Da pacem, Domine, in diebus nostris
Quia non est alius
Qui pugnet pro nobis
Nisi tu Deus noster.
Grant peace, Lord, in our time;
for there is none else
who would fight for us
if not you, our God.
On my office wall hangs a copy of a picture of Raphael’s The School of Athens. It is instructive both of the Late Medieval period of philosophy and of technology in learning contexts. In this painting Pythagoras is demonstrating his theorem in a book while Euclid is demonstrating his ideas on a slate. Strabo holds up a globe depicting the heavens and the positions of heavenly bodies relative to each other. Archimedes has drawn a picture of his principle of displacement. Mercury, the messenger of the gods, delivers a book and a scroll to a yet to be known recipient. The center of the painting shows Plato and Aristotle gesturing in their own appropriate directions holding large copies of a few of their well-known tomes.
We tend to think of technology in the learning context as something new. That is far from the truth. Technology has been employed by teachers and schools to communicate necessary knowledge and skills to millions of students from the beginning of human history – or at least as far back as its Classical adherents. Technology in the classroom is nothing new. Teachers have been using whatever they could lay their hands on to more ably communicate knowledge and skills to their students. They exercised creativity in the production of means to accomplish a desired end. Whatever worked was retained. Whatever did not work was discarded. Often, some of what worked was superseded by more advanced means, attended by even more instructor creativity. The point is, use whatever you can appropriately use to get the job done and be done with that which does not get it done or does not seem to do the job as well as some other technology. If teachers keep this in mind, they will never be mesmerized by less than useful technology, and they will always be looking for creative new ways to help their students learn.