On Educators’ Reluctance to Change

In biology, exaptations are those structures and functions that evolved for one purpose, but then were applied to a different purpose. The typical example is feathers, which were originally structures adaptations that allowed for thermoregulation, and later were adapted for flight. An analogous process occurs with technology; it is used for purposes unimagined by the inventors and designers, but users find many other uses.

Many fields of human endeavor have been marked by the rapid adoption of, adaptation to, and exaptation of digital information technology; compared to other endeavors education has been slow in making these changes. Educators’ reluctance to embrace emerging information technologies in a systematic manner can be blamed several factors including the precautionary principle—we are slow to accept any change until we are sure it is “the best for our students”—and our unwillingness to abandon familiar and safe practices that are deeply embedded in our existing culture. We have spent decades preparing with excessive precaution for a transformation that our students make in days. Our delays have also been caused by distractions arising from politicians, philanthropists, and business leaders seeking political advantage and profit from “educational reform.” We are slow to adopt any changes not aligned with misguided direction from above.