Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Postman, Sennett and Jenkins on technology – cautions and recommendations

Some toing and froing via email at the Centre of Educational Development through my sharing of an article by Neil Postman has led to a discussion on how technology may be used to support teaching and learning.

I read Postman’s 1995 article – ‘Five things we need to know about technological change’ - as a caution – to remember that the media may also become the message. However, even if there will be pros and cons and winners and losers (Postman’s 1 & 2 cautions) and a risk that technology becomes the focus (cautions 3 & 5), technology is also ecological (caution 4) and WE as the makers and users of technology, need to understand the pros/cons and use technology ‘wisely’.

As per previous blog, Sennett’s book (the craftsman) also cautions on a reliance on technology. His example is the use of computer aided design (CAD) in architecture and how designs can become the be all and end all, mesmerising the architect with 3D rendered views of his/her creation and missing the important factor that buildings have to be designed to be lived in, be sympathetic to the environment (physical and social) they cover and comfortable and useful to occupiers/inhabitants.

The 2006 Jenkin’s et al. article – ‘Confronting the challenges of a participatory culture:Media education for the 21st century’ - explores the challenges posed by digital technology to education - with a slant towards formal school education. The examples provided through the article, inform us that it is possible to use technology to help student come to grips with learning for a future world that will rely on digital technology (and perhaps has already?).

So if we are preparing our students to become plumbers, do we also still need to help them become critical learners and users in a world rapidly becoming technology reliant? Who decides?? What will be the most appropriate vernacular/form of communication required by students learning to become plumbers/chefs/nurses etc.? What ‘communication’/media literacy skills are required? – Jenkin’s article includes Play, Performance, Simulation, Appropriation, Multitasking, Distributed Cognition, Collective Intelligence, Transmedia Navigation, Networking and Negotiation (see page 4 for details of each).

Therefore, will a reliance on text based communication be sufficient for future occupational practice? For instance, will trades people use YouTube to advertise their services on TradeMe? If YES, should we be therefore helping students learn to present on visual media instead of writing reports?? Both text and visual presentations require student to represent and organise their thinking – which form of expression will now be more authentic? What appropriate ‘thinking and recording tools’ should be introduced to students to help them make sense of, collate and represent their thoughts and learning?

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