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Education Opinion

Educational Technology Has Limitations

By Walt Gardner — August 30, 2017 1 min read

Educational technology is promoted as a panacea for the failure of students to learn (“The Secret to a Good Robot Teacher,” The New York Times, Aug. 27). I don’t doubt its benefits, but I think it promises more than it can deliver. That’s because it minimizes the importance of social interaction between student and teacher.

There’s something unique about the relationship between the two that makes for deep and lasting learning. Yes, technology can reinforce what is taught by a teacher, but it can’t replace it. When I was working on my M.S. in journalism at UCLA in 1964, I vividly remember the hype surrounding “teaching machines.” These were supposed to make teachers virtually redundant. But they never were able to achieve their goals.

I’ve attended more than a dozen class reunions of the high school where I taught for 28 years in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Students often recall their various teachers for the interest they took in them as individuals. I doubt they would be able to say the same thing about even the most sophisticated technology. It’s not that students don’t like technology. On the contrary, in today’s digital world, students are practically addicted to their devices. But such devices will never be able to replace the indelible imprint that caring teachers leave.

The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner’s Reality Check 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.