Commentary 1: Technopoly Today

In Postman’s (1992) Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology, the argument of whether technology makes people “cease to exercise their memory and become forgetful” is addressed. The need for educators to scrutinize their technology use is very important as we experiment with new ideas and innovations, in addition to a new type of learner. Technological inventions and innovations, including educational technologies, have constantly been developed throughout man’s time on Earth. Some of these technologies are improved over time while new ones replace some of the old, altogether. Postman proposes that we do not immediately accept new technology as it may harm us more than we know, or even think about. The issue of technology acceptance has risen in education circles as we have recently moved into the information era.

Amiel and Reeves (2008) acknowledge the benefits of technology in that “educational technologies are often viewed not only as solutions to real or perceived inadequacies of traditional instruction, but also as tools for reducing the inequities in educational opportunities around the world”. These technologies, including widespread computer use, make it easier for teachers to communicate with students in far off places with little access to traditional education. Classroom and library technologies make information easier to access and support learning at school and at home. However, Amiel and Reeves (2008) note that, “the tool itself will not change the educational system or even implicitly encourage new pedagogy.” New technologies are tools for change but do not create change by themselves. Computer use in classrooms is being researched in schools around the world but educators cannot seem to agree on their place or purpose in the classroom. Further research needs to be done as new technologies are introduced into schools and society.

Computer technology currently plays a support role in education. The degree of the role it plays should be determined through sound pedagogical practice. Amiel and Reeves (2008) state, “Far too often, researchers are tempted to adapt the educational environment to a new technique or device.” In the case of pencil and paper, this adaptation worked well for many years but the shift to computer technology is still on the table for debate. On the downside, Papert (1980) contends the implementation of computers in classrooms may lead to less human association and exacerbate existing class economic distinctions. On the other hand, Spector (2001) observed, “Educators can represent a great variety of complex phenomena in school settings that would have previously required expensive field trips and only limited opportunities for interaction.” Postman (2008) suggests teachers cannot afford to be technophiles as not every new device will produce the results that were originally intended. Teachers should work together with researchers to weigh the advantages and disadvantages to determine the best practices for technology integration in the classroom.

Learners have changed over time with the advancement of technology. As youth have shifted from working on farms to learning in school and being constantly “plugged in” there has been a transformation in learning paradigms. In Plato’s Phaedrus (Postman, 1992), Thamus is concerned that pupils will, “receive a quantity of information without proper instruction.” We are faced with the same dilemma today in the information era. Students constantly have any information they wish at their fingertips through wireless technology and smartphones. Educators have to teach students how to judge between valuable information and the insignificant. A benefit of the internet is that it allows anyone to publish his or her work without discrimination but a downfall is that much of the information posted is unreliable or inaccurate. Teachers play a role in teaching students to be critical of everything they read, especially when it comes to online publishing.

Postman (1992) wrote, “A new technology does not add or subtract something. It changes everything.” He continued to explain how the printing press changed the way we read and distribute information. We have now entered another major change with worldwide internet use. Important questions remain unanswered in regards to the future of educational technology. What are the long-term effects of lengthy screen time? How does technology use affect learning and memory? How do we compensate for inequalities in access to technology, among different demographics? Moreover, how do we pay for the implementation of the most advantageous technologies in schools? Until these and other related questions are addressed, educators need to be cautious in how they implement technology, and sometimes, even force it upon their students. Some technologies like interactive whiteboards have shown to increase class participation and teach to multiple intelligences but they are also in many classrooms where the teacher only views the technology as a touch screen. Without proper professional development, administrative support and constant guidance, profitable tools will go unused. Our 21st century learners expect their teachers to model proper technology use and teach critical thinking skills, which in turn will assist them far beyond the walls of the classroom.

Bibliography

Amiel, T., and Reeves, T.C. (2008). Design-based research and educational technology: Rethinking technology and the research agenda. Educational Technology and Society. 11 (4). p. 29-40

 
Papert, S. (1980). Mindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas. New York: Basic Books. p. 19-37

 
Postman, N. (1992). Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology. New York. Vintage. p. 3-20

 
Spector, J.M. (2001). An overview of progress and problems in educational technology. Interactive Educational Mutimedia. (3). p 27-37

 
Ong, W. J. (1982). Orality and literacy: The technologizing of the word. New York. Methuen.

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