Titanic Lessons For Educational Technology

From the vantage point of 85 years later, the tragic episode of the Titanic's maiden voyage reminds us about technological hubris. The intelligence required to produce such an engineering marvel juxtaposed with the lapses in common sense that contributed to this disaster provide lessons for us, as we prepare to embark on our present journey into technology enhanced learning. One wonders how people 85 years from now will view our current deliberations and decisions with respect to how we deploy and employ the most powerful global communications tool ever devised.

In the past 85 years, the development of systems thinking has given us tools of thought that allow us to move beyond the Newtonian "cause and effect" to arrive at a deeper understanding. Systems thinking examines the interrelationships between numerous activities whose interaction over time can be complex and counter-intuitive (as in pubic education). Seen in this light, the Titanic disaster wasn't a failure of technology; it was the predictable result of a system.

Everyone knows the story: the "unsinkable" Titanic, monument to the Industrial Age, disregarding warnings, sailed into ice filled waters, struck an iceberg and sank with tremendous loss of life (one person for each word in this essay). From the richest man on earth, to the unlisted immigrant in steerage, frigid death was the fate for all outside the lifeboats. Ferdi Serim will share with you his observations about the lessons from this system that we can apply to education:

Ferdi says, "Sometimes it seems as though we are racing through dark and treacherous waters, on a wonderful but untested conveyance of unrivaled power. We can't be sure who is steering this vessel, whether warnings are heard and heeded, whether we will all make it to the opposite shore. We must be sure to keep our eyes on the goal: strengthening the achievement of all learners, and testing our individual responses to the opportunities we may be presented with, in order to influence events with the courage of our convictions."