Since the days of Thomas Edison, technology has held the promise of lowering the cost of education. The fantasy of leveraging a fixed production cost to reach an unlimited number of consumers is an enticing economic proposition, one that has been repeatedly attempted with each new media format, from radio and television to MOOCs, where star academics make online video lectures available to millions of students at little cost

In Sage and the Screen, Bill Ferster explores the historical, theoretical, and practical perspectives of using broadcast media to teach by examining a century of efforts to use it at home and in the classroom. Along the way, he shares stories from teachers, administrators, entrepreneurs, and innovators who promoted the use of cutting-edge technology—while critically evaluating their motives for doing so.

Taking a close look at the origins of various media forms, their interrelatedness, and their impact on education thus far, Ferster asks why broadcast media has been so much more successful at entertaining people than it has been at educating them. Accessibly written and full of explanatory art, Sage and the Screen offers fresh insight into the current and future uses of instructional technology from K-12 through non-institutionally-based learning.

Bill Ferster, PhD is a research professor at the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education and the director of visualization for the Sciences, Humanities & Arts Technology Initiative (SHANTI). He is the author of Teaching Machine: Learning at the Intersection of Education and Technology, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014 and Interactive Visualization: Insight through Inquiry, MIT Press, 2012. In past lives, he founded StageTools, a leading developer of digital motion control tools with its MovingPicture product; Editing Machines Corporation (EMC), EMMY award winning developer of the first digital nonlinear editing system; and West End, a pioneer in PC-based animation and presentation graphics tools.

"Bill Ferster's book is a carefully researched, complex, and insightful take on the on both the past and future of digital technology in higher education. Unlike the 'disruptors' who believe that higher education’s business model is broken and can only be transformed by heavy investment in edtech, Ferster draws careful connections between the actual capabilities of technology and the goals of educators."

—T. Mills Kelly, author of Teaching History in the Digital Age

"Anyone thinking of introducing "disruptive technology" into higher education should read The Sage on the Screen first. Bill Ferster’s history of media in education provides useful lessons about the promise and peril of technology in the classroom."

— David J. Staley, The Ohio State University

"In Sage On The Screen, Bill Ferster ably demonstrates that nearly every aspect of media that we consider to be "new" has deeply rooted precedents. Ferster succeeds in making crucial connections between various aspects of education media development over the past 130 years. Most importantly, he highlights the valuable lessons that need to be learnt from this history if we are to see the benefits of the education media of today. All in all, a must-read for anyone seeking to make proper sense of education, media and society."

— Neil Selwyn, Monash University, Melbourne

"Bill Ferster's book offers a solid introduction to the history of educational media, chronicling various technological developments alongside the justifications that engineers and educators have used for incorporating these into teaching and learning. This history is important as too often educational technology is discussed as though it has no connection to history or to theory."

— Audrey Watters, author of The Revenge of the Monsters of Education Technology

Images from the book

Johns Hopkins University Press
Hardback, 216 pages
Johns Hopkins official website
High resolution book images and author photo
Available in October 2016
Bill Ferster
University of Virginia
+1 (540) 592-7001
Twitter: @bferster
Order it from here