Phillip Capper, Linda May Fitzgerald, Ward Weldon and Ken Wilson
The word 'technology' casts a long shadow over the world. However, it is a word that is being grossly misused. For most people it has come to mean machines, especially the electronic machines of computing and telecommunications. In this chapter we use the word in the wider sense of anything that humans use in order to manipulate or transform their environment to achieve their goals. Technology in this sense is the handmaiden of cognition. Learning, the business of schools, is about equipping each of us to function effectively in our environment. As such, schools are a technology for learning and should be optimised in this light rather than in the light of what has served our needs in the past. The demands upon teachers and the implications for teacher education that follow from this proposition provide the focus of this chapter. However, before turning our attention to these matters, we look at the concept of the school as a technology and how that concept can help us answer questions regarding the present-day purpose of schools.
Given that all technologies change, both as the environment changes and as human knowledge expands, why is it that the school has proved so robust and stable a technology for over 200 years? Is it remarkably adaptive? Is it that our understandings of learning and teaching have developed so little that there has been no new knowledge to apply? Or is it that a school is a technology in which inertial forces resist change even when it is indicated? The history of our schools encapsulates elements of all three answers.
Prussia established the organisation and structure of the modern school in the second half of the eighteenth century. The driving force behind this development was the belief of the Prussian military leaders that military dominance lay in having a literate army. The crucial needs that underpinned their curriculum therefore were literacy and disciplined obedience. When the Industrial Revolution workplace created a wider need for a literate and disciplined population, the Prussian school technology lay easily to hand, and universal primary education spread throughout the industrial world. It has remained essentially unchanged to the present--the military instructors of