Historian Larry Cuban has a great perspective on the role of technology in learning. His book on “How Scholars Trumped Teachers” is one of my favorites on the history of higher education in the United States. Here is his take on what’snot working, and what is. This was essentially the point that Woodies Flowers was making at the ACM Education Council meeting — new online courses are great for training (getting access to information), and that may be what much of the first two years of undergraduate are about, but real education is more than that, and online courses are probably not enough. I found an interesting piece by Milton Fried man that talks similarly, about the citizenship role of education and the need for the government to support that.
What technology enthusiasts, however, forget, neglect, stumble over — pick a verb — are the multiple purposes of tax-supported schools in a democracy. They and many others futurists err — my choice of the verb — in equating access to information with becoming educated. Even worse, these very smart people ignore the crucial and historical purposes public schools have served in a democracy. Tax-supported public schools have been and are social, political, and moral institutions whose job is to help children and youth acquire multiple literalness enter the labor market well prepared, vote, serve on juries, contribute to their communities, think for themselves, and live full and worthwhile lives.