An accomplice for the continuing amnesia about the history of education is, surprisingly enough, educational research itself. Instead of asking – What do children need? What are our responsibilities to the students we serve? – educational technology advocates prefer to ask: How well does the current, fashionable ensemble of computers and electronic systems work? Answering that question becomes the challenge at hand and the focus of an ongoing ritual. A research protocol is developed and the research is conducted. Perhaps there are interviews. Perhaps there are tests to measure achievement. Or perhaps some other research method is developed to gauge the effectiveness of the technological ensemble in question. Eventually, the results are tabulated and presented at scholarly conferences and published in reports and journals. In a typical conference presentation, for example, a teacher or administrator might describe an educational project that involves cell phones and internet with special software and instructional plans. The questions become: What happened in the pilot study? How much time did students spend using the new system? Did students’ academic achievement improve? What will the next stage be? Almost invariably, the conclusion of the ‘innovate and measure’ ritual is that the initial outcomes were very promising, enough to merit additional research and, of course, additional funding. This practice can be seen, for example, in the conferences and workshops where proponents display the apparatus and methods of the iClass system and where educational researchers present the results of studies that attempt to measure the system’s effectiveness. The underlying assumption is that by repeating the exercise over and over again, the education of the students affected will surely be enhanced. From a historical perspective on many similar attempts in both distant and more recent experience, this assumption is highly problematic.

Langdon Winner

Winner, L. (2009). Information technology and educational amnesia. Policy Futures in Education, 7(6), 587–591.