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Technology for education AND for learners

June 4, 2013

Hero of the guitarIn a May 2012 paper, Technologies for Education and Technologies for Learners: How Information Technologies Are (and Should Be) Changing Schools, University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers Rich Halverson and Benjamin Shapiro make a distinction between “technologies for learners” and “technologies for education.”

  • Technologies for education are aimed at making the process easier from a managerial perspective. Examples include adaptive learning software and student information systems.
  • Technologies for learners support individuals’ needs, goals, and styles. Students use tools like FaceBook, computer games, and Wikipedia to pursue their own interests, express themselves, and connect with others.

The point of the paper is not that one group of technologies is good and the other bad. Rather, it’s that we have fixated on technologies for education because they mesh more easily with the current culture of accountability. Learners are more in tune with a participatory culture that engages them through a sense of affiliation, opportunities for collaborative problem solving, and creative expression. Unfortunately, many schools have either banned or marginalized technologies for learners. At the end of their paper, Halverson and Shapiro suggest several areas of new research that might help us begin to embrace technologies for learners.

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[Image credit: “Hero of the guitar” by Nic McPhee on Flickr]

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