In the 1940s bowling alleys introduced the overhead projector.  It was a remarkable innovation. Next to the automated pin spotters, this projection system  helped popularize the sport of bowling.bowlingpin But this blog entry isn’t about bowling. It is about how quickly, or slowly, educators adopts  technology, because it wasn’t until the 1960s that these first overhead projectors showed up in the classrooms of America. That’s 20 years for the math challenged among you. What took so long? Didn’t anybody see the application beyond the Pine City Lanes bowlers?

The easy answer is a lack of money. Adding unproven technology to school district’s budgets wouldn’t have had many advocates.  But the real answer, I think, is two-fold:

1. It has to do with our willingness to change. And change can be a slipper concept to grasp. If I’m using an video projector and document camera in my classroom, but using this technology  with the same instructional model I used pre-technology, is that really change?

Here’s another example. In 1994, the Bethel School District passed a $3.5 million bond for technology. I walked every inch of each building to help determine where network drops (wall ports) would be in each room.  As it turned out, the ports ended up being place where it was either physically the easiest to install or where the teacher wanted the port based on how she taught pre-technology without any consideration for how technology might best  be used. Back then we talked about not letting technology be the dog wagging the tail. Boy, did we have that wrong!

2. Secondly, with the introduction of educational technology, a knee-jerk response is often “this looks like more work to me. I already have enough to do.”  What doesn’t always get addressed is how will technology change what I do or what am I going to stop doing. And this might be the bigger stumbling block if, as an educator, you identify with a specific set of behaviors that you are not comfortable changing. What happens all too often is trying to mold technology to fit what’s comfortable not what’s appropriate.

Which brings us to the crux of the issue: What exactly are the basic assumptions about education that we can all agree on that should be part of any educational experience? Once we’ve answered that question, we can build from there instead of building on all the existing structures that currently exist in public schools that may not be needed in a technological future. Do we need whole group instruction 95% of the time? Are desks and chairs lined up in rows appropriate in a Web-based world? Why have schools open five days a week for 6 hours a day? Why are we not educating most children during the summer? Do we need classrooms or buildings to house those being educated? If we value the importance of a face to face interaction as part of an educational experience, how might that be facilitated as part of a technological world?

If we can answer those questions and free ourselves from the shackles of erroneous assumptions about what education has to be, we’re well on our way to shaping a new educational model and we’ll all be bowled over by how quickly it might happen.