A leader in educational technology separates truth from hype, explaining what tech can—and can’t—do to transform our classrooms.
Proponents of large-scale learning have boldly promised that technology can disrupt traditional approaches to schooling, radically accelerating learning and democratizing education. Much-publicized experiments, often underwritten by Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, have been launched at elite universities and in elementary schools in the poorest neighborhoods. Such was the excitement that, in 2012, the New York Times declared the “year of the MOOC.” Less than a decade later, that pronouncement seems premature.
In Failure to Disrupt: Why Technology Alone Can’t Transform Education, Justin Reich delivers a sobering report card on the latest supposedly transformative educational technologies. Reich takes readers on a tour of MOOCs, autograders, computerized “intelligent tutors,” and other educational technologies whose problems and paradoxes have bedeviled educators. Learning technologies—even those that are free to access—often provide the greatest benefit to affluent students and do little to combat growing inequality in education. And institutions and investors often favor programs that scale up quickly, but at the expense of true innovation. It turns out that technology cannot by itself disrupt education or provide shortcuts past the hard road of institutional change.
Technology does have a crucial role to play in the future of education, Reich concludes. We still need new teaching tools, and classroom experimentation should be encouraged. But successful reform efforts will focus on incremental improvements, not the next killer app.
As the pandemic forces so many school systems and learning institutions to move online, the desire to educate students well using online tools and platforms is more pressing than ever. But as Justin Reich illustrates in his new book, Failure to Disrupt, there are no easy solutions or one-size-fits-all tools that can aid in this transition, and many recent technologies that were expected to radically change schooling have instead been used in ways that perpetuate existing systems and their attendant inequalities.
In a few dozen pages, Reich lays out the embarrassing cycle of copied ideas, massive hype, enormous wasted funding, and the unmet promises of edtech—why so many innovations and companies find only dramatically downsized and incremental uses, leaving education fundamentally not disrupted over and over again…A must-read for the education-invested as well as the education-interested.
I'm not sure if Reich is as famous outside of learning science and online education circles as he is inside. He should be…Reading and talking about Failure to Disrupt should be a prerequisite for any big institutional learning technology initiatives coming out of COVID-19.
Helps readers understand the systems operating through ed tech over the last 60 years: how venture capital backed technologies fall short of disruption; why people prefer incremental changes in how we learn, rarely transforming pedagogy; that tech—even when it’s free—favors those who already have privilege.
His account of digital technology, neither utopian nor dystopian, offers ‘a tinkerer’s guide to learning at scale,’ to fit—not disrupt—the complex system of school and university education.
Reich is to be congratulated on writing an important corrective to our public fascination with ‘disrupting’ higher education. It is all the more devastating for its even-handedness. There is no cheap online solution to delivering world class higher education that meets our nation’s ideals and needs. Anything proposed to do so runs roughshod over closely held values: rigor, access, equality, and justice. This is a must-read for anyone with even a passing interest in the present and future of higher education.
This magisterial book offers a remarkable account of the different approaches to online learning and what can be expected of them. Comprehensive, wide-ranging, and incisive, this book offers a definitive account of the past, present, and future of technology-assisted learning. If you had to pick one book to learn about all things online learning, this would be the one.
If you have already decided that educational technology is a utopia or a dystopia, there’s no need to read this—or, indeed, any—book. But if you desire a clear, balanced, and insightful evaluation of the range of educational technologies, Justin Reich’s book will inform and delight you.
Technology in learning carries a high cost economically and culturally. In a game of trade-offs between efficiency and human development, research remains the critical lens to guide decisions. This exceptional book is the best resource currently available to guide readers to understanding the failure of technology in classrooms, what needs to be done to make a real impact, and the critical importance of education as community.
- 336 pages
- 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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