How Technology Will Destroy Our Future

Post Katrina School Bus Destroyed

For the last two summers I was able to study in Geneva for 3 weeks with some amazing people from around the world. Truth be told, many were from Michigan, which is a fantastic place to be when it comes to education, despite news of our budget problems and crippling unemployment. This summer was a chance for many of my fellow graduate students to have a discussion about the convergence of education, web 2.0, and the foundations of democracy. We talked with NGOs, United Nations representatives, and were even privileged to talk with a family from France that had just formed a new NGO dedicated to engaging the youth of France, and ultimately Europe, to become productive members of society.

Apparently, the unemployment rate of people under 30 in Europe is appallingly high, and growing. The problem is, many youth in Europe, and ever-growing in the States, feel disenfranchised, disconnected, and unable to contribute to society. I’m still considered young, and I see evidence everyday of baby boomers and older generations with nervous or apprehensive outlooks of the future. They concern themselves with cultivating new leaders that will carry on what they’ve started, while still trying to preserve what they’ve been toiling away at for the last 30 or 40 years. I’ve talked with people that profess their pessimistic views of the future of our country, and the world. I’ve seen veteran educators that try to stay relevant, only to slip away at the end of the year, in a quick and quiet announcement of retirement.

And in a way, I share their anxiety. Several decades of established protocol, decorum, rules and regulations built upon year after year can often create fortresses of impenetrability around institutions. The older the institution, the closer they are to feeling like a forbidding castle on a high sea cliff with vast armies protecting their domains. And technology is here to destroy that.

With a few keystrokes and mouse clicks, entire media empires can be overturned, national politics can be swayed, and historically close-minded institutions can be undermined. Several large educational (and some old) institutions have found ways to thrive in this new digital revolution. MIT has been wildly popular with their OpenCourseWare in iTunes U. Most large universities and colleges in the U.S. now require laptops of their incoming freshmen, and you can earn an entire degree online. And yet, there are still cases where schools still want to defend their domain from the “evils” of the Internet.

The truth is, technology isn’t going to destroy our future, it’s destroying the clear roadmap for the future that the past has traditionally provided us, or rather the notion of what used to be “good” teaching. Case in point, an excellent blog post from John Sowash describes a wonderfully amazing trans-formative experience he’s had with technology in his classroom. Rather than rely on the old model of direct instruction and lecturing to teach his high school Biology courses, he has managed to successfully “flip” his classroom through reverse instruction. By providing lectures via video podcasts, John assigns his students “homework” of downloading, watching/listening the lecture while taking careful notes. His classtime is then filled with what would normally be homework and individual instructional time.

By leveraging the ability to post the least effective form of instruction for students to digest on their own, he has made his class time with them much more valuable, by working through direct application of learning and exercises that are greatly enhanced by having the teacher present. That means no more as students giving up at home when they might have hit a roadblock doing homework.

This is just the tip of the ice-berg. I know a great deal of educators doing tremendously amazing things with technology, and there are more coming into the school systems each year. The future of education as we know it is crashing down upon us, as it is currently being rewritten each and every week. Walls are crumbling, barricades are failing, and the educational experiences of our past, which built the massive lumbering towers of our educational landscape will begin to look more like the spindly legs of a small step stool. Not sturdy enough for any practical job, but good to enough to get us started with the real work of making education truly trans-formative.

Image: ‘Post-Katrina School Bus’


  1. Great post! I agree that the educational realm of yesteryear is almost gone, now replaced with all the technological frills that can be mustered. For those who claim that technology is our downfall, I say boo, hiss!

    Technology used properly, will undoubtedly help us to achieve our goals. There are so many opportunities within the educational realm that never existed before. I think back to when I only taught in the classroom, and the limited amount of students I could teach. Now, I teach online and it is wonderful. I still have as much contact with my students as I ever did, I just don’t have to drive in the bad weather!

    1. i agree that technology is improving upon the ways that educators can teach. Students seem more engaged with using technology for knowledge than reading the textbook.

