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The Thing on the Doorstep: Technology and the Classroom

In my lecture on media psychology/media didactics for game designers, reverse-questioning how school lessons and school curricula relate to technology and games counts among my favorite exercises. For example, instead of asking what technology in general and games in particular can do for the classroom, we ask which technological advances schools have actually adopted since the middle of the twentieth century.

Now, as I am teaching in Germany, and most of my students come from non-specialized public gymnasien, you can probably guess where this is going. With the rare exception of interactive whiteboard use (roughly one student out of fifteen), the two technological advances properly integrated into regular classroom use in seven decades are [check notes] the pocket calculator and [check notes again] the overhead projector.

Historically, all technological advances that have been proposed for classroom use in Germany, including pocket calculators and TV/VCR sets and computers and cell phones and tablets, and so on, were viciously opposed by teachers, parents, administrators, and politicians alike with an inexhaustible reservoir of claims ranging from the decline of educational integrity (»Kulturverfall«) to wi-fi radiation panic (»Strahlenesoterik«). Today, the copy & paste function especially is viewed as a creeping horror that must never be allowed to make it past the hallowed doorstep of higher education.

Add to that an often desolate financial situation. There are cases where schools can’t afford a decent wi-fi infrastructure, desktop or mobile hardware, software licenses, or, especially, teacher training. But all these problems could be surmounted in principle if it wasn’t for the one titanic challenge: the curriculum. Cognitivism has brought us this far, and we certainly shouldn’t abandon it. But it should become part of something new, a curriculum based on what and how we should teach and what and how we should learn in the 21st century. This requires motivational models that are up to the task; we can start with Connectivism and with models like flow and self-determination, both of which feed the Ludotronics motivational model, and advance from there. Technological, social, and other kinds of advances should become deeply integrated into this new curriculum. To turn our information society into a true knowledge society, we must leave the era of age cohorts, classes, repeated years, and silo teaching behind and embrace learning and teaching as a thrilling and, before all else, shared quest of lifelong exploration.