Failure to Disrupt: Why Technology Alone Can't Transform Education

Failure to Disrupt: Why Technology Alone Can't Transform Education

by Justin Reich


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A leader in educational technology separates truth from hype, explaining what tech can—and can’t—do to transform our classrooms.

Proponents of large-scale learning have boldly promised that technology can disrupt traditional approaches to schooling, radically accelerating learning and democratizing education. Much-publicized experiments, often underwritten by Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, have been launched at elite universities and in elementary schools in the poorest neighborhoods. Such was the excitement that, in 2012, the New York Times declared the “year of the MOOC.” Less than a decade later, that pronouncement seems premature.

In Failure to Disrupt: Why Technology Alone Can’t Transform Education, Justin Reich delivers a sobering report card on the latest supposedly transformative educational technologies. Reich takes readers on a tour of MOOCs, autograders, computerized “intelligent tutors,” and other educational technologies whose problems and paradoxes have bedeviled educators. Learning technologies—even those that are free to access—often provide the greatest benefit to affluent students and do little to combat growing inequality in education. And institutions and investors often favor programs that scale up quickly, but at the expense of true innovation. It turns out that technology cannot by itself disrupt education or provide shortcuts past the hard road of institutional change.

Technology does have a crucial role to play in the future of education, Reich concludes. We still need new teaching tools, and classroom experimentation should be encouraged. But successful reform efforts will focus on incremental improvements, not the next killer app.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674089044
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 09/15/2020
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 197,524
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x (d)

About the Author

Justin Reich is Mitsui Career Development Professor of Comparative Media Studies and Director of the Teaching Systems Lab at MIT. He is the host of the TeachLab podcast and has written about education and technology for Education Week, New Yorker, The Atlantic, Washington Post, and Science.

Table of Contents

Prologue ix

Introduction: Education Technology's Unrequited Disruption 1

Part I Three Genres of Learning at Scale

1 Instructor-Guided Learning at Scale: Massive Open Online Courses 17

2 Algorithm-Guided Learning at Scale: Adaptive Tutors and Computer-Assisted Instruction 47

3 Peer-Guided Learning at Scale: Networked Learning Communities 77

4 Testing the Genres of Learning at Scale: Learning Games 105

Part II Dilemmas in Learning at Scale

5 The Curse of the Familiar 129

6 The Edtech Matthew Effect 148

7 The Trap of Routine Assessment 171

8 The Toxic Power of Data and Experiments 198

Conclusion: Preparing for the Next Learning-at-Scale Hype Cycle 229

Notes 249

Acknowledgments 291

Index 293

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