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swine flu

Education and Technology in an Age of Pandemics

Michael Trucano's picture

CC licensed photo courtesy of Edgar Antonio Villaseñor González via Flickr For some people in other parts of the world, it was the picture of two top Mexican futbol teams playing earlier this week in an empty Estadio Azteca (one of the world's largest capacity stadiums) that made clear the severity of the current swine flu outbreak.  While the sporting passions of the 100,000 missing spectators could presumably satisfied by watching the game on TV, it was less clear how to immediately satisfy the learning needs of over seven million students who were sent home after their schools were ordered closed.

Many educational reformers have long held out hope that computers and other information and computer technologies (ICTs) can play crucial and integral roles in bringing about long-needed changes to education systems.  Indeed, many see the introduction of ICTs in schools as a sort of Trojan horse, out of which educational reform and innovation can spring once inside the walls of the traditional (conservative) education establishment. While not denying the potentially transformational impact of ICT use to help meet a wide variety of educational objectives, history has shown that bringing about positive disruptive change isn't achieved by simpling flooding schools with computers and related ICTs.

As a result of swine flu, many Mexican schools are experiencing quick, disruptive change of a different sort right now.  How might technology be relevant in cases like this?  Given the status quo, the use of technology in schools isn't enough to bring about systemic change.  But: How might ICTs be useful, even transformational, when this status quo is severly disrupted by some other exogenous factor ... like a pandemic disease outbreak?