Systems rather than determinisms

Another MOOCer posted this note commenting on the deterministic views of technology. I agree with the author that we need to teach students how to work in a technological world. I see technology (either in general society or in classrooms specifically) as being as deterministic as the users make them. This is because technology is one tool and way of working among many that are constantly adapting. The culture is a system of interacting factors that are influenced by and influence technology.

Math textbooks in the 1920s and 1930s called for students to be able to do long calculations (6 to 8 four-digit numbers) in their heads rather than relying on what was then a technological support – the pencil and paper. The symbols themselves have been considered crutches. It is very similar to the conversation that happens about calculators or other technology tools.

Students shouldn’t rely on them, but we can’t ignore technology and pretend it doesn’t exist. Or, that we live in a world where it represents a threat. There are many wonderful opportunities that arise because of technology as well as the threats.

We can either allow the threats to overcome the positive aspects. Or, we can learn how to adapt and to adopt technology to serve our purposes. Sometimes this means tossing the old out for the new. Sometimes it means adapting the current system to incorporate new tools.


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