Technology plays a critical role in modern society. Everyone is touched by the power of technology in some way, large or small, good or bad, every day (MacKenzie & Wajcman, 1999). While few people would argue the importance of technology in our society, there is a great deal of debate about whether technology has had a profound impact in the fields of education and training. That debate is made even more confused by the great difficulty in separating the effects of any technology from the societal, political, technical, and economic contexts in which the technology is developed and used (Pool, 1997; Tiles & Oberdiek, 1995). Another key issue confusing the debate is the problem of fairly and accurately assessing the impact of technology, especially in educational settings. On a more philosophical level, there is debate about the very nature of technology, the extent to which technology is under human control, and, ultimately, whether technology has a positive or negative impact on human society.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Intangible Impact: The outcomes of technology that are too complex, too holistic, too subjective, or too distal to adequately measure, most often associated with a general belief that technology is having an overall positive or negative impact.
Tangible Impact: The observable, measurable outcomes of technology use, most often associated with achievement gains, increased motivation, and cost reduction.
Dystopian Philosophy: The belief that the expanding power and reach of technology results in a gradual worsening of the human condition and will, ultimately, lead to chaos and ruin.
Determinism: The belief that technology is the driving force in the development of society. It views technology as an autonomous force, largely outside of direct human control.
Utopian Philosophy: The belief that the expanding power and reach of technology results in improvements to the quality of human life and will, ultimately, lead to a perfect, or nearly perfect state.
Instrumentalism: The belief that societal goals, beliefs, and values shape the design, development, and use of technology. It views technology as a tool, largely under human control, that can be used for good or evil.
Technology: In simplest terms, technology refers to any tool that is employed for a specific purpose. In broader terms, technology refers not only to the tool itself, but to all of the associated systems and underlying theoretical and applied knowledge needed to develop and use the tool effectively.