Four Cautionary Lessons About Education Technology
There is no denying that governments around the world are expanding investments in education technology, from inputs that students use directly (like Kenya’s project to put tablets in schools) to digital resources to improve the education system (like Rio de Janeiro’s school management system). As public and private school systems continue to integrate technology into their classrooms, remember that education technology comes with risks. Michael Trucano, my colleague and the World Bank’s resident expert on education technology, highlighted four caveats during a wide-ranging conversation with Stephen Ladek on the Terms of Reference podcast.
Education technology has the tendency to exacerbate inequality.
“One of the things that gets a lot of play, certainly here in the U.S., is the Khan Academy which is this, initially, a series of free videos on YouTube that are small tutorials about the Pythagorean theorem or basic algebra concepts. Putting those online, we’ve seen that for students who are self-starters and good learners and who are highly motivated, that can be a tool that they use to really help their learning and to move them forward….That’s interesting. It points to a fundamental challenge of a lot of these innovations: that they tend to help those who already have various advantages because those people are able to take advantage of them more quickly for a variety of reasons. While introducing innovation this is a challenge we face and I think everyone faces: The rising tide may raise all boats but it doesn’t raise them equally and it doesn’t raise them at the same speed.” [~22:35 in the podcast; emphasis added, transcript edited for clarity]
But this inequality is not inevitable, as Trucano lays out with the example of a Uruguay’s Plan Ceibal education technology program.