Learning must come before technology

One of the easiest things to lose sight of in education is the original target you were trying to achieve. What are we trying to teach them, and how best should this be done? There are many reasons why this becomes marginalised: we assume it is obvious; inspectoral demands replace our objectives with visible metrics of success; life gets in the way.

This frequently happens in the field of tech integration in education. We ask how this device or that app can improve educational outcomes, but too infrequently ask why we are using it in the first place. The correct question we should hold uppermost is always: what problem or challenge do I face, and what do I need to address or overcome it? The question should never be ‘How do I use Minecraft or Instagram in the classroom?’ but ‘What do I need in order to improve learning outcomes, and what might I use to achieve this?’ And technology can of course be part of that conversation. But the learning must come first before the technology, not the other way around.

We need to learn from the mistakes of the past: the disastrous iPad fiasco of Los Angeles in 2013; the mournful array of often unused IWBs sitting lonely and unloved in hundreds of thousands of classrooms, for example. We need to stop being blinded by the promises of tech zealots that technology will transform the classroom without substantiation. We need to stop looking for magic bullets that too often turn out to be magic beans. And when teachers resist this platform or that, instead of blaming teachers, perhaps we can ask why they don’t want to use it.

Only a fool would deny the possibility for technology to revolutionise many aspects of education, as it has most other fields of human endeavour. But we need to be as honest of the challenges as we are enthusiastic about the opportunities. At the moment, we need a few more Cassandras and a few less Pollyannas. Once we get that balance right, we can start to have a mature conversation about meeting needs, fitting budgets and making the world a better place.

So 2017, bring – I beg you – a more sober approach to tech integration: research aimed at testing efficacy and utility before another mass roll out; claims proportionate to evidenced outcomes; careful consideration of where and when tech can improve matters, and when it merely obfuscates and dazzles.


Author: Tom Bennett is the Founder and Director of researchED. He also an author and Behaviour Advisor to the Department for Education
@tombennett71  |   http://behaviourguru.blogspot.co.uk/  |   ResearchED

One thought on “Learning must come before technology

  1. smith says:

    very well said..

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