“IT IS possible to teach every branch of human knowledge with the motion picture,” observed Thomas Edison in 1913, predicting that books would soon be obsolete in the classroom. In fact the motion picture has had little effect on education. The same, until recently, was true of computers. Ever since the 1970s Silicon Valley’s visionaries have been claiming that their industry would change the schoolroom as radically as the office—and they have sold a lot of technology to schools on the back of that. Children use computers to do research, type essays and cheat. But the core of the system has changed little since the Middle Ages: a “sage on a stage” teacher spouting “lessons” to rows of students. Tom Brown and Huckleberry Finn would recognise it in an instant—and shudder.
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