by George Veletsianos.  

Hi everyone,

First thing’s first: I hope you’re having a great long weekend!

It’s exciting to see blog posts come through to my RSS feed and to read your reflections. As a matter of housekeeping, in order to make sure that your posts show up for peers who may have used the LRNT523 OPML file, please remember to add the lrnt523 category to your blog posts.

Now, onto histories.

Weller writes about higher education, but the history of the use of technology in education spans lifelong endeavors, from kindergarten to old age. This morning, I was reading about BC’s back-to-school plan and the concerns that many have surrounding it. The return to face-to-face instruction is impacted by numerous factors: technological, political, social, cultural, economic, scientific… When thinking through the use of technology in education, it may be helpful to consider that decisions to adopt (or abandon) technologies are impacted by similar factors. In other words, the characteristics or value of a technology are only one factor to consider to explain why technologies are adopted, succeed, or fail in educational contexts. Take wikis in 1988 as an example – a topic which Weller covers in chapter 5. What may be some cultural or socioeconomic tensions that might have posed obstacles to adopting wikis at the time? Think of Wikipedia in 1988.

A sociocultural tension might be reflected in the belief that because anyone can edit any Wikipedia page, the information posted on Wikipedia can’t be trusted, thereby limiting Wikipedia’s use in educational settings. Or it might be that the use of computers in K-12 in the past has generally been unimaginative, used in relatively passive ways. Larry Cuban’s study on the use of computers in US K-12 classrooms is a powerful report on reasons that guide technology use (and lack of use).

When Wendy and Patrick reflect on why certain technologies are used in certain years, they are beginning to grapple with the fact that the use and integration of technology in education is complicated and uneven. Access to technology is uneven. But, also, the ways that that same technology is used may be uneven. For instance, while two institutions might have access to Wikis, one might employ educational technology staff with the knowledge and abilities to support instructors to implement them in creative ways, while another might not have such employees. Or, they might not have enough employees to support everyone who might want to use Wikis in their classrooms. These issues go beyond particular technologies. In this sense, Christopher is right: Weller’s choice to start in the year he started is somewhat arbitrary. Whether writing about BBS or some other topic, there are many lessons here that go beyond the technology. We would have uncovered somewhat similar lessons if we were to look at the use of radio or TV in education – and that’s a rich era as well – but I thought contemporary technologies might allow for some deeper conversations and connections.

There’s a lot more to uncover. I look forward to reading the writing and comments that the rest of you share!

George