  2. Ben,
    You made some valid points. I am currently in graduate school for instructional technology to enhance my current level of instruction in my classroom. I am a third grade teacher in New Jersey who sees this change in the age of teaching with a transformation to meet 21st century skills, incorporating a great deal of technology. Each year as a teacher I am introduced to more and more technology to enhance the curriculum and prepare my students for the future. Instead of writing friendly letters, we are introducing students on how to write emails appropriately. Also, I am using a starboard (like a smartboard) to increase the level of note-taking to include visuals and real world examples via google.

    Now that I am in graduate school, I am becoming more familiar with podcasts, wikis and blogs. I am now awakened to know that wikis, blogs and podcasts are innovative ways towards teaching that facilitate powerful changes in pedagogy and content. What John Sowash has done to maximize classtime with his effective use of podcasts is genius. He is giving the students the one on one differentiated instruction as well as maximizing his time for application of skills.

    In connection to the global shift towards increased technology, it is amazing to think I am attaining my Masters degree online. I still feel completely connected as if I am in an actual classroom due to the discussion board posts, images, videos and sound recordings provided. We have collaborative discussions and I am gaining insights on a more global level rather than from within my own current district or a neighboring district.

    In closing, I appreciate the support towards continuing my trend towards technology within my classroom. I hope to spread this interest to others within my school in order to prepare students for the real-world! Thanks again and great post!

    1. What isn’t necessarily transparent from John’s experience is that it takes a LOT of time to do what he’s done. Imagine taking one lesson that you teach, say a 30 minute math lesson, and turning that into a video-lecture. Obviously, for younger students that might not be practical, but imagine taking the time to record and edit it. That’s more than the 30 minutes it takes to do in class.

      Then add to that the fact that you’re creating a lecture video for multiple lessons throughout the day. John is one of those teachers that is willing and can devote huge amounts of time to this, but for many teachers what you’ve just described would be a nightmare šŸ™‚ Just food for though.

      1. Ben,
        You brought up a good point but if it is proving to work for his class and he is seeing positive results, then why not? I think the level of devotion towards teaching can vary greatly from person to person, class to class, building to building, district to district and even state to state. If you have the devotion and time, why not go for it? The reality is, once he creates the podcasts, he has them forever to use year after year if he is teaching the same course/grade level.
        My school is a bit behind on technology and I just received training on a STARBOARD (interactive whiteboard like the smartboard) last year. I spent hours upon hours creating numerous lessons on the skills I was teaching from reading to math to writing to social studies and science. Now that I have these lessons created on the software Easiteach, I can use them over and over! In order to be an effective teacher you need to do what John is doing and stay on the cusp of education, knowing what works to prepare them for the future ahead!

      2. Oh don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t trying to poo-poo his efforts, and now that he has the lessons recorded, he can always reuse them. What I should have prefaced my comment with was the fact that I think his work, and yours is awesome, but as the tag-line of my site says, I’m always wondering about how to make technology use practical, and not burn out the teacher using it.

        Then again, some people are built for that sort of thing šŸ™‚

  3. Ben,
    Thanks for the clarification. It makes more sense now to me. Some people have more time alloted for planning and creating better activities that meet the technological demands students will face in future years. What I might consider practical could be a far stretch for others! Thanks again!

  4. Technology has certainly changed the way education is delivered but has it really changed the outcomes of learning? Havent we as educators really just changed or delivery to meet the needs of our learners. I disagree with the title of this posting and feel that technology can and will only make our future better!. We as educators, consumers and learners ourselves must learn to adapt to the society as it changes.

  5. I was struck by the example you used, and the comment about the time it consumes. Couldn’t John have been just as revolutionary and, say, assigned that they read a chapter in the text and complete a short, not-too-taxing set of questions (that essentially require one to have read the text to complete) and then used his class as a discussion point for a group of prepared students???
    Don’t get me wrong…I get that a video is better than a book for a couple of reasons, but isn’t this transformation back to what we thought was the right system all along???

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