Initially, computers were rare and education provided a handful of computer terminals in specialist suites for relatively specialist access to mainframes. Over time, Mainframe terminals were replaced with desktop “personal” computers and the same model expanded and applied mainstream such that a typical school or college may have thousands of “terminals” and a great many IT suites. Such desktop models are supported and maintained on an institutional model – they are generally standardised and locked down – they really are more like mainframe terminals than personal computers.
Initially, education assimilated computers were a rare resource and teachers could book time in the IT suite for specialist sessions. Over time large machines (desktop computer “terminals”) have been placed on the desks in front of learners. Classrooms have attempted to accommodate these machines by providing benching and computer chairs and often arranging conveniently along and facing walls – in many cases, learners all have their backs to the teacher.
Education’s very long and expansive initial assimilation of IT while already problematic is now under real pressure from radical technology and cultural changes. Where computers were once big, rare, expensive and institutional they are now small, common, relatively cheap and personal. Where information was once relatively rare, expensive and institutional it is now abundant, free and personal. Learners are increasingly carrying around in their pockets or bags real personal computers with access to as much information as they need – the typical educational technology provision is an anachronistic steampunk concoction of IT rarity in an age of IT abundance.
The future of technology in education will be mobile and personal but is less about technology and more about education – Education must learn to accommodate new technology and culture with new practice – I hope to explore some of these issues in future blogs.