Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Technocentric Reminiscing

Seymour Papert wrote a version of this paper in the mid-'80s -- Computer Criticism vs. Technocentric Thinking -- shortly after the first time I was plunked in front of an Apple IIe and taught how to steer a turtle around the screen with LOGO, Papert's gift to the educational world at the time. It's interesting to me as a reminder that issues surrounding technology integration in education (and problems with research in the area) haven't changed much in 20 years:
"The 'treatment' methodology leads to a danger that all experiments with computers and learning will be seen as failures: either they are trivial because very little happened, or they are 'unscientific' because something real did happen and too many factors changed at once."
Using technology to its full potential in helping people learn will always require different goals and measures of learning than the ones currently propping up the education system. Although I remember enjoying time spent on TRS-80s in the '80s, our engagement was so old-school -- the exercises were completely abstract and disconnected from anything I knew or cared about. It was fun because it was new, but like everything else we were taught at the time, we had no idea why it mattered.

Of course a few kids "got it" and computers in general became a passion for them; the kind of thing they did for fun, programming simple games and other apps in BASIC. The rest of us quickly forgot what we had been taught, and didn't bother with computers again until we had to start handing in assignments written on word processors -- the first IT tools that had a tangible point for us.


Garth said...

Wow - Jer! You think we didn't learn anything useful with the TRS-80s? I think technogeeks call them Trash 80s...think of the hours of Nova & Asteroid we played on those monochrome screens when we were supposed to be programming using BASIC! Nice trip down memory lane!

My college papers were all written on electronic word processors - it was only in graduate studies that I used a computer - wild! Now - I carry my computer with my from the office to home...I don't think I would have ever imagined that in the 80's!

Jeremy said...

It is fun to remember those old days. I'm not sure we learned anything of value at the time -- the point was apparently just to expose us to the possibilities, I guess. And yes, I did love Nova.