Teaching Efficiency…

March 16, 2008

As teachers, we tend to focus on pedagogy as the great hope for improvement.

We spend our professional development and meeting time talking improved syllabi, new theories of learning, better designed assignments, or improved feedback.

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And these are clearly, and massively, important.

But long ago (1980s), engineers, lawyers, accountants and other professionals looked to technology to save time. Spreadsheet softeware, CAD (Computer Aided Design) software, and other tools are now integral to these professions.

Educators are famously reluctant to look to technology for help. Sure, every school has its 10 to 15% (my estimate) of technology early adopters. But there hasn’t been a compelling reason for educators to embrace technology. In 1982 you either learned CAD as an engineer, or looked for another job (okay, or got promoted to management).

Thankfully educators are not usually under such autocratic rule, but perhaps it is no accident that the two industries with the least productivity over the last 20 years, and the largest year-on-year cost increases, are medicine and education. Both are people intensive. If you want to teach more students and cure more patients, you have to hire more people. Technology companies and accounting companies do not have their productivity tied to people-power in the same way, and so many medium-sized companies that had full-time accounting departments 20 years ago can now look to a single person or two, or simply outsource the work.

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