will top 15,000 copies in 2001. There is something about a printed book that works very well for people even though many books can be downloaded as eBooks from the Web.
The Myth of Supercession
Paul Duguid explains in "Material Matters" - an essay contained in The Future of the Book - that many people foolishly assume that "complex new technologies will sweep aside their predecessors." Supercession, according to Duguid, is "the idea that each new technological type vanquishes or subsumes its predecessors: 'This will kill that.'" He provides examples of technologies such as hinges and pencils that have endured long past their predicted demises.
How does this relate to schools? Many technology cheerleaders promote new tools and digital schools without really knowing much about the consequences. In some cases, leaders call for laptops for all children in a school or grade or district or county or state as if such equipment will radically improve student learning.
It is actually possible to over equip a school, as the January issue of From Now On will explore. There are times when digital is inferior. There are times when laptops should be shared and times when they should be laid aside.
Credits: The photographs were shot by Jamie McKenzie.
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