No Substitute for Good Teaching

No Substitute for Good Teaching

infoDev and UNESCO's blog sparks discussion on the interaction between technology and education

infoDev and UNESCO’s Educational Technology Debate blog recently hosted an article entitled "There are No Shortcuts to Good Education" by Kentaro Tomaya, a researcher with the School of Information at University of California, Berkeley. Tomaya does not believe that technology can be relied upon to save struggling schools and he bases his critique on historical and economic evidence.

“The inescapable conclusion is that significant investments in computers, mobile phones, and other electronic gadgets in education are neither necessary nor warranted for most school systems. In particular, the attempt to use technology to fix underperforming classrooms (or to replace non-existent ones) is futile. And, for all but wealthy, well-run schools, one-to-one computer programs cannot be recommended in good conscience.” Kentaro Tomaya

According to Tomaya, quality education results from a multiyear commitment that continually motives students as a result of the guidance and encouragement of adults. Technology cannot stand-in for human interaction. He cites computers and mobiles as the latest examples of technologies being hailed as educational tools, much as television once was.

This blog has generated over 100 comments thus far and continues to spark debate. While some readers appear to agree with Tomaya, others offer criticisms. Many commented on the narrow definition of “technology in education” being used and others asked what the alternative to using technology in the classroom would be. Some find value in exposing students to technologies and techniques that they will surely encounter later in life, such as word processing or blogging assignments; however, others, like the World Bank’s Wayan Vota, have “...never been a fan of the ‘21st-century skills’ argument” and go on to cite elementary school typing classes which hindered rather than engendered a love of technology.

What is ETD?

The Educational Technology Debate (ETD) seeks to promote a substantive discussion of how low-cost information and communication technology (ICT) device initiatives for educational systems in developing countries are relevant to the very groups they purport to serve – the students, teachers, and their surrounding communities.

What do you think? Do computers contribute positively to underperforming schools? Does technology amplify inequality? To comment, subscribe, or suggest your own blog post, please see: Join ETD.

Tomaya's post has resulted in follow up posts from:

  • Larry Cuban- "3 Reasons Why Sloppy Thinking Leads to Careless Educational ICT"
  • Cristobal Cobo- "How We Use Technology in Education is More Important than Which Technology We Use"
  • Lowell Monke "High Tech Society Requires a High Touch Childhood"

These posts and more are available on!

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