Another dot in the blogosphere?

Not repeating bad history

Posted on: August 4, 2020

I look forward to Monday evenings because that is when Last Week Tonight with John Oliver releases a segment of the show on YouTube. This week’s episode was a gem among gems — it was about the state of US history.

Video source

Oliver explained why it was not just important for all of us to learn history, but also to find out what actually happened. After all, conventional wisdom states that history is written by the victors.

There is another saying, this one attributed to George Santayana.

Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it. -- George Santayana

At this mark of the video, Oliver stated a reason why we condemn ourselves:

The less you know about history, the easier that it is to imagine you’d always be on the right side of it.

While Oliver passionately sold his message in the context of US history, something similar could be said about educational technology. We condemn ourselves to repeat the mistakes of the past by assuming that the circumstances now are “unprecedented”.

In that respect, I find the musings and work of people like Audrey Watters, Larry Cuban, and Steve Wheeler to be informative and instructive. A bit of critical insight can prevent a lot of wasted time, money, and effort. But instead of investing those resources into looking back and around, I see companies and schools looking blindly forward.

It is one thing to remain wilfully ignorant of the recent histories of various edtech. It is another to keep others in the dark. This is when schools and institutes share only success stories without context or hide failures for fear of ridicule. Context and takeaways from failure are part of the history of edtech. Leaving these out from the narrative sabotages the tomorrow’s efforts.

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