Technology Is Polarizing Education

Our technology has allowed us to keep track of every child, their test scores, their grades, their life choices and their mistakes. We can track every individual with such great detail, and then use this data to make grand decisions about the structure of our educational system.

Because of this ability to consistently scrutinize children, standards are becoming more and more strict. Standards are as important as they are today because we have the technology to use them. The technology allows us to universally impose expectations on schools and students, so we do. We can compare schools side by side, children side by side, with a click of a few keys, so we do. We have the technology to know everything that everyone is doing from the minute they are put into day care all the way through college, so we keep track of that. We want to look at those numbers, because they are there. And the mere action of looking at those numbers makes us want to make those numbers more to our liking. Since we have access to the numbers, that’s what we want to change.

Technology is making our educational system more focused on the numbers and less on the individual (unless that individual is not producing the right numbers).

All the way on the other end of the spectrum, technology has provided us with free access to information. All information. Not just information that schools and the goverment and society wants us to see. But any kind of information. We can all connect to each other and reach out to others who have a wide range of views and find out how other cultures’ perspective on the subjects we once thought we had a firm grasp on. With the internet, new library systems and cheaper video technology, we can learn about pretty much any topic, and all perspectives on that topic, with a few keystrokes – and for free.

On the one hand, technology has decreased our freedom of individuality by dramatically increasing our capacity to scrutinize schools and student records. On the other hand, technolgy has increased our freedom of individuality by allowing us access to any and all information without the filter of a teacher.

We are polarized between wanting to feel secure by being shown which parts of the information universe are the most important, and wanting to be who we are as individuals by being allowed to search and decide for ourselves among all the available information out there. The polarity is between control and freedom. With each technological advancement, the distance between the two widens.

Charter schools and other alternative educational options try to find a middle ground between the two. But as the two polar ends get farther and farther apart, it’s going to be hard to maintain both the polarity and the middle ground.

Something’s gonna break. When that thing breaks, that’s when the status quo is gonna change. Which direction it will go, I don’t know. It depends; are we ready to be free? Or are we still too scared, as a culture, to venture out on our own (or in other words, to trust our fellow man to be capable of that)?

Technology is still on the upswing. Technology has moved forward faster than our cultural maturity. It may take a while for us to catch up. If we can just be patient, and not blow ourselves up in the process, technology will be our gateway to an educational revolution.

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One Response to “Technology Is Polarizing Education”

  1. JoVE Says:

    Good points, but you missed one. The technology used to measure standards is not that sophisticated. So it only measures things that are easy to quantify and compare. Then those things gain in importance because they are measured and things that are hard to measure and compare on a grand scale diminish in importance. Well, except that some of us think those difficult-to-measure things are more important.

    Also, many of those “standards” were based on averages. But then the idea came that ALL children should acheive at a certian level, demonstrating a fundamental misunderstanding of the concept of “average”.

    In addition to this in-built contradiction (which could indeed lead to change), I would also like to see more people campaigning against the ways that “standards” are being defined and measured.


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