BLOG POST: Time is Money. It’s Time to Get our Money’s Worth? – Ariel Liu

You can earn money but you cannot earn time.

                                    (Kevin Hung, 2011)        

Ariel Liu When a friend of mine uttered this statement, I couldn’t agree with him immediately, as I was already trying to come back with a winning argument. But I couldn’t. It’s true: Once time has passed, one cannot earn it again.

Having this discussion with my friend made my think about the purpose of using technology to enhance learning—to make time more efficient in a more systematic way. For decades, many technologies have been created and tailored for this particular purpose, but how many of these educationally-orientated technologies have really succeeded? In other words, from how many technologies have we really gotten our money’s worth?

On the 7th November 2011, I attended a seminar in Oxford, ‘An impact to the idea of restructuration’ by Professor Richard Noss from the Institute of Education. His talk focused on how technological tools can help students shape the meaning-making process in mathematics, particularly discussing how the participants’ new and prior mathematic knowledge were developed and integrated by using these tools. His study showed that students were able to achieve what the tools intended to teach them—in other words, the tools were successful. However, one could argue that the lessons taught by these tools could just as easily be taught with a pen and paper. The only convincing reason to argue for the use of the tools was that they reduced the students’ recording time (counting numbers) while they tried to figure out the intended distributed meaning. So are these tools worth it? Why spend a large sum of money in investment in a digital interface to enhance learning when this ‘learning’ can simply be achieved by a cheap method?

Many educationally-orientated technological tools or games were invented to ‘make time’, but too frequently, it is difficult for students to understand the purpose of the tools. In many cases, technical problems or overly complex interfaces made learning more difficult, or else students have to ‘make time’ to fully understand the purpose of the tool. In a way, when designing an educationally-focused tool, it is important to understand its purpose and how practical it can really be. I suppose that, as a consumer, money is always well spent if a purpose is achieved—in this case, because learning was actually accomplished, it was.

Leave a Reply