What Larry Cuban Wrote About Technology

In 1986, Larry Cuban, a professor of education at Stanford University, reviewed the history of radio, movies, and television in schools and he observed a common pattern. First, advocates argued the technology could be used to make teaching more efficient and more effective. Second, dubious research (frequently supported by the manufacturers of the technologies) was used to support the advocates’ claims. Third, the technologies were introduced to schools, but soon fell into disuse. Finally, the next technology with promise to transform teaching was introduced and the pattern was repeated.

Cuban identified several reasons that each technology fell into disuse and failed to transform teaching as was predicted by the early advocates for each technology. Limited access to the technology is an obstacle to its use. The expense of obtaining equipment, the need for expertise to maintain and operate the equipment, and the inflexibility of schedules are all factors the limited teachers use of electronic information technologies throughout the 20th century. Access was also limited by teachers’ inability to operate the equipment; and inadequate training exacerbated this factor. A lack of curriculum materials dissuaded teachers’ use of these technologies; because other resources were available that were better-aligned with their classroom goals and with their previous teaching experiences, many educators avoided the new technologies preferring to use the safe, familiar, and reliable materials with which they had been teaching. Finally, many decisions to introduce these technologies to classrooms were made by leaders who had little understanding of the logistical challenges of inadequate access and training and weak curriculum materials that had little connection to existing classroom goals.


Cuban, L. (1986). Teachers and machines: The classroom use of technology since 1920. New York: Teachers College Press.