Why a Robot-Filled Education Future May Not Be as Scary as You Think



This short article highlights two significant issues relative to transforming education for the 21st century: the extremely prevalent technology phobia in academia and the fear of change and resistance to it as well.


As someone who has written a book on transforming education, given dozens of speeches and interviews on the future of education I have experienced the strong adherence to the status quo of academia, particularly in higher education. In fact, the “ivory tower” history of the university, while appropriate up to 100 years ago, is in fact part of the resistance to the speed of change today. Isolation from the world, until the 20th century


20 years ago, in the late 1990s, I was part of the leadership team of one of the first companies to develop on-line courses. They were primarily business courses taught by business luminaries such as Gregory Mankiw and were targeted to colleges and community colleges. The resistance to on-line courses was quite strong. Professors simply stated that the physical classroom would never be usurped.


We came up with a metaphor for selling on-line courses that proved to be quite effective and highlights that higher education is one of the slowest moving institutions of our society.


Imagine a man has been asleep for 300 years and he wakes up in America in 1998. He is shown a car and cannot understand the lack of horses and the noise. He sees a plane fly overhead and wonders if it is real. He sees a flat screen TV and looks behind it as it seems like a window. He is dumbfounded by a stereo system and amazed at the high-rise buildings he sees. Then he is shown a university classroom and he says: “Oh, a university classroom!”


It is worth noting that the author of this article is from Southern New Hampshire University, one of the leading institutions for on-line courses to greatly expand their educational footprint. The Industrial Age model of education is about to be transformed in the next 10-20 years. -David Houle, Founding Member





2 responses to “Why a Robot-Filled Education Future May Not Be as Scary as You Think”

  1. Avatar Grant Lichtman says:

    The article is spot on; these next evolutions of technology are inevitable; already in the pipeline; and will have enormous impact on education. I have been stewing on this for several years, mostly in the K-12 space, and have one huge concern; I wrote about it in ISTE last year: The summary is this: once again the tech developers are getting ahead of the educators. This is not their fault; they need to charge ahead. But technology without new and effective pedagogy does not lead to better learning. MOOCS suffered from this: great connectivity, but not relation-rich, and educators know that relational learning is more impactful than transactional learning. I challenge the big tech developers to get educators around the table, and for educators to start writing a new pedagogy for a very different future!

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