Obsolete Learning Technologies

Joshua Kim offers up an intriguing list of Obsolete Learning Technologies. Here's Kim's 10 obsolete learning technologies and my take on his rationale:

1. Scantron Sheets: When I first started teaching (in 1997) we would give multiple choice tests on Scantron sheets, which would then be graded by the Scantron scanner. Today, thankfully, high-stakes multiple choice testing has been replaced by the testing engines in the LMS. We also know that good pedagogy involves frequent, low-stakes testing - and that mid-term or final multiple choice exams most test students ability to take tests.

Exactly, I couldn't have said it better. It takes a bit more effort to create a quiz/test, but the efficiencies for student and faculty are back-end loaded. The immediate feedback made possible by a CMS is crucial to learning.

2. Overhead Projectors and Transparencies.

I think Kim is a decade off on this one. Overhead projectors became extinct over a decade ago. I still have some transparencies created in the '80s for my consumer behavior class, but have used none of them for over a decade.

3. Classroom VCR/DVD Playesr:

Agree 100% that showing video in class, except for very short video clips, is not a good use of time. Students can watch the video outside of class and come prepared to discuss what they observed. Besides, any video shown in class should be available in digital format that can be streamed; no media required.

4. Course Packs and Course Readers.

Yep. Blackboard and related technologies have rendered course packs and course readers unnecessary.

5. Photocopiers ... Tomorrow we will download the articles to our e-readers.

Yep, a work in progress. To the degree that students bring their laptops to class they are now able to view class materials, including what have traditionally been hand-outs, rendering physical copies less useful. That said, the physicality of a handout, especially when it contains assignment details has some benefits. Some students benefit from the touch and smell of the document. Yet, these folks need to get comfortable operating in a digital environment as their future workplace will likely be digital.

6. Microfiche

Microfiche lives? Color me enlightened. Really?

7. Language and Computer Labs: Language labs are basically gone - computer labs are not far behind.

Yep, more than 90% of students on our campus own a laptop. With WiFi ubiquitous on campus and in the classrooms, every classroom can be a computer lab. More useful than 'labs' are spaces conducive to small group collaboration.

8. Paper Journals and Periodicals?

Ah, this strikes me to the core. I just received an email from the University of Chicago Press imploring me to renew my subscription to the Journal of Consumer Research. Lingering over the email, I was wondering: "Why? Why subscribe when I can access the journal online?" After 25 years, it may be time to let that subscription lapse.

UPDATE: A colleague emailed:

This list is clearly based on the assumption that both the student and the faculty member are technologically savvy. An assumption that is dangerous to make, but one often made by tech. savvy people.

To which I replied: Professional development for faculty and teaching students can easily eliminate gaps in the ability of faculty or students to use these basic tools. We are educators in a professional school, aren't we?


  1. Hi Rob....thanks for adding to and building on the conversation. I've got you in my RSS reader and look forward to reading your posts. Josh

  2. Anonymous9:29 PM

    Small group collaboration spaces to replace computer labs... couldn't come soon enough.