The Innovators

Since I began using technology as a significant tool in my profession in the mid-1980s, I have read several dozen books about the history of the personal computer, the Internet, and the individuals associated with the development of these technologies. Based on this experience I would suggest that educators read Walter Isaacson’s “The Innovators” for a solid review of this aspect of history.

I make this recommendation for the following reason. As I have read commentary on the value of teaching all K-12 students to code, one of the more persuasive arguments I have identified for this expectation has been that we all need to have a basic understanding of how computers and the Internet work. Technology plays such an important role in our lives we need to understand how it works so we can make informed decisions. I agree. I would also state for the record that coding is but one piece of the general puzzle and possibly a less important piece for understanding than aspects of technology independent of individual computers. Also important are the political and social issues that influence how these technological resources are used.

I do not intend to put down educator intentions in this area, but the focus on K-12 coding is not sufficient and maybe not even needed. Many educators need a far broader perspective on technology in society. Reading “The Innovators” would provide an efficient way to at least build a general base for understanding “how we got to now.”

More and more I feel that the time-limited environment of K-12 education is being dominated by STEM (and even STEAM). If the goal is to create adults capable of achievement in the sciences, this focus will make a limited contribution. Higher education and advanced training will be necessary. Emphasizing the science itself without a broader understanding of how social issues determine the focus of technology utilization is essential. I would argue that sociology, history, and psychology play a far greater role than the arts in this regard. This lack of balance in education at the lower levels is a concern that is exaggerated by educators concerned that their discipline will be left out or underfunded. Specialization takes far more training and is best delayed until learners have developed a broad base on which to build.