I’m interested in the ways that both articles addressed trends of suspicion toward, or pushback against, use of web-based information technology in education. Jim Groom and Brian Lamb talk about this in a broader sense when they refer to “backlash against innovation.” This fear that technological innovation goes hand-in-hand with (or perhaps actually functions in the service of) of an overhaul of “school as we know it” resonates with me. I’ll admit that I have an old-fashioned affection for my idea of what school is “supposed to be” (my quotation marks), and this involves a great deal of rigorous, engaged, face-to-face group discussion. Thinking about backlash against new uses of technology in education as a form of backlash against innovation itself helps me see the ways in which I—along with many others, I suspect—normalize the kind of classroom that I grew up with as simply the way the classroom is, as synonymous with school itself, rather than as one of infinite possible models.
Randal Bass criticizes the way that integration of new technologies in business and education alike is so often packaged in rhetoric of technology “solutions.” This observation helps me understand why I sometimes feel a little reluctant to incorporate certain new technologies into my work. An orientation that frames new technologies as prepackaged solutions has a corporate and formulaic feel, and does not encourage flexible and creative thinking about how best to get students involved in learning. My father’s complaint about being required by the medical school where he teaches to use PowerPoint slides comes to mind, as do the frequent encouragements I hear, during Ed Tech conversations, to use a class blog. I’m not dissing the class blog (and I use them! I do!), but I think that more important than having the blog is asking questions about why and how you want to use the blog. I also think that we need to continue being innovative in non-technological aspects of teaching. What potentiality of people in a room together, of pen and paper, of reading, speaking, and listening, in any form, is yet to be harnessed?
Of course, new technological developments and their applications in education are only as good as what we choose to do with them and how strategic we are in discovering the particular potentialities of each technology in relation to our ideas about what meaningful learning consists of (and I found Bass to be particularly compelling in his arguments about the capability of internet technologies to facilitate distributive learning and to maximize relationships between students and material of study). Both articles urge us to resist paradigms and systems that limit our visions of what is desirable and possible, both in regards to the democratic capabilities of the internet, and the unlimited shapes that rich formal learning experiences can take.