Technology and education is a funny topic. On the one hand technological innovation in education holds out the promise of helping students learn better and teachers teach better. Improving the productivity of teachers in particular I think is key to addressing long-term educational budget issues in Howard County and elsewhere.

On the other hand, there’s probably been more hype, blather, and outright b******t associated with technology in education than most other subjects. Every new technological innovation with some sort of educational application, from television to social networks, gets hailed as the one true path to revolutionizing education. (For example, I just got the latest issue of Wired magazine, in which a Stanford professor claims that Internet-enabled online learning will lead to there being only ten institutions in the world delivering higher education–all the rest having succumbed to the gale force winds of creative destruction.)

Technologists and entrepreneurs can be the worst offenders here, even more so than politicians, since they typically know much more about technology and business than they do about education. For those folks Audrey Watters, spurred on by Greg Wilson (whom I know from my Mozilla days), has created the “Audrey Test,” or more plainly, “what every techie should know about education.” The first part of it (the “yes/no questions”) is pretty specific to ed-tech entrepreneurs, but the rest of it (the “essay questions”) I think applies to anyone who’s ever been tempted to expound on the topic of technology in education, or on education in general for that matter.

It would be interesting to see how well our various Board of Education candidates would do on this test. Is anyone out there up for the challenge?

Corey Andrews ( - 2012-03-19 19:39

I’m not someone who hails the use of technology… textbooks still get the job done. But I would surely take up the challenge.

hecker - 2012-03-19 22:45

Corey, thanks for stopping by. I too am somewhat of a technology skeptic, having experienced the “hype cycle” from the vendor side (and working in a sales group). It’s interesting you mentioned textbooks. I think the key disruption there is not going to be replacing paper textbooks with electronic textbooks on iPads or whatever, it’s going to be replacing high-cost proprietary textbooks with low-cost freely-available textbooks that have equivalent quality (including alignment with Common Core standards) but can be distributed via print-on-demand for $5 or so a (paper) copy. See my recent blog post in which I referenced the Utah Open Textbook Initiative, which is doing just that. I think it’s worth looking at for potentially significant cost savings when replacing current textbooks (as opposed to just stretching out the replacement cycle from 8 to 9 years, as proposed in the FY2013 budget).

LisaBMrsS - 2012-03-20 00:19

Frank, the Open Textbook Initiative is a very interesting idea. I hope you share it with the Board of Ed via email or public budget hearing testimony.