As Intel announced ‘The Tomorrow Project’, and hired sci-fi authors to imagine the future of technology, Arthur C. Clarke’s quote sprang to my mind. Intel’s argument is a simple one – that the only barriers to science and technology at this point in history are the constraints of the human imagination. As a fan of two futuristic genres – science fiction and cyberpunk – I took some time to reflect on what makes them different; and more importantly, what this teaches us about educational technology.
Science fiction has always been the shining, gleaming, hopeful vision of the future. We never doubted that a tyrannical dictatorial regime would be overthrown by a small group of rebels in Star Wars; and the utopian capitalist- and currency-free Federation of Star Trek seems idyllic. The aim was to project a future wherein technology had enabled humanity to rise above conflict and oppression and embrace higher ideals.
Since William Gibson’s ‘Neuromancer’, however, cyberpunk authors have postulated an opposing and dystopian argument. As corporations gather enough power to force governments into obsolescence, and invasive technological consumerism becomes the accepted norm, we are confronted by a future which shows that humanity continues to follow baser instincts – but enabled by newer, sleeker technology.
So what does this have to do with educational technology?
Whenever we hear about a new device or software program, we’re faced with these two worlds. Do we harness the technology to do something new, to challenge prevailing ideas and improve the overall experience for students? Or do we simply continue doing what we’ve always done – just with newer, sleeker devices?
How many times have we seen an interactive whiteboard used to simply display static PowerPoint slides, or student response devices employed to only poll lecture attendance? The challenge, therefore, is to not only put the end user first and match teaching and technology, but to broadly imagine new possibilities.
This may mean embracing new methods of teaching and assessment, but the message from Intel seems to be clear – why simply maintain the status quo, when something richer, more powerful and imaginative could be possible?
Adrian Stagg – Learning Technologist (Co-Pilot)