Being critical of the technology

Technology delusions

I’ve recently been reading In the Kingdom of the Unabomber* by Gary Greenberg. The Unabomber of course is Theodore Kaczynski, who was sent to jail for using letter bombs to carry out a campaign of terror, killing 3 people. As someone one who’s been enthusiastically promoting the use of technology in education for many years, I find myself challenged by one section:

Technology not only helps us to accomplish things, with the occasional failure or accident or frustration; it also constructs us as the kind of people who are hard-pressed to be sufficiently critical of technology… no one really understands how we can listen to another report about the greenhouse effect even as we drive our cars, festooned with ‘Save the Earth’ bumper stickers, to fetch a loaf of bread.

We tend to ignore evidence of rising climatic temperatures.Now it’s pretty hard to argue that there isn’t some truth in this last statement, although thankfully few people are driven to Kaczynski’s reaction to technology!

Is education immune?

To assume that this type of technological delusion applies to other applications of technology in society, but not to education technology, doesn’t seem supportable. So as education technology enthusiasts, in what ways might we be deluded about the real impacts of technology on education? I suspect one key delusion is that we still too often see technology as an enabler for doing what we’ve always done in the past, only faster and more conveniently. Education technology specialists need to be sceptical as well as enthusiastic, and avoid the delusions about technology that we see elsewhere in society.

Graph by Hanno

* In The Best of McSweeney’s Vol 1, Dave Eggers (ed), Penguin, London 2004.

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