Sunday, April 15, 2007

You Can't Spell Assembly-Line Without...

So I finally got around to reading an article I had bookmarked to read a long time ago. In Whither Educational Technology? Dr. Andrew Feenberg of San Diego State University talks about the choices educators and, more specifically, educational leaders have to make regarding the future of educational technology and, by implication, the future of the teaching profession.

I have to be truthful and say this article wasn’t especially enlightening, not because it was poorly written (it wasn’t), or because Feenberg draws illogical conclusions (he doesn’t), or even because he offers no foresight (written in 1999, some of the things Feenberg suggests might come to pass actually have). Rather, I ended the article thinking to myself “Duh.”

And then I realized the importance of my immediate reaction. See I’m only in the second semester of my Master’s program, yet I feel I have learned enough about educational technology to draw many of the same conclusions that Feenberg did eight years ago. So what, then? Am I done learning? Hardly. Am I an expert in the field? Ha! Sometimes I spend nights pondering what it means to be an expert in anything.

So what are the implications? Without coming off as a brown-nosing dweeb (it doesn’t become me, anyway…I tried it once and didn’t like it, like many things in college) I would not have been able to traverse the e-jungle of literature on educational technology without the guidance of my professors. Sure, my e-machete Google has helped me and my group members find wonderful, helpful articles and journal entries which we have shared with each other and discussed and built ideas from together. Nevertheless, it wasn’t the technology that helped us learn about technology, it was all of us together in the process. Thus, though his article is flat and at times comes off as self-congratulatory, Feenberg makes a valid assertion: no matter the desire of many to make education an automated process, it does not and should not become one if we are to maximize the potential of people and technology alike.

As this is a blog devoted to writing and the effect of technology on it, I feel obliged to draw some connection here. Well, actually I just want to. The connection is clear, I think.

In recent entries, I have begun to refine my attitude toward, and opinion of, the language and literacy of IM and text-message communication. When I began this blog, I sought to find literature discussing instances of poor writing on the internet, in forums such as blogs, MySpace, LiveJournal, and others. I have searched for weeks and found nothing. Maybe I’m looking in the wrong places; maybe I just have to do the research and write the literature myself, something I’m not averse to doing. I have found numerous examples of people butchering the English language, and I could kick myself for not having written them down. In terms of writing, language, and the broad umbrella that is communication, it seems even more imperative that educators work in conjunction with technology rather than having technology take the reins by itself. People want, need, often endlessly search until they find guidance. Some comfortably choose technology as their guide, but for many things, such as writing and communication, this can be a dangerous choice.


Crystal Crozier said...


I read the article, and I too thouht "Duh!" Maybe it was because we've already read and been actively involved in Educational Technology these past two semesters, or maybe it is because we are absolutely brilliant!

The most profound statement you made in this entry was this: "Maybe I’m looking in the wrong places; maybe I just have to do the research and write the literature myself, something I’m not averse to doing." I definitely think you need to start writing some literature about this. You have the knowledge, skills, and writing talent.

In the meantime, I will keep Googling, and maybe one day, I will find a scholarly article written by you.

Crystal Crozier said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ann V. said...

"The social impact of technology depends on how it is designed and used."

This quote from your article connected me to the readings on HCI and all the design considerations that take place.

"There is something about dialogue, and the active involvement of the teacher, that is fundamental to the educational process and that must be woven into the design of any new instructional tool."

Have you ever taken an "independent study" class? One with no interaction with a teacher or other students? I have and it was to say the least, a snore fest. You think that distance learning like this program requires self-discipline. Wow, where is the motivation and the "social dialogue" and the "connections" in that scenario? I agree with you that a lot of the learning takes place in the "process" and that the opportunity to evaluate an idea from multiple perspectives is invaluable.

"Ironically, Plato used a written text as the vehicle for his critique of writing, setting a precedent that we continue to follow in present-day debates about educational technology: many of the most vociferous attacks on web-based media circulate on the Internet (Noble, 1997)."

I found this end note in the article to be amusing!

Finally, if anyone can successfully traverse the "e-jungle" of educational technology literature (does that make you Tarzan? :)) and come up with a contemporary resource on technology and communication it's you! Send me a copy so I can forego sharpening my e-machete!

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