Thursday, April 24, 2008

the role of technology

Teachers say they want "cutting edge technology" in their classrooms. They view the latest technology tools as a great cure that will finally transform their mundane teaching experience into a twenty-first century, state-of-the-art facility. Words are powerful and often dangerous. True, the computer is a tool and it can be "cutting edge?" But which edge is it cutting? Who and what is it changing?

The notion of a tool assumes we, as humans, have the ability to maneuver technology however we please and it will not change us in the process. The reality is that technology is always a double-edged sword. In being cutting edge, it often slashes through difficult tasks in hyper-speed and creates work that would once have seemed miraculous. But it also cuts us, leaving us scarred and addicted so that the soul of a tech junkie looks like the arm of a heroine addict. We can connect instantly, but we are losing our ability to communicate. We look constantly, but we rarely see. We access information from millions of sources, but there is no transfer into wisdom. I'm not anti-technology.

I don't believe the solution is to create a neo-Luddite paradise among the Amish. What I am suggesting is that technology will never create the paradise promised to us by technocrats like Steve Jobs. Instead, I wonder what it would look like to teach students to use technology, but also to be technology critics. What if we helped them to see the double-edged sword for what it is - something powerful and dangerous that, even when used for good, can still have negative side effects.

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