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Thing 1

(Note to my three regular readers (or is it two?) this post is part of a project I am involved in at Wayne RESA (sort of a consulting firm for school districts and teachers) concerning learning and incorporating electonic technology in the classroom. If it doesn't sound interesting skip this post).

Both David Warlick's A Day in the Life of Web 2.0 and the YouTube post of "Pay Attention" are, shall I say, enthusiatic about electronic/digital technology and its application in the classroom. And I can say--OK, I won't mind some bells and whistles in my classroom too. What troubles me, however, seems to be the uncritical acceptance of this technology in the classroom plastered with the Biblical fiat "And it was GOOD!"

I don't doubt that we can harness some of this tekhne-gnosis , literally knowledge of a skill, craft, art, or system, for our students' good. Conversely, I do almost all of my banking online and have done so for at least five years. My task is to figure out how to use this for my students' good, and that is what I aim to learn in this course of 23 Things.

However, most of the comments and presuppositions are based on two premises: 1) All technology is good (and neutral) and 2) Our students are already using this stuff let's incorporate it for educratic purposes.
So. . . is all technology good? Maybe, but it certainly isn't neutral. New advances change the way we live our lives, blur the definitions of what it means to be human. Prove that assertion Martin, I hear you say. Hmmm. . . If all we are meant to be is consumers then the electronic technology that exists can't but help to fulfill that destiny. I can download music, movies, lectures, and books. I can access these things anywhere (including my classroom when I should be paying attention to the lesson!) I can "know" people in my E-villages around the world with E-Mail, chat, video messaging, digital photography, cell phones, and all the ephemera that exists on the Web. I can hole up in my house watching digitally remastered versions of "Leave It to Beaver" on my 52 inch plasma TV with an Onkyo surround sound system while I order pizza over the net. I don't have to be civically involved in my local community because I'm on Facebook with my friends in Japan. But if humans are more than just consumers than this kind of technology might get in the way of some of that.
Tools are supposed to aid human flourishing, not do the flourishing for us. What good does it do us to be able to find 1,456,798 links to the American Revolution when I can't piece that overwhelming amount of information together or place it in a context that my finite mind can grasp? Having information is not the same thing as possessing wisdom.
Lastly, because I know this is going to start rambling (why are 99% of all my posts first drafts?) just because students use it doesn't mean that they use it well or that they should even be using it. What is the devil's dictum? If we can do it, we should. Research shows that for most people, multitasking means you can do several things at once rather poorly. How is any of this going to produce good, virtuous human beings? I don't think it will--it isn't designed too. Can it aid us? Perhaps, but not if we shut our eyes, hold out our hands and yell, "GIMME, GIMME, GIMME."
Enough cheerleading--how will this stuff affect us and how do we keep it from mastering us?
P.S. Technology also includes lights, doors, chalkboards, desks, folders, books, and other antiquated notions.


RESA 23Things said…
Wow - so much to respond to, but I just want to make two points.

First of all, the unique thing about Web 2.0 technology is that is isn't just all about "getting" - that was more Web 1.0. Web 2.0 lets us be producers as well as consumers of information - sometimes called the new "prosumers." You'll see lots of ways to contribute to online communities as you progress through the 23 Things.

Secondly, this project recognizes the importance of teachers learning how to use these technologies first, so that that students can learn to use them safely and effectively for learning.

Welcome to the project. It's going to be fun!
Stephanie said…
I enjoyed reading such a thoughtful post. I think some of your critique on the consumer slant of these new technologies is also related to the isolation that they can create--is there a qualitative difference between traditional communities that include face-to-face interaction and virtual ones?

Also, I'm finding it interesting that my middle school students aren't all using these technologies, although I think that they will if they have access to them, so the thought that it's the teachers who are behind the curve isn't particularly resonant with my own experience. If teachers incorporate aspects of Web 2.0 into our classroom, we may have to teach students how to use the technology in an educational setting and how that may differ from personal use.

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