Find your next job fast at the Jan. 28 Virtual Career Fair. Register now.
Education Opinion

Why Hasn’t Technology Revolutionized Education? Guitar Heroes, Inspiration, and Technology Adoption

By Patrick Ledesma — February 28, 2011 3 min read

When educators analyze the process of integrating technology in classrooms, we often hear phrases such as “adoption of innovations” or “theory of change” to understand the challenges and barriers teachers experience. We try to understand the attitudes and motivations that influence teacher beliefs and behaviors, and why some teachers become the early adopters and pioneers, and why others may resist.

These are not easy issues, but I think we can learn a lot about technology adoption from music, specifically rock music and the electric guitar. Yes, the electric guitar!

Why guitars? Guitars are the popular instruments of choice today. Remember the posters you had on the walls of your room growing up or in your college dorm? You do. They were posters of Van Halen, Metallica, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, and other classic rock groups. (OK, posters of Poison, Bon Jovi, or Motley Crue count also.) Maybe the more guitar aficionados out there will favor Carlos Santana, David Gilmour, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, or maybe even John Pettrucci.

It’s all good. These were guitar driven music.

Guitars are popular. Even pretending to play guitar is acceptable. You’ve probably played Guitar Hero or Rock Band on your Xbox or PS3. Your students do. Or, maybe you or a family member has a real guitar somewhere in your home.

Guitar influences are everywhere, and we can learn a lot about technology adoption from the history of guitars.

As the Smithsonian documentary “Electrified: The Guitar Revolution A History of Invention, People, and Music” points out, “The electric guitar changed the face of music forever. Without the electric guitar, you would not have rock and roll. “

Interestingly enough, guitars were around for hundreds of years, but the instrument had very humble beginnings in modern music.

Until the 1920’s, guitars were acoustic and could not be heard. They were quiet rhythm instruments in the backgrounds of big bands while clarinet, trumpet, and other instruments dominated the stage.

Does this sound familiar with the computers and other technologies in many classrooms? In the background? Unheard? Unnoticed? Maybe underutilized?

But the future of guitars would change with electricity. Electricity gave amplification to the guitar. Guitars could now have enough volume to be heard over the other instruments in a band.

The guitar revolution began with electricity and amplification, but would not peak for another 40 or so years.

Why not? What else had to happen? Two things:

1) Mass production: Enough instruments had to be available to anyone how could afford one.

2) Inspiration: Most importantly, artists had to emerge who could use this innovation to inspire others: Chuck Berry, Eric Clapton, and Jimi Hendrix, etc... As the documentary pointed out, everyone wanted to be like Hendrix. Guitar sales skyrocketed.

With technology in classrooms, we have mass production. We’ve had computers in our classrooms for almost three decades. Even our cell phones today have the multimedia tools to be creative. The technology is everywhere.

We have the access. We have the artists. We have the innovative educators who use technology in schools to enhance student learning and achievement.

But these artists are still in the background. They haven’t changed the culture of schools.

Somehow, despite having mass production and some innovation, we still lack something in our schools and classrooms.

Perhaps, some educators can’t seem to appreciate the artists around them in a way that causes them to be so inspired that they want to change and imitate those artists.

Perhaps, some educators are afraid to take risks to learn new strategies and ways of teaching.

Perhaps, some educators are content with traditions, the old music with guitars quietly in the background, and don’t want to learn something new.

What will it take for the spirit of innovation to become infectious, for everyone else to become rebellious against the traditional culture of education and start using new technologies to their full learning and creative potential, to transform education in schools?

Perhaps, more freedom, more choice, more inspiration, more vision, and less fear.

We all look forward to that day. In the meantime, as the old rock saying goes, “Rock On..”

The opinions expressed in Leading From the Classroom 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.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
Branding Matters. Learn From the Pros Why and How
Learn directly from the pros why K-12 branding and marketing matters, and how to do it effectively.
Content provided by EdWeek Top School Jobs
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
How to Make Learning More Interactive From Anywhere
Join experts from Samsung and Boxlight to learn how to make learning more interactive from anywhere.
Content provided by Samsung
Teaching Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: How Educators Can Respond to a Post-Truth Era
How do educators break through the noise of disinformation to teach lessons grounded in objective truth? Join to find out.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

BASE Program Site Director
Thornton, CO, US
Adams 12 Five Star Schools
Director of Information Technology
Montpelier, Vermont
Washington Central UUSD
Great Oaks AmeriCorps Fellow August 2021 - June 2022
New York City, New York (US)
Great Oaks Charter Schools
Director of Athletics
Farmington, Connecticut
Farmington Public Schools

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: January 13, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read