My procrastination is bearing fruit. For a variety of reasons, my preparation of the new course outline has been postponed, delayed, and otherwise interfered with by circumstances that I will claim are out of my control. The result of which is that I’m trying to get a semester’s worth of outline down before Monday’s class start. (Yes, students, even teachers wait until the last minute.) While this is costing me sleep, it’s also allowing me to intersect with reality in a way that I wouldn’t have been able to do – say – two weeks ago.
The new course – Technology, Education, and Culture – has run smack into the “why aren’t teachers using technology?” meme. It’s neither surprising nor ironic that the question is being asked by a group of teachers who use technology and I think the answer to the question is the subject of the course.
The question itself has been around for — gosh — about 2500 years or so. I think Phaedrus asked it of Plato about Socrates. Socrates had the little run in with hemlock before he adopted the new technology (some teachers will do anything to avoid changing a syllabus), but luckily Plato was more receptive and so he adopted the new technology — writing — and we are able to learn about the controversy. Over the years, it’s been kind of a simmering-pot issue on the back of the educational technology stove, but somebody bumped the burner up and it’s starting to boil over.
The (flawed) assumption is that there is a culture of Education or of Technology. The fundamental notion is that the evolution of technology has changed culture. The commonest examples are “the printing press” and “the automobile.” You can throw in “radio,” “movies,” “the microscope,” and “the internet” if you like. Pick your favorite example. They all apply.
My not really expert opinion on this is that there never was *a* culture to change, and since the starting point isn’t a point but rather a collection of different starting points in terms of culture, the effect of a cascade of technologies — not just some arbitrary generic big-T Technology — is not an entree, but a smorgasbord.
Where do we start and why do we have such small plates?
First, we have this big table full of cultures to choose from. We have a lot of “Western culture” here on this end of the table, but not far down there’s a bit of “Eastern.” There’s “American” and a small constellation of stars, stripes, and bibles. And “Canadian” with a broader landscape of languages, tastes, and flavors. There’s cultures of color, and cultures of language, and cultures of ability. It’s not single culture offered — as Serling might say — “for your consideration.”
Second, we have this big table full of Educational philosophies and practices. It may be even larger than the first because each culture carries with it twists and variations on the subject. A jumbalaya of elementary philophies and a rich curry of secondary. There’s the eclectic palettes of higher education and the haute cuisine offerings of graduate school. It’s fanned across the continuum of behaviourism, constructivism, and connectivism until the table fairly groans under the load.
Last, we’ve got this steam table covered with hot dishes of technology. Way back there on the far side we have “spoken language” and, next to it, “written language.” There’s some “print” offerings back there and a whole host of offshoot technologies. There’s a swath of communications carafes and another of transportation trenchers. On this end of the table we’ve got the hottest new digital dishes that many are walking past in order to get to their long established favorites. No matter how we urge them, they continue to consume those dishes with which they are most familiar — a kind of comfort food level of adoption. In troubled times, we all tend to retreat to comfort food, so who can blame them?
So? What do we put on our plates? Why do we make the choices we make? Does a culture change a technology? Or does a technology change a culture? Is the purpose of Education to maintain Culture or define it? Does the twitterverse effect your education? Or just your learning? A single Ning doeth not a Culture make, and two Pownces don’t make a trend, but do those technologies each have a culture? Is there an IM culture?
Can teachers teach Shakespeare without learning first to read? Do we care about Shakespeare? Or only about reading? About teaching?
Or is the point to it all the learning?