To speak of contemporary issues in instructional technology is like counting wave crests in a stormy ocean: they are changing quickly all the time. New technologies and new issues present themselves daily. Educators struggle with both the instructional integration of computing and developing the skills and knowledge necessary to use technology effectively (Lipscomb & Doppen, 2005). Why, after over 30 years of having computers in schools, are educators still having such difficulties? Today’s population is much more accustom to electronics, yet knowledge is weak, concepts are misunderstood, and the difficulties of teaching with technology seem as serious and convoluted today as ever before. The great physicist and thinker, Richard Feynman, offered some critical comments about the challenges of educators. “What happens is that you get all kinds of statements of fact about education, about sociology, even psychology — all kinds of things which are, I’d say, pseudoscience” (Feynman, 1999, p. 242). Today, we understand “more about education [but] the test scores are going down…we just don’t understand it at all. It just isn’t working” (p. 243). Being critical of how the scientific method is applied to education, Feynman’s comments highlight how the study of teaching and learning yields limited or questionable results. Teacher trainers take their best guess on how to prepare teachers to use technology.
Educators Learn Computing: A Problem Of Perspective
Our collective perspective on what it means to learn computing affect what goals we pursue and how we proceed. For example, the use of rubrics or portfolios were not commonly emphasized in education 30 years ago. Today, they are an accepted or at least popular tool for preparing educators (Galloway, 2006; Rural School and Community Trust, 2001). Does this represent progress or perhaps just a symptom of changing fads? Is this a function of real knowledge or mere opinions? This is again reminiscent of a Feynman (1999) criticism, as he suggests that professionals 30 years ago have as much right to a correct opinion as we have today, “to equally unscientifically come to a conclusion” (p. 243)—even if wrong.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Instructional Technology: The broader field of studying the use or related issues of all technologies in education.
Education: Contrary to mere training, the process engaging in supportive and generative experiences for acquiring the broader understanding and mastery.
Educational Computing: Full range of uses of computers pursuant to conducting the profession.
Learning: Contrary to the acquisition of mere facts, and more than acquiring discrete skills and competencies, learning is the development of knowledge, conceptual understanding, and critical thinking abilities in a prescribed context.
Computer Literacy: The ability to effectively use computer technology to solve problems and efficiently meet personal and professional needs.
Integration: The effective, instructional use of technology in the classroom.
Training: Limited and highly specific instruction for learning discrete tasks and procedural rituals.
Science Fiction: Imagining future developments in technology and the human-machine interface, including living and working in virtual worlds.