For almost 100 years, people have been predicting the end of the use of textbooks in public schools. The cause for the decline of textbook use is often due to some new technology that will forever change classrooms.
For example, in 1913, Thomas Edison was a nay-sayer concerning the future of textbook use.
“Books will soon be obsolete in the schools,” he said. “Our school system will be completely changed in 10 years.”
Edison was talking about replacing textbooks with videos to teach students. Sure, we do use videos today in our classrooms, but textbooks are still the main source of information in most cases.
So, should we be surprised that many education leaders, such as U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, are now pushing for the use of laptops and digital books in the classroom? Using history as our source, the answer is no.
Why are they pushing for using advanced technology in the classrooms? According to the LA Times, this could be because their motives are driven by commercial considerations. This is just like the case with Edison, a motion picture inventor, who was driven by a financial desire to make his product more mainstream because it would make him richer if more people used videos. However, there might not be as much value in using electronics like computers and iPads in classrooms as we have been told to believe.
“The media you use make no difference at all to learning,” said Richard Clark, the director of the Center for Cognitive Technology at USC. “Not one dang bit. And the evidence has been around for more than 50 years.”
In a time when schools are doing everything they can in order to stay within their shrinking budgets, it might not exactly make sense to spend $500 per student, per iPad, so that students can play with the new technology. In fact, it makes more sense to use hire more and better teachers who can actually teach the students, instead of a piece of technology that the students can drag their fingers across.
“There are two big lies the educational technology industry tells,” said Thomas Reeves, an expert on the industry at the University of Georgia.”One, you can replace the teacher. Two, you’ll save money in the process. Neither is borne out.”