Technology and History
When it comes to my own exposure to technology, I have been extremely fortunate. I come from a childhood enriched by personal computers and early telecommunications, and from a previous career as a software engineer in both the private and educational sectors for over 15 years. Even at a young age, what attracted me most to computer technology was the potential for interaction between peoples of significant differences of background (age, demographics, geographic location) around shared interests and topics. There was no greater thrill for me than to realize that within the world of the bulletin board system, my value was determined not by my age, appearance, demographic background or gender, but rather by my contribution to the shared conversation. It seems that as a child, I had intuited the importance of the participatory culture (Jenkins, H., 2006) in which I was participating and that Henry Jenkins would write about in his report for the MacArthur Foundation more than twenty years later. The intercession of personal computers and modems, of message boards and affinity spaces (Gee, J., 2010) had created for me more opportunities of self-expression and interaction than had existed before my introduction to them. I recognized innately the relational stance (Callister, T. & Burbules, N., 2010) between the technology in my life and my experience of it, and engaged in the aspects of my new world with excitement and engagement as its presence in my life shaped new possibilities.
As often can happen in life, I had a crisis of direction and spent some significant time re-evaluating my relationship to technology, to myself, and to my career’s general direction and trajectory. While I had gained a respectable level of mastery in software engineering, I found my involvement in the practice complicated and troubled. I was losing my sense of engagement and dug deep to find what was the common thread in my life that could help lead me to mental and emotional alignment. What I discovered was a trifecta of life experiences and interests that now culminate in my current studies: technology use, role-playing games, and education.
Technology and Learning
It is a fact that we have been using technology for as long as we have been learning, if we include in a wide definition, any tools that extend our personal power as ‘technology’. The ‘cunning of the hand’ and the ‘study of the mind’ are two sides of the same coin, or more specifically, two facets of the same faculty. Education has a long relationship with technology use, and each introduction of new powers have brought with them their own new problems and possibilities. We tend to get hung up today with the interpretation of ‘technology’ as new technology, dealing with computers, the internet, and mobile devices, but as Michael Russell points out in his book, Technology and Assessment, The Tale of Two Interpretations, at one point the horn book and the chalk board were themselves innovative technologies introduced to the classroom, with creatively disruptive effect.
What is important to remember as educators is that educational technology cannot be looked at instrumentally, being capable by its own virtue to solve our educational issues of engagement and efficiency, but rather must be viewed as part of a relationship between the specific technology presented for use, the pedagogical approach of what is desired to be taught, and the content of what is being taught. As Mishra and Koehler point out in Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge: A Framework for Teacher Knowledge, the “thoughtful pedagogical uses of technology require the development of a complex, situated form of knowledge” that posits the “complex roles of, and interplay among … content, pedagogy and technology”. In short: in order to be educationally successful, we must endeavor to use the right technology, in the right way, for the right reasons.
Technology and Literacy
Like it or not, it is clear that our current world has seen the advent of a whole host of new technologies, from email to YouTube to social networking sites to mobile applications, and the list grows longer and more complex every day. Each of these technologies carries with it a sense of ‘literacy’ (Jenkins, H., 2006) that dictate the ability of a practitioner to understand the power of the technology, to recognize and use that power, to manipulate, transform, distribute,and easily adapt the artifacts of these new technologies to new and different forms. We cannot confine our idea of literacy to the narrow category of writing and the printed word, for the world is one that is now composed of images, videos, web sites, mobile applications, social networks, mash-ups and video games, and each carries with it its own ‘literacy’ and its own pedagogical and expressive advantages.
As educators, it is very important for us not to ignore the need for literacy in these new technologies, and to heed our own role in helping students navigate both the technological particularities of these new technologies, as well as the social ramifications that these new technologies create for us as we adopt them into our common culture.
Technology and Knowledge
New technologies are changing our relationship with knowledge – both in what we need to retain through memorization, as well as what it is possible to know. Access to knowledge through online collaborative encyclopedias is ubiquitous and pervasive, and while some may bemoan the consequences of a mind not tasked to retain expansive amounts of specific domain knowledge, others might argue that relieving ourselves of the necessity to memorize gives greater latitude to higher order skills of research and retrieval, as well as a host of other higher order cognitive processes. Regardless, we are forever changed by the technology that is available to us, and we have a host of new things we need to know in order to be proficient utilizers of these new technologies, as we simultaneously begin to apply them to our traditional learning goals.
As educators, we have to ensure our students obtain the appropriate knowledge to be literate in these new technologies, and we need to also protect the original goals of our educational endeavors, and strive not to forget our content and pedagogical goals in the face of the use of these newer technologies.