This article discusses society and the pros and cons of technology.
Social, Historical, and Educational Foundations of Technology in Education
The social, historical, and educational foundations of technology are tightly intertwined. Societies demand for current technology has always existed. Even before the light bulb was invented we were searching to better our lives. We have succeeded in creating technology that we didn’t even know we needed, but it has now pervaded our lives and is an integral part of everything we do. However, our students are falling behind and the school’s are unable to keep up because of the cost. It’s necessary to change this situation so that the USA can keep up with the rest of the world as well as new scientific technologies that will make our lives better.
Social, Historical, and Educational Foundations of Technology in Education
Society has grown by leaps and bounds in the last decade. There are several issues that society itself must consider as we advance. We need to consider what we want for our children. We need to decide how much of an education they need and how solid a foundation it should have in technology. If we decide that it should be a strong one to continue in the world race then maybe we need to equip the schools with the best technology available. Another aspect of the technology field to consider is the scientific portion of it. Science and technology have forever been linked and will continue to be. It is important to give our children a strong foundation in both science and technology if we want to maintain our status among other countries. It is also important because we are beginning to fall behind and it won’t be very long before we will never be able to catch up.
Society has never seen a need to integrate technology into our education system. When it was integrated, it was in a business class or an elective computer programming class. These existed 20 years ago, but that was as far as it went. Fairly recently, society has felt a need to push for technology training to help raise our presence in the world. This came in the form of more computer classes teaching current programs i.e. Excel, Word. However, this wasn’t very satisfactory because it wasn’t keeping up with the outside world. The skills and technology the students were using outside of school outpaced the classes they were provided in school. It has been a hard uphill road trying to convince
society to invest the necessary money into the schools to provide updated equipment and education.
Technology has been around for centuries. Although some people wouldn’t consider the first telephone a type of technology, it increased the ability of people to contact each other and widened social circles. It also helped in emergencies and saved more lives because help reached people faster. As technological inventions increased in complexity, we moved closer to the first computer (which took a whole room and a long time to process calculations). However, we started out with vacuum tubes and punch cards in a “computer” machine to calculate a census. It was expanded and simplified our lives in several ways. For example, punched cards were used to program phones to call people and remind them of appointments or give them information. In the 1950’s the first commercial computers were developed and sold. It wasn’t until the mid-60’s and early 70’s that mini-computers were created and by 1980 they had started to become worldwide.
Computers have only recently begun to enter the educational field for teaching lessons in the classroom. Yes, we’ve used them in the school offices to record and track information or for elective programming classes. However, it has only been in the last decade that computers have begun to come to the forefront of education. When I was in college no one had a laptop. We all went to the university computer labs and typed our papers and fought the network. Then, we waited hours for our papers to print because of all the others in the que in front of us. No one thought that the need for up to date computers in schools would be important so quickly. We are way behind in many foundational areas.
How These Issues Relate
Society has pushed computers into the forefront of required knowledge and ability. It was a short time from the mid-60’s and the first “UNIVAC” computer to 1991 and the introduction of the World Wide Web that allowed for transmission of pictures, videos, text, and development of web pages beyond the bulletin board system (which was only capable of sending and receiving text). By 2006 we’ve been introduced to digital photos, CD-rom’s and DVD’s. We have even seen the explosion of Ebooks and IPOD’s capable of fitting into the palm of your hand and playing videos. If society hadn’t created a demand for these things, they wouldn’t have developed so quickly. However, with the good comes the bad and we need to consider different aspects of this issue. One, access to technology; two, control of this information for privacy issues, hacking issues, and piracy issues; three, social responsibility regarding computer safety of the students and four, the cultural implications of all of this. The current state of the education system will only allow us to use these basic parts of the information systems available to us. (Bolick, McGlinn, & Siko, 2005) As teachers move towards using the Constructivist approach to create more student-centered learning activities, we have to be careful in assuming that we can be replaced as teachers by computers. Using the Constructivist approach requires forethought and creativity to engage the students in hands on learning activities. This may be as simple as a computer search or a cooperative learning activity or as complicated as having the students teach each other by having each student learn one portion of the subject and going back to the group and teaching the others what they have learned. Computers can’t do this, they can do what they are programmed to do and no more. Maybe, some day, with the nano technology they will be able to do this, but they will never be able to copy the adult influence and care that a teacher provides the students.
