Tag Archives: Technology and change

The blackboard and the Wright brothers.. “Learning to fly”?

Adopting new technologies in teaching situations can be a bit contentious. Take the black board, for example…

Did you know that when the blackboard was first introduced at WestPoint in 1801 it caused quite a stir? Mr. George Baron, a math instructor at West Point Military Academy used it to teach math lessons. Teachers all over the United States debated the usefulness of the blackboard. Many thought that using the blackboard in teaching should not be done! While individual slates were commonplace, blackboards on the walls were not. Books were written on how to effectively use the blackboard as a teaching tool and teachers attended training sessions on how to use it effectively. Expert “blackboard users” ran workshops for how to use this new technology.

Does this sound familiar? This story of the blackboard is a good example of how people often adopt a new technology. Adopting new technologies is often a bit messy, lengthy, and there can be anxiety and a lot of discussion and debate over the usefulness of the technology. Instructors need to learn how to use the technology and may also adapt the technology as they become more highly skilled and knowledgeable.

Here is a quote from Dr. Tom Carroll (2000), a national leader in educational technology that gives an interesting analogy on technology and teaching.

When the Wright brothers were going to make the first flight, there was no flight school to prepare them. There was nobody to teach them to fly. They just launched their plane and figured out how to fly it after they were on it. We are in the early stages of flight with technology in education. Pilots in the early stages of flight crashed a lot of planes, but they also discovered the principles of flight.

They came together in learning communities where they could share their experiences and knowledge about what works and what does not work. They developed and evolved principles that make modern flight possible today, including the space program. That kind of learning opportunity is available to using our schools today.

I think this quote is a good reminder for educators that we are still breaking ground in educational technology. Most of us have had very little in the way of modeling in how to effectively use technology in our teaching. We are still “learning to fly”……