Friday, August 24, 2012

Will Our Technology Oppress or Liberate?



When we integrate technology into the curriculum, we have a terrific chance to reverse a terrible trend.  In The Stigma of Genius, the authors say,
           Descartes, Newton, and Bacon laid a foundation that allowed science and technology [emphasis mine] to transform the world. Commerce increased, nationalism grew, and Europeans could conquer other civilizations at a rate previous unimagined. The rise of modernistic science was closely followed by a decline in the importance of religion and spirituality. . . Rationality became a new deity. . .
           Every part of the universe was quantitative; thus, the goal of science and education was to develop more precise systems of measurement and to commit the results of such measurement to the mind of the learner. . .
          Modernist schools emphasize quantities, distance, and location, not qualities, relationships, or context. . .
           [Teaching and testing focus on] “correct” answers to questions involving names, dates, and places (and even reasons for events as specified by the teacher or the text), answers that are unambiguous and that lend themselves to precise measurement. True or false, fill in the blanks, multiple choice, and matching tests are all grounded in Newtonian-Cartesian cause and effect linearity, for all sets of given conditions there is only one correct final state, one right answer.
           Joe L. Kincheloe, Shirley R. Steinberg, & Deborah J. Tippins, The Stigma of Genius: Einstein, Consciousness, & Education. Lang, 1999, pp. 15-17.

Perhaps we have all experienced “technology” in programmed learning that proceeds from the objective-reality, “modernist” construction of reality.  Today we have the challenge and opportunity to change that enacted meaning of technology and the perverse effects of it.  We don’t have to impose that bias when we bring in technology today, but the danger persists.  Kincheloe and colleagues explain one reason why: “Because we are not educated to think in terms of exposing the tacit assumptions in our practices and conventions, many teachers are oblivious to the fact that they are propagating a specific ideology when they design their tests and teach their classes” (p. 16).  If we want our infusion of technology to be liberating instead of constrictive and in service to  a dominating ideology, we must actively inquire into our experience of media and make it participatory, not unconscious, not robotic.  If we want to build a collaborative enterprise in the capacity of the Web 2.0 paradigm, we must enter courageously into the Challenges of Participatory Learning so that the crucial values are enacted into their deep potential instead of being castigated so that  behaviorist and ethnocentric agenda can be perpetuated.  

Jenkins and others challenge us to reclaim our birthright as educators in providing our children with the best legacy of public education that is increasingly accessible when we optimize the potential of today’s technology.  These values include: play, performance, multitasking, distributed cognition, collective intelligence, judgment, transmedia navigation, networking, and negotiation. (p. 4-)

Let’s insist that our accountability measures keep us in alignment with these qualities that we owe to instill in our children.


Henry Jenkins, etal. Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Learning: Media Education for the 21st Century. MacArthur Foundation, 2011.