Five Ideas About Technological Change

We know that we live in a technological age where all jobs inevitably rely on some sort of Information or Communication Technology (ICT). In 1998 Neil Postman shared his thoughts on the beginnings of the Technological age which resulted in his address Five Things We Need to Know About Technological Change.

The first idea he spoke about was

culture always pays a price for technology.

Each new technology inevitably changes the culture in which it enters. an example of this is since the introduction of text messaging calling a person to pass on information or ask a question has faded to the background. It has become much easier to send someone a text to let them know about a change in your plans; it has even become the medium for cowards to break up with their boyfriend/girlfriend as it avoids talking to a person face to face or over the phone. Another feature of text messaging is that a text message has no emotion as you would hear when speaking to someone on the phone or see and hear when speaking to someone face to face. It makes it very easy to spread false information, lie and even send degrading messages to people in a form of cyber bullying. This short video shows why people prefer text messaging to phone calls and face to face interaction.

This next video is also similar; it highlights some of the issues around text messaging. (It is a little hard to hear and slightly long but it is accurate – especially the first five or so minutes)

Postman’s second idea was

there are always winners and losers in technological change.

The winners referred to here are those that are advantaged by this technological change and the losers are those that are disadvantaged and therefore have to dramatically alter their way of doing things to adapt to and keep up with the technological change. Or even those, like my father, who are bombarded with this change and cannot keep up with it, which leads to him spending hours trying to get e-mails sent, keeping up with farming news and research, creating word documents etc. things that would take the rest of the family half the time to do. Technology is the way of the future and it is only going to continue to improve. As this video subtly says, technology is here, it’s not going to leave, so adapt or get left behind.

Postman’s third idea is that

every technology has a philosophy which is given expression in how the technology makes people use their minds, in what it makes us do with our bodies, how it codifies the world, in which of our senses it amplifies, in which of our emotional and intellectual tendencies it disregards.

In layman’s terms every technology makes us act, think and feel in a certain way. A great example of this is the television. Everything on television whether it be advertisements, TV series or even the news have been designed to make us act, think and feel in a certain way. Advertisements are designed to make us want to buy their product, participate in their event or believe the information they want us to believe. On the note of mobile phones, have we been brainwashed into needing them? This YouTube clip gives us an insight into how dependant on or addicted to mobile phones people can get.

Postman’s fourth idea is that

technological change is not additive; it is ecological.

This means that technology changes its environment so that it is no longer the exact same environment. In my opinion some teachers, principals and other significant people within school environments are trying to make technology additive to classroom lessons; they are too afraid to let it become ecological and this means that the technology is most likely not being used in the most effective, efficient nor beneficial way for student learning.

This YouTube clips gives a quick glance at the technology changes since 1940 till present.

Postman’s final idea is that

technology tends to be mythic; perceived as part of the natural order of things, and therefore tends to control more of our lives than is good for us.

This can be seen all too often with common technologies such as mobile phones (especially smart phones), television, computers and the internet in particular. I often find that when I am either on holidays at Fraser Island, have used all the data on my mobile phone plan or our internet at home is not working (which seemed to be ALL the time before the dawn of NBN) I would try to reach a page on the internet, whether it be Google for that burning question or Facebook for that pretend socialisation, and disappointingly remember and realise that I have no access to the internet. For those of you who have experienced that disappointment would know how depressing it feels to be disconnected from the World Wide Web.

What does this mean for technology in the classroom?

Now what does this all mean for the present day classroom? I believe it means we have to be ready to adapt to new technologies and engage with them using a critical mindset. Each technological change will alter the way the classroom runs. It will alter the way the students behave, perceive and interact in the classroom. the technology will become part of the scenery and be relied upon or used as a basis even with new technologies emerging. We will need to find the best ways to implement these technologies into our classroom practice so that they enhance student learning. And as Neil Postman concludes his address,

“We need to proceed with our eyes wide open so that we may use technology rather than be used by it.”

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One Response to Five Ideas About Technological Change

  1. Pingback: Understanding Technologial Change | Chronicles of a (pre-service) Teacher

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