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Education Opinion

Disco Balls and Loudspeakers

By Sara Mead — February 17, 2011 1 min read

Mark Kleiman, who is an incredibly smart man, has a great line on education technology:

And that, in turn, is why the discussions about "educational technology" always seem so bizarre to me. It's as if vaudeville promoters in 1920 were discussing whether they should start using loudspeakers or disco balls, rather than understanding that radio and the movies were making their whole business model obsolete.

It reminds me of another comment I recently heard along the lines of, “Education is the only field where technological innovation drives costs up instead of down, because it’s always added on top of what’s already being done, rather than changing existing practice to increase productivity.” (Actually, the first part of this statement is also true in health care, where technological innovation has contributed to rising costs.)

This isn’t entirely true: There are a growing number of cool innovations out there that are using technology to enhance educational productivity in really interesting ways. But this is still very much at the margins of both practice and public debate on education, and is, as Mark notes, problematic given the reality of Baumol’s cost disease in both education and health care as currently practiced.

The opinions expressed in Sara Mead’s Policy Notebook are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.