March 04, 2016

Sometimes, applying tech in the classroom is too much of a struggle to do any good.

Kentaro Toyama learned this the hard way. He served as the managing director of Microsoft Research India, and was empowered to spend money helping students engage with tech.

That was a really hard job. He observed one classroom where the teacher spent 15 or 20 minutes just setting up a computer and projector.

“And this was for a 45 minute class,” Toyama says. “And so by the time everything was running, half the class was over.”

Toyama is now an associate professor at the University of Michigan and the author of Geek Heresy: Rescuing Social Change From the Cult of Technology. And he says that not only was tech time-consuming for teachers, but ultimately took away from students.

It also felt dissonant with the rest of his experience at Microsoft.

“One of the things I remember, being at a technology company, was this schism between what we heard as employees and what we told the outside world,” says Toyama.

“We believe in the power of individuals and companies to produce great products, but then we basically claim that it’s those products that are doing the magic.”

For Toyama, this message was misleading.

He also discovered that parents in the tech industry (including the late Steve Jobs) often don’t allow their children much screen time.

“Most of them have restrictions, often very severe on how much time a child can interact with a computer,” says Toyama.

Sci and Tech, Geek Heresy, Kentaro Toyama

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