The Current Use of Technology in Schools
I like the quote by Eric Hoffer, American Social Philosopher, 1902-1983, “In time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.” This is demonstrated by the following facts: “In 2002, the average public school had 131 instructional computers, in 1994 only 35% had internet access which increased to 99% in 2002, and in 1997 70% were using computers in school which went up to 84% in 2001.” (Puri, 2005) In order for the educational system to excel, and put the United States back on top in the world, educators need basic supplies such as laptops of a quality equal to those of top business executives; teachers need to spend more time on instruction and less time on administration therefore, allowing the teachers to create exciting and stimulating environments; students need to be comfortable using the current technologies and have easy access to it; parents need to be more involved and the community needs to embrace the school and technology as an extension of itself rather than a separate entity. (Bolick et al., 2005)
Technology and Society
Technology has benefited a very important area of our society – Science. When one thinks of science it often is thought of in terms relating to medical science, but it also encompasses physical science and chemical science along with many others. I ask my students what technology has to do with science – how do they connect or work together. They tend to focus on the equipment used such as microscopes and don’t realize that it can cover computers, automobiles, and new drug development. I didn’t even think about automobiles and chemical engineering until I watched a webcast with Rosalind Williams. She was talking about her father and grandfather going to MIT and becoming chemical engineers. They were involved with creating the atom bomb and new fuels for automobiles.(Dilannie, 2005) Physical science is using technology to investigate elements in the periodic table, how they work together, and creating a new computer that can better copy the human brain. By combining different types of metals they can create magnetic fields that can turn other parts of the computer brain on and possibly create a simulated brain pattern where it can train itself. (Atoms to X-Rays: Spin Electronics - the Science and Technology of Combining Magnetism and Semiconductors 2002) Positive impacts from these branches of society are the creation of new fuels and better, faster computers while the negative aspects were the atom bomb and abuses with artificial intelligence. Biological sciences are probably the biggest offenders while at the same time being the biggest benefactors to society. As the biggest offenders scientists have used prisoners to conduct experiments, but it helped society by aiding in the creation of new drugs and medical treatments. (R. Fischbach & Raichle, 2005) Ethically, what do
you do? Do you refuse the treatment based on how it was developed or do you claim ignorance? Most view these experiments as being in the past, but scientists still continue similar practices today. For example, Dr. Delgado implanted electrodes in a bull claiming to control his rage and suggested it could be used to control prisoners. It turned out that it was only motor control of the bull. Today, some scientists believe that, when conducting research for something such as Parkinson’s disease, it is necessary to perform surgery on all the patients whether or not they will receive the implants. This falls under the term “sham surgery”. (Safire, Gazzaniga, & Greely, 2005) This is where society and technology affect science in a good way. Society doesn’t want the negative ethical implications of conducting these types of experiments so this demand has led to creation of simulations to remove the benefit of sham surgeries and the learning curve required for new technologies such as robotics for spinal injuries, head injuries, and stroke victims. A quote that I find interesting states that “Potential abuse shouldn’t preclude use” (Author unknown). (G. Fischbach et al., 2005) This means that even though abuse might be possible we shouldn’t hide our heads in the sand if it will help someone. We want to assume the best and move forward for the betterment of society. All of these issues lead to new committees for ethics and technology policies because they have found that “fundamental and accepted concepts aren’t supported by previous lessons.”(Science Futures: Ethical and Policy Challenges to Clinical Application of Advanced Genetic Screening Technology2003) The positive aspects then are society’s increased knowledge and change while the negative aspects are society’s increased knowledge and change.
Society can be schizophrenic when it comes to technology. We look for the next best idea to come out and often don’t worry about the cost or whether it works well. Then there are those who wait to see how it runs, waits for the bugs to be worked out, and the price to come down. When it comes to the schools we seem to get a little tighter with our money. Schools have to put up technology bonds for voter approval to upgrade the systems and provide even the minimal amount of technology to the students. As a country, the USA is falling behind in training our students in any science related field and I believe this is due to the lack of current technology in the schools whether it’s computers or biotechnology equipment for the labs or large physical science departments that train students to look at computers and science to benefit humans. It is also caused by a lack of training for the teachers to help them become more comfortable with computers. Another factor is the lack of inexpensive, easy to use, technology for computers that reflects current trends available. We need these things available in our schools if we are going to properly educate next-generation innovators, deepen science inquiry and engineering skills, explore new ideas, and equip workers for change. We need these students to create new science and technology innovations and industries. (Starkweather, Dr. Kendall N., 2005) What are we afraid of? Do we believe that our children will fail? Are we afraid that no matter what we do we have fallen too far behind? That we have lost our competitive edge? Our students are already
technologically literate whether we are willing to accept that or not. Isn’t it our duty, our moral obligation, to make them technologically competent as well? (Hough, 2006)
Atoms to X-Rays: Spin Electronics - the Science and Technology of Combining
Magnetism and Semiconductors(2002). In UCTV (Ed.), UC San Diego.
Bolick, C. M., McGlinn, M. M., & Siko, K. L. (2005).
Twenty years of technology: A retrospective view of social education's technology themed issues. [Electronic version]. Social Education (Periodical) Research, 69(3), 155-7. Retrieved Septer 21, 2006, from InfoTrac OneFile. Thomson Gale. Northern Arizona University-AULC database.
Dilannie, D. (2005). In Tovares J. (Ed.), Thinking Big: Science, Technology, and the Humanities. WGBH: WGBH Boston Media Productions.
Fischbach, G., et al. (2005). Deep brain stimulation and other brain technologies Retrieved September 23, 2006 from http://www.loc.gov/today/cyberlc/feature_wdesc.php?rec=3715
Fischbach, R., & Raichle, M. (2005). Strides in neuroimaging pose new ethical dilemmas Retrieved September 23, 2006 from http://www.loc.gov/today/cyberlc/feature_wdesc.php?rec=3717
Hough, B. (2006). Teaching people to be savvy travelers in a technological world: Too many technology classes are about reaching goals that trainers have set rather than teaching skills that students actually need. I've chosen the road less traveled—
teaching concepts that people can build on for years rather than steps that they can use for months. (cover story). Computers in Libraries, 26, 8-4.
Puri, R. (2005). Preparing for an even brighter future. (apple computer, inc., national commission on excellence in education). [Electronic version]. Technology & Learning, 26(2), 57. Retrieved September 20, 2006, from InfoTrac OneFile. Thomson Gale. Northern Arizona University-AULC. database.
Safire, W., Gazzaniga, M. & Greely, H. (2005). Hard science - hard choices: Science, ethics and the law Retrieved September 23, 2006 from http://www.loc.gov/today/cyberlc/feature_wdesc.php?rec=3713
Science Futures: Ethical and Policy Challenges to Clinical Application of Advanced Genetic Screening Technology(2003). . UC San Diego: UCTV.
Starkweather, Dr. Kendall N. (2005). Science framework for the 2009 national assessment of educational progress. [Electronic version]. The Technology Teacher, 65(4), 36-1. Retrieved September 21, 2006, from InfoTrac OneFile. Thomson Gale. Northern Arizona University-AULC database.