Web 2.0 – This Time For Sure? Someone Wake Up Thomas Edison!

Web 2.0 – Social Media – Media in General – This time for sure?

When I hear the Clarion Call for Web 2.0 and Social Media for Social Learning – it’s deja vu all over again. I was graduated from college with a degree in Radio-TV-Film and wanted to be into Educational TV – but you know – I took the first job offered – with my current employer of my part-time college job – at Wickes Lumber. Into the Training Services department – part of HR. Moved from Lawrence KS – to Saginaw MI – in July of 1979.

They – Wickes – were migrating from the old educational technology of Slide-Strips with Audio — to — to the latest educational technology of Video (VHS – Beta had recently lost/or it was obvious to most – it was the 2-hour length to capture a full movie – versus Beta with its superior quality). And I was a newly minted graduate with that degree. So they asked me to be a Training Developer in the Development organization versus the Video department. Go figure.

I’d been in the U.S. Navy for 3 years by then – so I rolled with that punch. And now – look at my landing – or continuous roll….

But/so – I am wary. That wasn’t the only cycle of “The Technology Will Save Us!”

And I lived near enough to Missouri for 10 years to demand: Show Me!


Something I remember from back then in the late 1970s and early 1980s from – Thomas Edison. A pretty smart guy.

That’s Tom and George Eastman (think: Eastman-Kodak)…below in the photo…

From http://www.cambridge.com/

What’s wrong with technology-centered approaches? A review of educational technologies of the twentieth century shows that the technology-centered approach generally fails to lead to lasting improvements in education (Cuban, 1986). For example, when the motion picture was invented in the early 20th century hopes were high that this visual technology would improve education. In 1922, the famous inventor Thomas Edison predicted that “the motion picture is destined to revolutionize our educational system and that in a few years it will supplant largely, if not entirely, the use of textbooks” (cited in Cuban, 1986, p. 9). Like current claims for the power of visual media, Edison proclaimed that “it is possible to teach every branch of human knowledge with the motion picture” (cited in Cuban, 1986, p. 11). In spite of the grand predictions, a review of educational technology reveals that “most teachers used films infrequently in their classrooms” (Cuban, 1986, p. 17). From our vantage point beyond the close the 20th century it is clear that the predicted educational revolution in which movies would replace books has failed to materialize.

Consider another disappointing example that may remind you of current claims for the educational potential of the World Wide Web. In 1932, Benjamin Darrow, founder of the Ohio School of the Air, proclaimed that radio could “bring the world to the classroom, to make universally available the services of the finest teachers, the inspiration of the greatest leaders…” (cited in Cuban, 1986, p. 19). His colleague, William Levenson, the director of the Ohio School of the Air predicted in 1945 that a “radio receiver will be as common in the classroom as the blackboard” and “radio instruction will be integrated into school life” (cited in Cuban, 1986, p. 19). As we rush to wire our schools and homes for access to the educational content of the Internet, it is humbling to recognize what happened to a similarly motivated movement for radio: “Radio has not been accepted as a full-fledged member of the educational community” (Cuban, 1986, p. 24).

consider the sad history of educational television – a technology that combined the visual power of the motion picture with the worldwide coverage of radio. By the 1950s, educational television was touted as a way to create a “continental classroom” that would provide access to “richer education at less cost” (Cuban, 1986, p. 33). Yet, a review shows that teachers used television infrequently, if at all (Cuban, 1986).

consider the most widely acclaimed technological accomplishment of the 20th century – computers. The technology that supports computers is different from film, radio, and television, but the grand promises to revolutionize education are the same. Like current claims for the mind-enhancing power of computer technology, during the 1960s computer tutoring machines were predicted to eventually replace teachers. The first large-scale implementation occurred under the banner of computer-assisted instruction (CAI) in which computers presented short frames, solicited a response from the learner, and provided feedback to the learner. In spite of a large financial investment to support CAI, sound evaluations showed that the two largest computer-based systems in the 1970s – PLATO and TICCIT – failed to produce better learning than traditional teacher-lead instruction (Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt, 1996).

What can we learn from the humbling history of the 20th century’s great educational technologies?

For more see:


My thought: “Healthy skepticism. It’s healthy!” Show Me – Show me the Data!

And as the late Claude Lineberry commented: Data is plural.

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