Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Does Technology Change School Culture?

In Chapter 1 of Technopoly, Postman lays out an argument that new technologies always influence the culture around them. He defines technology quite broadly, including not just what often pops to mind when we here the word “technology”--computers and TV and the like--but also other tools, such as windmills and plows, and even more conceptual tools such as writing and geometry. In the book he argues that technology--every technology--has an affect on the surrounding culture, actually changing the way people think.

I’m inclined to agree with him; I think technology in school does affect school culture.  I’ll use the Internet as an obvious example.  My students, when presented with a situation requiring them to research a topic they know very little about, almost automatically gravitate towards an online option.  Good grief, I say that my students do so as if I don’t myself!  The quick and ready access to (not to mention the overwhelming volume of) information available online makes it seem almost foolish to use a print encyclopedia or to head to a library full of books (gasp!) to look something up.  (Side note: I find it interesting that Postman published the book way back in 1992...before the Internet really exploded and PC's--not to mention eReaders, smartphones, iPads, and the like--became fixtures in the normal American experience.)  So, the easy access of information online really has changed the way I think about finding information.  Technology affects culture.

This does make me wonder what my students (and I) might be losing out on in the process.  I do find my students don’t really know how to conduct research…they just type their question into Google, click the first link they find, and copy and paste the information without really thinking it through.  It seems like they might be winning, by finding the information faster…but perhaps they might be losing by not understanding the information they are accessing, and not synthesizing it into meaningful learning.  Maybe Google really is making us stupid.

Postman, too, uses the idea of “winning” and “losing” when it comes to technology changing culture.  On page 9, 1st paragraph, Postman states: “There are, as it were, winners and losers.  It is both puzzling and poignant that on many occasions, the losers, out of ignorance, have actually cheered the winners and some still do.”  Can you think of any example in your school that would be a case in point for what Postman is describing?

No comments:

Post a Comment