Does educational technology exist to make schools “hip” and placate taxpayers?

Larry Cuban argues that we only have new technologies in classrooms in order to placate (mostly non-parental) taxpayers and politicians, so that schools can seem “modern” and “with it.”  Computers and so forth are just there as a status symbol, just like an ipod/iphone, or a nice car or dress (he actually used those analogies).  I’m not really buying the argument.  First, are schools awash in new technologies?  When you visit your local school, does it seem “modern” and “with it”?  9 times out 10, I’d say not exactly, with richer private schools being the usual exception.

If this argument is correct, then why are technologies only being bought for schools now?  Why not 50 years ago, 100 years ago?  There were never TVs in every classroom, and 100 years ago there were no calls for “1 horse per child” or “1 locomotive per school” even though horses were just as much a ‘status symbol’ as computers and cell phones are supposedly today.

What’s the difference now?  What’s different about computers (and interactive whiteboards, etc.)? Maybe it’s because teachers want it, students want it, parents want it, etc.   That’s not ‘resource dependence’ (satisfying taxpayers) at all.  In fact, the more something is likely to be a status symbol, the *less* likely teachers want it in the classroom, because it distracts from learning (such as iphones, etc.).  It was when computers and laptops became a commodity, an everyday phenomenon, that they started to grow more present in the classroom.

Posted in computers, edtech, education, teaching, technology, Uncategorized
One comment on “Does educational technology exist to make schools “hip” and placate taxpayers?
  1. John Nash says:

    The commodification of ICT in schools has, in some measure, propagated the myths of education computing offered by Maddux over 20 years ago:

    – computers should be brought into educational settings simply because they are there,
    – mere exposure to computers will be beneficial to students,
    – computers ought to be used for any and all tasks for which software is available or imaginable, and
    – if provided in sufficient quantity, quality will follow.

    In my estimation, it’s imperative that school leaders be clear about the outcomes, or changes, the seek from students and teachers, and only then link the use of ICT as a means to those ends.


    Maddux, C. (1988). Preface to a special issue on assessing the impact of computer based instruction. Computers for Schools, 5(3), 1-10.

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