How do we view technology?

One of the classes that I appreciated attending while at Ohio University was Advanced Seminar – IT Philosophy. I did not gain assessment in this class, as I chose to attend as an extra – just for the joy of it. And it was a joy, we had wonderful questions and resulting discussions that focused around the following two books:

  •  Thinking Through Technology: The Path Between Engineering and Technology by Carl Mitcham
  • Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won’t Go Away by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein

Each of these books was unpacked at length and although there were lots of side discussion over the semester, I still remember our first class where we talked about the Amish and technology (possibly driven by my fascination with their culture). But why is this class resonating with me right now? I’ve recently downloaded Never Send a Human to Do a Machine’s Job: Correcting the Top 5 EdTech Mistakes by Yong Zhao , Gaoming Zhang, Jing Lei and  Wei Qiu . As soon as I started reading it I was taken back to some of the discussion that we had in this class and the thinking that I was doing. Technology is a very broad term and sometimes we hear this word and immediately think of computer related concepts, but they are only a subset of technology, the pen and paper I used for jotting down my questions, as I read each chapter, are each a form of technology. I was then able to upload those written notes onto blackboard via an app connected to my pen and paper – yes now we are getting closer to the computer connected technology that we jump to quickly and how it can impact on my life. This class has encouraged me to consider carefully what is driving the choice of a tool, what does it achieve, what are its affordances and deficits, overall does it prove itself to be useful, does it benefit the outcome in a positive way, does it fit with what I am doing and what is its impact on society?

Deep thinking needs to exist around technology, its use and impact. It is for this reason that I tread carefully around anyone who identifies themselves as a Technology Evangelist. Life is complex and people are complex, the relationships that exist are more powerful than a tool and more nuanced than a program can cater for at times. Hence when the tool is put first I wonder what is lost? I was asked an interesting question recently. It centred on what would be my ideal tool for an online class. I certainly have lots of ideas around this, but if the relationships are not developed in the space, a culture of support is not evident, then the most powerful tool is not effective. It is supporting the connectedness of people that needs to be leveraged in an online learning space. Tools that enhance this is a conversation for another time. At a basic level, however, if a natural interplay between learners and teacher is not enabled then everything is stilted. The user and their needs and their drivers are significant in this space, which may be very different to those understood at a developer level or at a system level.

 

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