Thoughts of EdTech History 1994 – 2001

by Michael MacKay

September 5th, 2020

While reading the first third of Weller’s book, a few items spoke to me. One of the largest things that I identified was the consistent attempt to industrialize and standardize learning content and processes. The chapters on E-Learning, Learning Objects, and E-Learning Standards all focused on this standardization and, honestly, to some extent, is still sorely needed in the modern online learning experience. This process is nothing new in education; publishers have had a stranglehold of educational resources for hundreds of years. Yet, I was somewhat shocked to see the internet, in many ways, the great equalizer of content, being used by the education profession in such ways earlier in its life cycle. Yes, I know this is a naive view, yet I grew up and was engrossed in the educational field during these times, not as a professional, but as a student. I am looking back at this time with a hint of nostalgia and some disdain for modern resources hidden behind exorbitant paywalls with special “educational discounts.”

Yet, this brings me back to the industrialization of education. Being an individual with experience as a software developer and a teacher, I have been afforded a relatively unique view of educational technology. Technology for education is often developed with the assumption that everyone learns the same. In truth, the assumption is made if we input theses specific variables, they will always receive the same output. Most seasoned educators exclaim from the highest mountaintops that no two classes are the same, and they are right; this is because educators not only have to deal with the complexity and instability of the human mind but the complex social interactions that can make or break a learning experience. In many ways, education is part science and mostly art because while they need a strong foundation, how they build upon that foundation depends on the needs of the learners and surrounding community. The problem that I see in the early years of educational technology, which is still very prevalent today, is that we often take these learning (foundational) objects and impose them as best practices or a one size fits all mentality, removing the autonomy needed to adapt to the needs of students and the learning environment.

References

Weller, M. (2020). 25 Years of Ed Tech. Athabasca University Press.

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