Technology in Education: Looking toward 2020

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

CONCLUSION

Ent between the story of the new instructional technology and several older tales has been one theme in this chapter. One is a tale of hope recurrent: Like many earlier innovations, microcomputers have crystallized an exciting vision of schools in which teaching will be challenging, learning will be playful, and creative thinking will be abundant. Another is a story of hopes dashed: Earlier innovations were not used, or, when they were used, instruction did not improve as expected. Still other stories seek to explain these persistently unhappy endings. I have tried to sketch some outlines of a few of these older stories, in hope of relating current efforts to those already forgotten.

A second theme has been the importance of the social organization of instruction to instructional innovation. I sketched an analysis of this organization that distinguished between an instructional core that accommodates most students in a relatively homogeneous, batch-processing instructional format, and an increasingly differentiated set of marginal entitities oriented to various special curricula, teachers, and students. I noted that the differences between core and margins include organizational, historical, and curricular features. And I argued that this organization mediates between innovative policies and programs on the one hand, and the instruction that is worked out between teachers and students on the other.

This organization might therefore be viewed as a net, through which innovations are filtered, or as a medium in which they must subsist. But in either case, my account points to some features of practice that will be salient to the adoption and use of innovations (such as the mental structure of content, formats of instruction, and working definitions of purpose). It also suggests some features of innovations that may affect their adoption and use (such as whether they define a specialized clientele and curriculum, and how flexible they are). And it has some implications for understanding patterns in the adoption and use of innovations. Contrary to many reformers' dreams about the revolutionary effects of very adaptable instructional media and machines, the most flexible innovations have piled up very impressive records of large, lasting, and relatively inflexible use. One reason for this perverse result is that the more flexible the instructional technology, the more easily it can be adapted to the instructional organization of the core. Another reason is that public education lacks strong incentives for innovations that enhance productivity; this gives organizational considerations even more influence than they have in market-oriented firms.

A third theme has concerned the instructional value that many advocates of the new technology press, and the place of those values in the social organization of teaching and learning. I associated these values with what I termed inquiry-oriented instruction. Even before Dewey began writing, academic reformers had sought to replace traditional conceptions of knowledge and instruction with more student-centered, constructivist approaches. Partisans of these reforms more or less naturally turn their attention to schools to imple-

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