Mod1: Course Introduction

Intended Audience

This course is for learning adventurers. It is intended for educators with entrepreneurial or intrapreneurial inclinations related to technology, and equally for technology entrepreneurs with a desire to enter the education marketplace.

Like oil and water, the traditional assumption is that education and business do not mix. For example, most parents, teachers and students will immediately concur that classrooms must remain commerce-free zones. Yet, at the same time, schools are being challenged to be more “accountable” for learning while remaining aloof from business practices. Is this hypocritical?

The situation becomes more complex when technology is added to the mix. An investment in classroom technology inevitably reduces funds for traditional learning materials, and proofs of unambiguous returns on such investments in the education world are as elusive as they are in the business world. Teachers rarely perceive new technologies welcomingly, most often because – no matter how glitzy the technologies are – it means more work for them.

The international learning technologies marketplace is therefore not for the faint of heart. A common quip (I think it originally came from Neil Postman) about education’s resistance to technological change suggests that if you took a surgeon from the year 1900 and put them in a year 2000 operating room they wouldn’t even be able to recognize their workplace, while if you took a teacher from 1900 and put them in a year 2000 classroom they’d pick up the chalk and get right to work. Why is this so true? Health care and education are both essential – and deeply complex – social institutions for the common good, yet one has embraced technology deeply to deliver enormous apparent benefits for individuals and society, and the other has resisted technology almost entirely. Don’t look to ‘blame’ teachers, schools, or systems for this resistance – consider it a resilient strength of what may be our most social of social institutions. Those that try to ‘fix’ this institution with technology are almost always less successful than those that try to enhance it.

Witnesses to the transformative power of technology in health, business, entertainment and other domains of life perceive the potential opportunities within learning as enormously inspirational, for a combination of social, intellectual, and economic reasons. Whatever your motivation, you will not succeed without a thorough understanding of the separate cultures of education, business and technology, and the hazards, pitfalls and paths to success in their shared environment. Think of this course as an interactive immersion in that unusually tough and exciting environment – a ‘boot camp’ for the intrepid educational adventurer.