Thinking about machines and how they have power and revisiting the past readings was very interesting. Given my perspectives based on the later readings these had even more context for me. I had touched base with Yaël and discussed the relationship between technology of the past and technology of the future. In looking back on her blog, I noted a very different focus. I had focused on machines of the past and a focus towards the future. She and I both discussed the benefits to technology and the drawbacks.
So, what is the point? The benefits of technology depend on the user not the technology itself. If there is not training and an effort to keep technology unbiased then the technology will “amplify whatever pedagogical capacity is already there.” (Toyama, 2015) This leads us to the following question: what is in place to stop misuse? The first level would be ourselves, we are all responsible for our own behaviors, but after that we understand that it is the norms of an online group will put restrictions on behavior “, a set of understandings constrain behavior, again through the threat of ex post sanctions imposed by a community” (Lessig, 2009) Some people may claim that this is not enough. This is why there are also laws regulating the online world and according to Lessig, “We should worry about a regime that makes invisible regulation easier; we should worry about a regime that makes it easier to regulate” (Lessig, 2009)
This being taken into account, it could be said that teachers reject technology due to it being a hindrance instead of something that benefits the learner. When looking deeper into Yaël’s blog post she discussed not having good use of technology and in the article by Kentaro Toyama I read this from his perspective. When discussing schools that had been given technology to use he found that without support, “the machines were locked away, and the computer lab was repurposed.” (Toyama, 2015) Even when machines are not locked away (for their own safety or otherwise) we find that “Students are often asked to copy-and-paste bits of information they find online into PowerPoint slides without being challenged to think about how to select good material or how to construct a strong argument.” (Toyama, 2015)
This is not to say that technology can never be used positively or in a way that benefits the user. We must remember that it is not the technology that is at fault it is the user. The systems we use should be assumed to hold biases and “As with other criteria for good computer systems, such as reliability, accuracy, and efficiency, freedom from bias should be held out as an ideal.” (Friedman & Nissenbaum, 1996) It is important that as a community we analyze this and make sure to analyze the technology before liberally applying it to our students for use. This being said there are studies that show that using technology in the classroom can be highly useful. In fact technology can provide “a phenomenological lens to explore the complexity of these literacy practices draws on ‘notions of the sensory, unfolding material world and the multimodal, textual and “imagined” digital world’” (Toomey, 2017)
We can learn from Toyama who stated that “By inventing and disseminating new, low-cost devices for learning, we believed we were improving education for the world’s less privileged children“ (Toyama, 2015) but he slowly realized that without constant revisiting of the programs and training the programs did not work effectively like they did in the trials. In fact, much of the technology was very difficult for teachers who did not receive training. They did not receive the support and information required to keep their students on task and “For teachers already struggling to keep their students engaged, a computer is less help, more hindrance.” (Toyama, 2015) This all being said we can look at the beginning of his article on the MultiPoint program and see that it did work. In fact, the article addressed exactly what made the technology successful. They had partner schools with teachers and principals that were involved, the students focused on the tasks given to them, and the researchers helped to assist with implementation. This needs to be happening in schools.
In my own teaching career, I watched as budgets were slashed. Not for technology itself but for support staff for that technology. Our school started with a dedicated technology help person and slowly that job was absorbed into the “media center” as time went on this job became less about the technology and more about another hand in the library. Just like in the article, the computers were locked away and teachers had to learn about the technology on their own and fight to keep it. When faced with such pessimistic outlooks it is hard to remember that the technology itself is good, but the support and training is what keeps it alive.
Works CitedFriedman, B., & Nissenbaum, H. (1996, July 3). Bias in Computer Systems. ACM Transactions on Information Systems, pp. 330-347.
Lessig, L. (2009). Cyberspaces. In L. Lessig, Code version 2.0 (pp. 120-137). New York: Basic Books.
Toomey, M. (2017, October). Engaging the enemy: computer games in the English classroom. Literacy Learning: the Middle Years, pp. 38-49.
Toyama, K. (2015, June 4). Technology won't fix america's neediest schools. It makes bad education worse. The washington post.