What Matters to Watters
The contention offered by Audrey Watters is that educational technology has been developed through commercial intent and not educationally led goals. This inhibits educational technology from delivering a robust pedagogy or more vigorous learning opportunities. Watters believes “to tell the story about the future of education, the emphasis is on product not processes, it emphasizes the private not the public, it talks about skills but not really inquiry.”1
There is an inherent caution with new technology even throughout history. As Bates points out even Socrates complained that the educational technology of the time (writing) was damaging education. He worried that “[people] will cease to exercise memory because they rely on what is written, creating memory not from within themselves, but by means of external symbols. What you have discovered is a recipe not for memory, but for reminding”2. This in Socrates view diminished the learning. (I was reminded of this quote through the written word in front of me on a computer screen).
We are indeed living in an age of technological advancement and schools should certainly be part of that development including the application of modern technology. One of the difficulties, as always, is finance. Nintendo spent a whopping “$527million dollars of R&D in 2016/17”3. Allowing it to deliver exactly what it knows its users want, to further enhance their profitability.
Currently education budgets simply don’t allow for this kind of research and development, implying a lack of political will to enhance student learning without commercial profit. If educational technology wanted to replicate this kind of success in knowing its users, the current climate would advocate a commercial route to ensure both company and political profit.
Bates recognises that “most technologies used in education were not developed specifically for education but for other purposes”4, supporting the idea that educational technology is not inherently for the purpose of education. This would seem to support Watters ideas when she agreed that ““Computer-aided inspiration” as Papert envisioned has been mostly trumped by “computer-aided instruction””5.
Educational technology must be driven by educators to avoid a sleepwalk into developing ‘computer-aided instruction’ where educators are not fully trained in uses of technology that can create inquiry and inspiration in the student.
Inherent with access and availability with new technology comes a laziness that does not do it justice if its developed for it’s own sake. Educational technology, if properly administered, brings real life, modern day, authentic experience to students to reflect the way their education should be changing to meet modern standards.
We must “…re-position(s) technology not as the catalyst for change, but rather its tool. Developing a philosophy, a rationale that is fundamentally societal and pedagogic, means that the vocational will naturally fall into place. Re-thinking the position of ICT should allow teachers to be more comfortable with, and contributors to, a purpose which accords with their professional self.”6
Technology can be a “monster” but this monster can be tamed by strong educators in the classroom who recognise and can confront this issue alongside the students they are teaching.
1 ChangeSchoolsTalks2015: Audrey Watters https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1kDb_-eWTv0 1:24
2 & 4 Bates, A.W. (2015). A short history of educational technology. In Teaching in a Digital Age. Victoria: BC campus.
5 Watters, A. (2014). The Hidden history of ed-tech. In The Monsters of Educational Technology, pp. 7-31.
6 Watson D.M. (2001) Pedagogy before Technology: Re thinking the relationship between ICT and teaching. 2001 Kluwer Academic Publishers.
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