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“Technology Is Not The Panacea For Education”


Technology Is Not The Panacea For Education is the title of a column that appeared today in The San Francisco Chronicle. It’s by Todd Oppenheimer, the author of a book that I really like called The Flickering Mind: Saving Education From The False Promise of Technology. The column is critical of President Obama’s plan to spend monies to expand technology in schools.

As readers of this blog know, I, too, don’t believe that technology really has the power to transform education, and have written a lot about my concern in my In Practice posts.

I believe that technology does have its place (especially with English Language Learners), but also has to be kept in its place (to paraphrase an economist who was talking about the role of the “free market).

Unfortunately, though, I think Oppenheimer’s column goes a bit “over-the-top” in throwing out “the baby with the bathwater.”   His blanket condemnations seem to carry the same lack of openness to other viewpoints that I hear in the words of some edtech “true believers.”

Of the $142 billion earmarked for education in the proposed stimulus package, just one billion is for the expansion of technology in schools.  Half of that amount is specifically for Title 1 schools (the other half will used competitive grants), and 25% of monies received from school districts would have to be used for professional development. (You can learn more specifics here).

I think one billion out of $142 billion is quite a reasonable balance.

I don’t believe I have the numbers wrong, but let me know if I do.

Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.


  1. If schools would spend a larger percentage on training and support, I think technology could deliver a bigger bang. The district I work with throws hardware into the schools without enough IT support or training for the teachers so the computers gather dust. The “Field of Dreams” approach does not work on a large scale. Successful technology integration requires support,training and leadership.

  2. My biggest concern with technology “improvement” is that the money is so poorly spent in this area. Interactive whiteboards have been the zeitgeist the past few years, but they are a huge waste of money in my opinion. Most teachers use them as nothing more than projectors and those that claim to be doing “hand-on” learning with the class just have one or two kids at the board while the rest are disengaged. I agree with Dottie that training is important, but why spend thousands of dollars on technology that doesn’t really benefit learning. Instead of buying all those iwb’s, why not invest in a part time reading specialist, an extra para-professional, or a cart of rolling laptops that can serve an entire class of students instead of just 1 or 2.

  3. All of the biggest technological inventions created by man – the airplane, the automobile, the computer – says little about his intelligence, but speaks volumes about his laziness. ~Mark Kennedy

    If it keeps up, man will atrophy all his limbs but the push-button finger. ~Frank Lloyd Wright

    Technology… the knack of so arranging the world that we don’t have to experience it. ~Max Frisch

    The production of too many useful things results in too many useless people. ~Karl Marx

    Education makes machines which act like men and produces men who act like machines. ~Erich Fromm


  4. Good teaching is the panacea for education. And good teaching today incorporates some technology — and more importantly, some connectivity with the larger world, via the Internet. That’s not to say, of course, that teaching with technology = good teaching. You’d have to be a fool to think that!

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