Quarterly for Education and Technology: LETTERS

LETTERS

HEEDING VOICES IN THE WILDERNESS

Thanks so much for permission to use the TECHNOS interview with Jane Healy [Vol. 8, No. 4] with my master’s students, nearly all of whom are current teachers.

There are at least two very good, general aspects of the article: 1. It helps to awaken teachers to the fact that educational technologies (computers in this case) also can be harmful and have unforeseen consequences, and 2. It crystallizes vague thoughts and feelings for many teachers, who have long suspected that “this very expensive, time-consuming, very personnel-consuming technology” is not often academically successful and, what’s worse, can limit young children’s social, emotional, and physical growth.

Dr. Healy is correct, too, when she points out more specifically that children do not have to be steeped in a computer environment to be successful on the job when they finish school. The technology of today will be useless tomorrow and, if current trends hold, tomorrow’s technology won’t take much knowledge to use. She is correct when she says computers are used too often to get students to do what we want them to do, not what they have constructed of their own volition with guidance from responsible adults. And she makes much sense when she says computers probably should not be used by anyone under the age of seven (or even 12) and that “The very worst thing a parent can do is to place a computer in a child’s room until they know that that youngster … is absolutely capable of making wise decisions about it.”

I really appreciate the fact that Dr. Healy urges adults/teachers to think fully, long, and hard about what computers can do to youngsters because this kind of thinking usually runs contrary to the kinds associated with computer use. We need thoughtful, even philosophic, people more than we need technophiles. Dr. Healy makes a wonderful contribution toward this end when she shows the likely constrictions and twisting of human development associated with computer technologies.

The teachers in my course came away feeling better for having read her interview and worse for hawing been made to think about any harm they may have done to their students and about the information that has been kept from them in the midst of the “technological gold rush.” These contradictory feelings and thoughts are good to the extent that teachers are encouraged to overcome the dissonance they feel and think about age-appropriate technologies, the fact that learning designs are more important than hardware, and what it means to be human.

I deeply and fully appreciate the work of Dr. Healy. Hers is an informed, moral, and absolutely necessary point of view in a world that largely has gone blind and mad with excitement about technology. (Don’t ever trust anyone who immediately uses any form of the word “exciting” in reference to technology! They haven’t thought fully about technology.)

Her work must be a good thing–several of the teachers in my course took it upon themselves to read and begin acting on issues noted in Failure to Connect. I wonder if the teachers will conclude that the worst thing to do with the latest technology is to place it in the classroom before learners are capable of making wise decisions about it.

Thank you for helping to inform teachers by letting them read the interview.

RANDALL G. NICHOLS Associate Professor of Education The University of Akron (Ohio)

READ THE SIGNS

Marvelous editorial essay in the Spring 2000 issue! Mike Sullivan is–as he has often been before–exactly on target. [He offers] very perceptive observations about the current muddled situation in education. (Which is to say: more muddled than usual.)

Nothing is needed but for sensible people–but how few there are, alas!–to read his wise words and, then, think long and hard about what they mean–and portend.

GEORGE HALL Chapel Hill, N.C.

We welcome letters and email to the editor on any topic covered in TECHNOS. Send your comments to: Carole Novak, Editor, TECHNOS Quarterly, c/o AIT, Box A, Bloomington, IN 47402-0120; fax: 812/333-4218; email: info@technos.net or cnovak@ait.net. Please include your name, return address, and email address (or phone number where you can be reached during the day). We reserve the right to edit letters for clarity and space. The opinions expressed in published letters are not necessarily endorsed by TECHNOS or AIT.

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