The Back Page(17)

Q&A with Alan November

Work: Internationally-known ed tech leader, author, designer, consultant, and speaker.

Upcoming: Building Learning Communities international conference, July 19-22, Boston, Mass. Details at

Q: What has been the biggest turning point in education technology in the last 25 years?

A: Seymour Papert and others showing us back in the late 60's that young children can take control of computing.

Q: What phrase best sums up the current state of technology in education?

A: "Spray and pray." We made an incorrect assumption that technology alone could be the revolution, but good pedagogy trumps good technology. Bolt-ing technology onto the current industrial model of school, "integrating technology across the curriculum," has the hidden danger of freezing an outdated curriculum in place longer than it deserves. We need a lot of bright people to spend a long time thinking about what children should learn in order to make important contributions to our society.

"Polarizing" is another word I'd use. Sadly, as I travel from one end of the country to another, I can clearly see that the division between rich and poor is growing. We have private schools in the East (who do not have to abide by NCLB) where they are doing amazing things. If technology ends up polarizing our society and making the rich richer and the poor poorer, we will have unwittingly created a monster.

Q: How can we best prepare students?

A: We need the equivalent of a Manhattan Project to redesign our schools and the curriculum to prepare students for a highly competitive global economy. Even if NCLB succeeds at raising test scores, we will have failed this generation for not teaching students creativity, innovation, and the discipline of being self-directed.

Q: What has been the most essential change driven by technology in education?

A: We now have a legitimate conversation beginning nationally about a fundamental redesign of the American High School. The Gates Foundation is a huge proponent of this movement. We have technologies that will allow us the freedom to create schools of any size, with any schedule, and with access to curriculum from around the world. We just need to learn to let go of our industrial model of education, particularly our current concept of middle and high school.

Q: What piece of advice would you give to the parents of today's students?

A: Teach your children to design their own homework. Teach them the ethics and social responsibility of having unlimited global communications capacity at their fingertips. Teach them to raise their own expectations of what they can achieve.

Back in Time

Issue: April 1998 Technology & Learning

"Virtual School is in Session"

"Faster, Cheaper, Richer: The Internet Roars On"

"Steaming Hot Java"

"Building the Infrastructure for the 21st Century"

News and Issues:

In an interview with T&L editor Jean Shields, then New York City Chancellor of Schools Rudy Crew states that he expects complaints from educators about having to change their teaching methodologies and themselves for the digital age.

56K modems are cutting edge, but the author cautions "Beware...

they won't work unless your ISP can support that speed."

Chancery Software sponsors a Technology Primer on Information Management Systems.


Researchers under Dr. Ian Wilmut in Edinburgh, Scotland create a clone lamb from adult sheep DNA.

In Rwanda, the Tutsi dominated army carries out an operation against Hutu insurgents in Karago and Giciye villages, killing 62 people.

A federal judge blocks enforcement of a California initiative to dismantle affirmative action saying civil rights groups had a "strong probability" of proving it unconstitutional.