Why Does Technology-Based Teaching Fail?

Recently, I’ve been sharing some of my research into the pioneering educational technology work of Alan Kay, who was able to effectively translate his understanding of cognitive psychology and learning theory into new ideas for making computers easy to learn – and learn on. His insights into educational technology continue to be highly relevant today – here he is in 1987, answering the question “Computers have not been a big success in … computer-aided instruction. Why is this so, and what can be done to improve it?”

[kml_flashembed movie="http://youtube.com/v/bC7x_qntM0g" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Alternate link: http://youtube.com/watch?v=bC7x_qntM0g

No matter how powerful – or mobile – computers get, pedagogy must be considered before technology when developing learning experiences and activities.

Source: Alan Kay: “Doing with Images makes Symbols,” (1987) – Part 2
Extracted from video at The Internet Archive (Open Source Video) [Part 1] [Part 2]

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3 thoughts on “Why Does Technology-Based Teaching Fail?

  1. What if we replace the textbook series completely with web based learning situations, which develop the content to be learned. Rising costs of textbooks to school districts; and their ability to adapt to changes is slow thus making the development of virtual curriculum a serious alternate to textbooks. In elementary and secondary school mathematics textbook series the content per grade level tends to be the same. It is not difficult to identify that content (refer to k-12math.info ).

  2. One barrier Jim is really the simplest. Making reading content on a electronic device as comfortable and as flexible as a book.

    There are moves afoot to do that with Amazon’s Kindle and Sony’s ebook reader. The technology is still very much first generation, but it holds the most promise for electronic publishing.


  3. Appreciate Mr. Dacey’s remarks, but in order to transfer from a highly successful media like textbooks (and books in general as the basic source materials for teachers), we need to understand the key content elements which that media supports (Alan Kay is correct, and my website k-12math.info provides). By knowing and incorporating those content elements, a new media has a good chance of employing its unique features in a successful fashion (teachers are familiar with the content). A new media like an mlearning communication and web supporting device (MIT’s 100 dollar laptop, HP’s international entry, iPhones, etc) must go beyond just reporting – it needs to interact. It needs to help the learner find information and to understand it. Alan Kay’s work while at PARC is very important.

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