COMPUTERS in education vs. computers in EDUCATION

Although I use a variety of technologies in my teaching, I had not articulated my philosophy until I had to teach teachers about computers and education in 2001.  I did not find a text that I resonated with and during the first semester began to develop my own guidelines, which are included in the posts to follow.  I cannot claim much success getting students to address my guidelines or to articulate their own pedagogical rationale for using computers.  For the start of the second semester, I prepared a typically didactic powerpoint presentation (summarized below) to try to set the terms for the course.  The collapse of the internet stockmarket bubble helped to create more space for critical thinking about the use of technology, but still I was not very successful in keeping students’ sights on the education side of computers in education.  (My college hired a technology booster so I was relieved of that teaching assignment after that.)  A similar technology-trumps-education situation seems to be emerging with the more recent discourse about changing our teaching to reach digital natives, the subject of a future (skeptical) post.

Two emphases in using computers in teaching

COMPUTERS in education computers in EDUCATION
First… get technical skills explore pedagogical need and possibilities
Then… build lessons and other practices using computers develop technical comptency when needed (using especially peer assistance)
Emphasis taught by… people who are keen on technology — often not classroom teachers people who love to teach students
Emphasis driven by… hi-tech industry, administrators, availability of funds, bandwagon, fear of being left behind small counter-current to the mainstream
Success is claimed when… technology is used and flash is added teaching/learning something that couldn’t have happened without the technology
Response to the other emphasis Students find it more fun to use technology. 

Technology use adds flash to lessons.

There’s immediate gratification for teacher in mastering a tool.

Once taken up, we can build on this basis and get better in education

“Yes, you can do it with technology, but why?” 

Usage of new tool declines after the first flush of enthusiasm/first flash.

Time and support for further Professional Development is rare.

The major challenges Use skills in actual classroom siuations with equipment available. Establish plans and connections and PD practices for ongoing learning
Support those with the other emphasis Respond to pressures from those with the other emphasis
+…? +…?

About Peter J. Taylor
Peter Taylor teaches and directs programs on critical thinking, reflective practice, and science-in-society at the University of Massachusetts Boston. He studies the complexity of environmental and health sciences in their social context as well as innovation in teaching, group process, and interdisciplinary collaboration (see He is especially interested in conversations with others who are, in diverse ways, "troubled by heterogeneity" (

One Response to COMPUTERS in education vs. computers in EDUCATION

  1. Pingback: Teachers should not simply assume that computers and other new technologies are good for education « Probe—Create Change—Reflect

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