Monday, June 15, 2015

4 Fundamental Problems With Everything You Hear About the Future of Education

Jordan Shapiro - Author of 4 Fundamental Problems with Everything Your Hear About the Future of Education
Jordan Shapiro
I am going to the TIC conference in Dubuque this coming week and the ISTE conference in Philly next week. I have been attending Educational Technology conferences for over 2 decades and have always loved going there.  I learn a lot from the sessions and I get to connect with friends that I have developed over the years.

This morning I read an article in Forbes by Jordan Shapiro.  This article, 4 Fundamental Problems with Everything You Hear About the Future of Education, included some insightful comments that I would like to share with you here. Below, I have listed the 4 myths that Shapiro enumerated along with some of my own narrative. I strongly suggest that you read the whole article connected to the link above to get the full flavor of the message.

  1. Kids are bored and technology will provide better ways to engage students. - I agree with Shapiro when he says that it is about the teacher, not the technology. Unfortunately, the biggest barrier I have with the future teachers that I teach is that many of them have the belief that we need to integrate technology for technology's sake.  Not the case. Technology can provide opportunities for learning that would not be otherwise available but it can still be used badly. We can use video conferencing to connect 6th grade classrooms in different countries but if their activities are limited to teacher-led worksheet filling-out, there is little value. 
  2. More data-based adaptive technologies will lead to child-centered curricula. - Intelligent tutorials are useful devices in building skills, but they aren't the answer to building child-centered curricula. If you have a skillset that your students need to learn, it has been shown that students can learn faster using adaptive technologies.  BUT the key is how these skills will be applied. This can't be done using data-based adaptive technologies.  Problem-based learning can provide the valuable learning experience that students can have when applying those skills.
  3. Video games will finally contextualize academic content - Video games can present problems in a context but does that necessarily align with the real world?  When learners play "against the machine", they learn in the the context that the programmers provided.  When learners play against each other in a game like Civilization, they are provided a context within which they are working with other people. The game provides the playing field and the contestants provide the human emotions and decision-making processes from which they will learn. Experiencing the actual decision-making process that a person will undergo when negotiating a treaty or deciding about attacking a fortress can provide insight that couldn't be learned from a book.  When students have these experiences together, they can come to class and discuss their feelings and learn more about what historical figures might have done.
  4. Learning should be more fun. - Shapiro points out that learning is NOT fun. Learning is an experience where you are stretched.  It is a situation where you are drawn from your comfort zone and expected to succeed. Can this happen in games? - Yes.  Is this necessarily fun? - No. It is challenging. Being challenged and having a safety net so that you can try new things without the chance for a huge loss can provide a sense of accomplishment but it doesn't need to be fun. 

While you can see that Shapiro and I don't see eye-to-eye on everything, you should read his article.  It has a lot of good points in it.

I just downloaded the .pdf of his book, The Mindshift Guide to Digital Games and Learning.  I haven't read it yet, but look forward to experiencing his advice.

What do you think about these points?  Please provide a third-leg to our discussion.



  1. As a developer of educational applications in 3D I can bolster the case you make for "gamification". Not only does it answer the age old question of "how does this apply to me" by compelling students to learn math and science in order to make their own 3D apps it also brings subjects like history, language and more to life accentuating traditional book and lecture based learning. See my signature for a link to get our open source and free project kits any school can use.

  2. You make some good points, Kyle, but I think that we need to remember that game playing is not enough. Our students will need to reflect on the process so that they can make sense of the processes they experienced through the game playing.


Please share your ideas on this topic.