Technology in Education: Looking toward 2020

By Raymond S. Nickerson; Philip P. Zodhiates | Go to book overview

making learning more efficient and thereby open up the possibility that individual students may master several domains of knowledge, after all.

It may seem that these descriptions border on the utopian. Indeed, in a time of unprecedented demands on finite financial resources, they may not be readily implemented. Yet to my mind, the chief obstacles are not ones of resources, but rather ones of will.

It should be possible today to make significant strides toward an individual-centered school. We already know a good deal about the range of human intelligences. Unobtrusive methods, such as the use of checklists, can provide at least a rough-and-ready assessment of individual cognitive profiles. Good teachers-- and, in particular, teachers of special education--have already developed ways of teaching that are targeted to different kinds of student learners; it should be possible to assemble this information and make it far more widely available. Booklets of community resources already exist in many places and their preparation (and conversion into data bases) would be worthwhile summer projects for students in those communities where they do not exist. Finally, the concepts involved in this way of thinking are already intuitively familiar (and congenial) to many teachers and should not arouse undue opposition.

Rather, to my mind, the chief obstacles to the adoption of this approach come from prevalent attitudes within certain powerful pockets of contemporary American education. Ignoring the many lines of evidence reviewed in this chapter, most educational decision makers have committed themselves to an evaluation of education, and of educational progress, in terms of the most simplistic unidimensional metrics. This mentality leads to the publication of scores--scholastic aptitude tests, standardized achievement tests, etc.--in the newspapers, and the concomitant evaluation of students, teachers, principals, superintendents, districts, and entire states and nations in terms of their distance from the mean. Of course, as has often been pointed out, it is possible for everyone to come out ahead at this game--simply by appropriate statistical manipulations--and, in the meantime, the issues of what education is, and what it can be, are ignored.

No single educational approach can provide all the answers, and an individualcentered approach, even if fully adopted, would doubtless have its weaknesses as well. At least, however, this tack grows out of a view that recognizes diverse forms of intelligence, diverse types of knowledge, and diverse styles of learning. It is pluralistic, in the best sense of that term. How welcome it would be if technology--which is so often condemned for it inhumanity--could be mobilized to help insure that each individual achieves his or her full intellectual potential.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

For their helpful comments I wish to thank Joseph Walters and the members of the 2020 Panel. The research described herein was supported in part by the Markle Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Spencer Foundation.

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