Editorial Vol 2 - issue 2
The problem with educational technology is that so much of it does not come as a response to expressed desires and needs. This is a general concern with technology. Technologies are invented for some specific purpose – or simply because it was possible to develop. By accident or serendipity it is all of a sudden applied to some other function. Dissemination of technology is difficult to predict, its patterns, means and ends is difficult to foresee. Our first contributor, Bjørn Hofmann, deals with this phenomenon, and he describes this as an uncontrollable technology. He explains how rather technology controls us. From being a means, technology now has become the end in itself. Hofmann offers us also a profound critique of this position. He claims there is a fundamental link between values and technology. We, educators as well as citizens in general, have a certain responsibility to screen and test technology according to its effects. We have to evaluate the ethics of the technology that surrounds us, and never accept this superfluous fact implied in “technological determination”. He asks us to trace the values inherent in the technology in question and seek beyond the imperatives of technology, for the ethics of technology.
The second article addresses a specific context of teaching about human communication. Halvor Nordby seeks to explore the nature of face-to-face and interactive communication and the respective challenges that students of a national further education program for medical paramedics experience. Nordby builds his paper on an analysis of the communicative situations paramedics often find themselves in. He addresses two main questions: What are the basic problems of understanding paramedics confront when they meet patients and other health personnel in face-to-face situations? And how are these problems similar to, but also different from, the challenges they confront when they communicate interactively via radio or telephone with other health personnel? Nordby uses philosophy of mind and language to understand these situations and provides us with an analytical framework for not only understanding the similarities and differences, but also to avoid misunderstandings. Nordby’s paper is an excellent example on how one can develop fine research from investigating one’s own teaching.
Another insight from Carl Mitcham is how technology seems to follow steps of naturalistic innovation. What started as an idea and turned into standard procedures in a community of practitioners became more or less fundamental “rules of thumb”, written down in manuals, and distributed in the community. In the next stage one seeks for more consistent systems of predictions, such as ‘if A, then B’ appear, a semi-scientific stage which strives for Scientific precision. In its final stage, agents of the community seek to legitimize and systematize what once was a practical rule by transforming it to science. Now, scientific theories are of two kinds, Mitcham argues: the highest status is gained by being defined as a substantial theory, to which most nature sciences belong. The second group, operational theories, offer less absolute certainty, more insecurity, less predictability. Think of “thermodynamics” and “management” as examples of the two kinds. Education is often trapped between these types of scientific theory. On one hand most teachers act on the grounds of “rules of thumb”, believing there is a good reason to claim that “If I do A, B will follow”. These are dimensions of the personal knowledge teachers carry without giving it much thought. University teachers are no exception in this respect. Even if they seek to build their research on scientific theories, their lives are just as based on personal knowledge as any layperson. When it comes to teaching, university teachers are equally attached do unreflected traditions, habits and unjustified patterns of action. The last paper deals with how scientific interventions into education seeks to challenge established “ways of doing things”, by changing methods of assessment. The paper suggests that giving students proper feedback on their written essays pays off significantly: more students pass the exam, and with better results. Raaheim has screened the available literature on what seems to have a positive effect on student learning when writing papers, and shows how using a different method improves the studying conditions for students. He offers a technological innovation that illuminates the recursive process between the developmental levels of technologies. The obligation of educators is to improve the chances for learners to fulfil their aims. Even if education never can become a scientific theory on par with “substantial” theories, the obligation is still there to increase the chance for making A be followed by B.
Illich, I. (1995): In the Vineyard of the text. A Commentary to Hugh's Didascalicon. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
Mitcham, C. (1994): Thinking through technology : the path between engineering and philosophy . University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
Copyright (c) 2017 Yngve Nordkvelle
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Seminar.net is a fully open access journal, which means that all articles are available on the internet to all users immediately upon publication. Non-commercial use and distribution in any medium is permitted, provided the author and the journal are properly credited. The journal allow reuse and remixing of content in accordance with a Creative Commons license CC BY
- The journal allows the author(s) to hold the copyright without restrictions.
- The journal allows the author(s) to retain publishing rights without restrictions.
- Seminar.net does not charge authors for publishing with us.