License Plates : Bourne Identity :: Computers : Law & Order

Three things have come together to inspire this post:

First, as I hinted in my last post, I’ve been thinking and reading a lot about the steady march of technology as it relates to education. A relatively short time ago, people were promising that the radio was going to revolutionize education, when I was in high school, having computers in the classroom was a big deal, and now it’s not too uncommon for a classroom to have a whole set of iPads or Chromebooks.

Second, I spent some time this morning thinking about my favorite part of the Bourne Identity: the street signs. No, seriously. Having lived in both Switzerland and France, I love watching that little red car with Swiss plates (you can even tell the car’s registered in Zurich) driving down the French autoroute (and you know it’s not the Swiss autoroute because of the color of the signs). If they’re well done, films have tremendous potential to catch the small details of a culture, and I believe you know more about a culture from its small details than its from Eiffel Towers. If they’re not well done, they won’t even get the Eiffel Tower right (*cough* Home Alone *cough*).

Third, a friend of mine posted this article to Facebook. The article is about “the ultimate binge-watching project,” in which Jeff Thompson watched the entire run of Law and Order and took a screenshot of every time a computer appeared in the show. I can’t do the article justice here, so please go and read it for yourself, but it’s an amazing story of how pop culture has captured (and fossilized for future discovery) our relationship with computers from 1990 to 2010. “We don’t have books or academic articles about the details Law & Order captured,” writes the author of this article, “they were invisible at the time.”

My mind is swimming trying to connect this back to edtech. I have trouble seeing what about technology is invisible in today’s classrooms… but that’s because I’m in the here and now. Twenty years from now, what’s going to surprise us when people go through all the screenshots of the pedagogical procedural dramas? Er, well, at least we have books and academic articles. In fact, maybe it’s time to go peruse some issues from the 1990s …

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