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Why New Technologies Often Don’t Help Students

Education Next – Thomas Arnett

“It’s easy to get caught up in the allure of new technologies. Companies do a great job showing off the improved bells and whistles of their shiny new products. But the truth is, breakthrough innovations rarely come from the technologies themselves. Rather, they come from finding ways to use new technologies to rethink old patterns and processes. For example, as Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee explain in their book, The Second Machine Age, when factory managers first replaced the steam engines used to power manufacturing equipment with electric motors, the new technology had little impact on productivity. Initially, steam-powered factories organized equipment based on its proximity to a central steam engine, which powered the equipment through a branching system of axles, pulleys, gears, and crankshafts. When engineers electrified these factories, they merely replaced the central steam engine with a large electric motor. These new electric motors were less noisy and didn’t produce smoke, but they also were less reliable and didn’t improve productivity.”(more)

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