I have been following up on the great comments and links on the Artichoke happiness post and happened across a link from Lucychili, to a TED talk by technologist, scientist, physicist Clifford Stoll who made claims about computers in schools that were so unlike what I am used to hearing in New Zealand that I laughed aloud ...
“there is a massive and bizarre idea going around that we have to bring more computers into schools ... my idea is to get them out of schools and keep them out of schools.”
I am amazed that I haven’t nudged up against Stoll before - his background is enticing - impressive diverse and quirky - a polymath (astronomer, researcher, computer security expert , klein bottle maker ) and with his current determination to “think local act local” - a teacher (Stoll teaches physics to eighth graders). It gives him an domain experience and authority that I have not seen in the commentators we invite to speak at (e)learning conferences in New Zealand.
But all this doesn’t mean that Stoll’s analysis is sound .... he is a compelling presenter but his arguments about computers in school were more rhetorical than research balanced – However as other edu-bloggers have argued many of our arguments for introducing computers/ ICTs/ Web2.0 into school are based on generalisations and rhetoric.
I have ordered his books High Tech Heretic: Why Computers Don't Belong in the Classroom and Other Reflections by a Computer Contrarian and The Cuckoo's Egg: Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage to see what he can do when given longer than an 18 minute sound bite to explain his ideas ..
History, including educational history, is full of ideas that seemed good at the time.
Stoll’s comments challenged me to think about conversation starters I seldom hear/ questions seldom raised at (e) Learning conferences. I decided to generate a list of questions seldom raised at (e) learning conferences in New Zealand using Postman’s five things as a framework – Neil Postman: Five Things We Need to Know About Technological Change because Postman’s thinking along with others like Ivan Illich, Carolyn Marvin and Larry Cuban provide a useful starting point for any thinking that might provoke analysis of our current “(e) learning is good” position about the integration of ICTs into school.
What follows is still clunky, and I am a little fearful of charges of techno determinism, but here goes ...
“Five ideas I’d like to discuss at the next (e) learning conference"
In response to Postman's :
“First, that we always pay a price for technology; the greater the technology, the greater the price”
What do ICTs give to teachers and/or students?
What will ICTs do for pedagogy?
How will ICTs advantage the conditions of value in learning?
What does ICTs take away from teachers and/or students?
What will ICTs undo in pedagogy?
How will ICTs disadvantage the conditions of value in learning?
What is the cost of ICTs to education?
“Second, that there are always winners and losers, and that the winners always try to persuade the losers that they are really winners.”
Who specifically benefits from ICTs in school?
Which groups will be favoured by ICTs in school?
What kind of processes will be enhanced by ICTs in school?
Who specifically is harmed by ICTs in school?
Which groups will be harmed by ICTs in school?
What kind of processes will be harmed by ICTs in school?
Who are the winners when ICTs are introduced to schools?
Who is trying to persuade others of the benefits of ICTs in school?
Who are the losers when ICTs are introduced to schools?
Who is being persuaded by others on the benefits of ICTs in schools?
Are all schools benefited and/ or harmed in the same ways by the introduction of ICTs?
In response to Postman's:
“Third, that there is embedded in every great technology an epistemological, political or social prejudice. Sometimes that bias is greatly to our advantage. Sometimes it is not. The printing press annihilated the oral tradition; telegraphy annihilated space; television has humiliated the word; the computer, perhaps, will degrade community life. And so on.”
What bias does ICT bring to thinking?
What bias does ICT bring to managing self?
What bias does ICT bring to participating and contributing?
What bias does ICT bring to relating to others?
What bias does ICT bring to using language, symbols and text?
What bias does ICT bring to communication?
What bias does ICT bring to community?
In response to Postman's:
“Fourth, technological change is not additive; it is ecological, which means, it changes everything and is, therefore, too important to be left entirely in the hands of Bill Gates.”
What are the consequences of the introduction of ICTs for the culture of school (culture = the things we do to belong)?
What are the consequences of ICTs for the culture of the city, the suburb, small town and rural New Zealand?
And finally in response to Postman's:
"And fifth, technology tends to become mythic; that is, perceived as part of the natural order of things, and therefore tends to control more of our lives than is good for us. .... When a technology become mythic, it is always dangerous because it is then accepted as it is, and is therefore not easily susceptible to modification or control."
What are the ICTs that are ubiquitous in school?
What are the ICTs in school that we cannot imagine doing without?
What do these ICTs do for us?
What do these ICTs do to us?
And as an aside I reckon that Postman’s criteria for speakers on technological change should be stuck to the screen of every (e) learning conference organiser.
One might say, then, that a sophisticated perspective on technological change includes one's being skeptical of Utopian and Messianic visions drawn by those who have no sense of history or of the precarious balances on which culture depends. In fact, if it were up to me, I would forbid anyone from talking about the new information technologies unless the person can demonstrate that he or she knows something about the social and psychic effects of the alphabet, the mechanical clock, the printing press, and telegraphy. In other words, knows something about the costs of great technologies. Neil Postman: Five Things We Need to Know About Technological Change