The Race Between Education and Technology: an Interview with Professor Claudia Golden

Today we have our very first interview for our blog! It’s from Harvard professor Claudia Goldin. She has written a fantastic book, The Race between Education and Technology, which focuses on the development of education in relation to wage attainment and inequality. It has received great reviews, including praises form Stephen Levitt-author of Freakonomics- and the New York Times. You can find her book here.

1. What inspired you to write The Race between Education and Technology?

GOLDRAC_medI was inspired by the increase in wage inequality during the post-1970s and the decrease in wage inequality in the early part of the 20th century. What connected the two large changes in the distribution of the labor market’s rewards is one of the central questions posed in the book. I was also inspired by the history of education in America, America’s leadership in the establishment of egalitarian schooling, and its apparent loss of leadership in the very recent period.

2. What makes the current generation of students different from others in terms of technology?

Let me compare myself as an undergraduate to my undergraduate students. When I was an undergraduate I studied in the library, I used physical books and other documents as research tools, and typed my papers using a typewriter (often with carbons for copies). My undergraduates use the Internet a lot, they rarely use books or other physical documents, and they can make as many mistakes in writing a paper as they want and then correct them (I hope). They don’t use the library as much as they should since everything is not yet available on-line (they think everything is, however). Comparing myself as a graduate student with my graduate students is even more extreme because my graduate students can run thousands of regressions in the shortest period of time whereas I had to go to the computer center with punch cards for each. These are really big changes and alter the type of research that ones does. We did more theory (and that is often very good).

3. How can technology change the classroom?

There are pluses and minuses to the use of PowerPoint. I use it for every class. But my students have become passive. It is something that I have to change and I have some ideas how to do it. I have taken Bio courses that use amazing animations to demonstrate what goes on within the cell. Economists do not have such interesting life forms to depict, but there is a lot that is more interesting with a great PowerPoint presentation using pictures, maps, and graphs.

4. What is the biggest obstacle in integrating technology in education?

As I noted, my students have become too passive. They don’t have to take notes since the PowerPoints are posted and they print them out.goldinprof

5. Do you think it is possible to one day have an all-online classroom in the future?

I essentially took a course on-line because it wasn’t offered when I needed to take it (it was a prereq to a genetics course). I got all the videos and the problems. It worked well even though I did not have the ability to ask the teaching fellows and professors questions (I guess I could have).

Thanks Claudia for agreeing to this interview! Again, you can find her book The Race between Education and Technolgy here. If you would like to learn more about the internet and technology, check out Udemy’s main website This is the first in a long line of interviews from education-related professionals that will give their insight on issues related to technology and education. Come back later for more interviews as well as other posts