This is a revised version of my original paper - foundations of technology
|Running head: SOCIAL, HISTORICAL, AND EDUCATIONAL FOUNDATIONS OF TECHNOLOGY IN EDUCATION
Social, Historical, and Educational Foundations of Technology in Education
Northern Arizona University
The social, historical, and educational foundations of technology are tightly intertwined. Society’s demand for current technology has always existed, even though it was not originally called technology. We have succeeded in creating technology that we did not even know we needed, but which has now pervaded our lives and is an integral part of everything we do. We need our students to be properly educated in this technology if the USA is going to keep up. Our students are falling behind because the schools are unable to keep up with technology and related costs. They are also falling behind because the teachers are not adequately trained in the current technology. Even our science departments are not always equipped with current technology, or any technology in some cases, to excite the student’s interest in science or biotechnology. We need to recognize and rectify this situation to reclaim our rightful place in the world.
Social, Historical, and Educational Foundations of Technology in Education
This paper will discuss some societal issues surrounding technology along with the historical and educational foundations and how they relate. Their overall importance will be discussed in terms of the problems associated with the lack of technology in the schools and how this affects the United States in the future. 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 they should have in technology. If we decide that they should have a strong technological foundation to compete with other countries, then we need to equip our schools to support that decision.
Society does not seem very concerned about integrating technology into our education system beyond the business classes or elective computer programming classes. These classes existed 20 years ago, but that was as far as it went. Recently, society has felt a need to push for technology training to help raise our presence in the science and technology areas that dominate the globe. This came in the form of more computer classes teaching current programs, i.e., Excel, Word. However, this was not very satisfactory because it was not 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 since the invention of the Abacus and possibly earlier (Frame page for history of computer). 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 punched 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 (Star, 2006). 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 personal micro-computers were created and by 1980 they had started to become worldwide (Bellis, 2006).
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. In the late 1980’s people did not have laptops. They all went to the university computer labs and typed their papers and fought the network. Then, they waited hours for papers to print because of all the others in the queue. No one thought that the need for up to date computers in schools would be important so quickly. This is only one foundational area in which schools are way behind. Basic programs such as science and math will greatly benefit from the use of computers; not only in being able to test proficiency, but to meet up with others in these fields to show the students how exciting these areas can be. Students in history or english classes can use computers to learn about past events or to write papers and search for references. There are many more areas that will benefit students – the sky is the limit in this area.
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 have been introduced to digital photos, CD-roms and DVDs. We have even seen the explosion of Ebooks and IPODs capable of fitting into the palm of your hand and playing videos. If society had not created a demand for these things, they would not 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 toward 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 cannot 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
The quote by Eric Hoffer, American Social Philosopher, 1902-1983, says, “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 increased 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. Students need to be asked what technology has to do with science – how they connect or work together. They will focus on the equipment used such as microscopes and not realize that it can cover computers, automobiles, and new drug development. Most people do not even think that it can include automobiles and chemical engineering. In a web cast 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). Are there many people that would equate becoming a chemical engineer with designing a bomb or fuel? Physical science is using technology to study different elements in the periodic table. Some of these scientists are using this knowledge to create a computer that can better copy the human brain process. By combining different types of metals (elements) 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 we do? Do we refuse the treatment based on how it was developed or do we 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. Further study showed that it affected only motor control of the bull and didn’t really control the animal’s rage. 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 can 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. The learning curve required for new technologies such as robotics for spinal injuries, head injuries, and stroke victims has decreased dramatically. A quote that is 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 should not 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. It is easy to look for the next best idea to come out and not worry about the cost or whether it works well. There are those who wait to see how it operates, wait for the bugs to be worked out, and the price to come down. When it comes to the schools, it is easier to get a little tight with 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 students in any science related field and I believe this is due to the lack of current technology in the schools whether it is 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 reflect current trends. These need to be available in the schools in order to properly educate the next-generation innovators, deepen science inquiry and engineering skills, explore new ideas, and equip workers for change. These students are needed to create new science and technology innovations and industries (Starkweather, Dr. Kendall N., 2005). What is there to be afraid of? I do not believe that our children will fail. Is it possible that no matter what is done we have fallen too far behind? That we have lost our competitive edge? I believe that students are already technologically literate whether we are willing to accept that or not. Is it not 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.
Bellis, M. (2006). Retrieved October 1, 2006 from www.inventors.about.com/library/blcoindex.html
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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.
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