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"Technology Integration" is an Oxymoron

Posted By Administration, Sunday, October 30, 2011
Updated: Thursday, October 17, 2013

October 30th, 2011

Since I started working seriously with educational technology 25 years ago, I have read and heard the word "integration." Usually, the phrase is "technology integration." We've heard and read that phrase so long, it's become a cornerstone about how we deal with technology in education. It's only when one stops to analyze the term that the absurdity of the phrase becomes apparent: to "integrate" something implies that whatever you're integrating into remains the same.

We are implying by the phrase "technology integration" that education will remain unchanged and that only technology will change -- it will be forced to adapt to the current educational system. This might be a comforting notion: nothing will really change because technology will just serve our current system. But this notion is delusional. If we are to use the word "integration" regarding technology and education, it makes far more sense to say "education integration" because it is education that is changing. Education is trying to integrate into the technology-enabled knowledge culture and knowledge economy. "Education integration" has hardly begun at most institutions of learning.

A simple analogy: automobiles became popular in the 1910s -- 1910 to 1920. But, for many enthusiasts who were among the first in their town to purchase an automobile, their enthusiasm waned quickly when they discovered their automobiles did not work very well on the dirt roads of the time. The brand new automobiles sat in garages or made short trips to the general store, consigned to the role of oddity instead of the "automobility" role they were supposed to fill.

A highway system had to be built along with establishing laws, enforcement, street lights, commonly recognized road signs and the entire infrastructure for cars that took us decades to build. The nation had to integrate itself to the needs of the car.

Just so, educators are beginning to realize that technology is perhaps the most transformative technology humans have ever created. Education's entire design, business model, and culture must evolve to integrate into the world as it is now. It is education that must integrate, not technology.

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