12.0307 never realised & forgotten technologies

Humanist Discussion Group (humanist@kcl.ac.uk)
Wed, 18 Nov 1998 10:08:53 +0000 (GMT)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 12, No. 307.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

[1] From: Rossen Rashev <rashev@gmd.de> (92)
Subject: Discussion: Old vs. New Technology in Education

[2] From: Willard McCarty <Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk> (24)
Subject: forgotten technologies

Date: Tue, 17 Nov 1998 17:32:03 +0000
From: Rossen Rashev <rashev@gmd.de>
Subject: Discussion: Old vs. New Technology in Education

Apologies for cross posting
Please forward it to whoever may be interested

New formal discussion is starting on 23 November in IFETS forum on the topic:

"The 'next generation', like tomorrow, never comes"

(Shouldn't we be learning how to make tried and tested 'old' technologies work
for us and our students, in reliable and pedagogically effective ways, instead
of being seduced by the blandishments of the technocrats?)

Moderator: Chris O'Hagan
Dean of Learning Development, University of Derby, United Kingdom

Summariser: Karen Allnutt
Instructional/training software developer, University of Iowa, USA

(Pre-discussion summary below)


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* Pre-discussion summary

"The next generation, like tomorrow, never comes"

With each successive generation of new educational technologies the dawn of a
revolution in teaching and learning is heralded. There have been many such
in the last 30 years, during which the desktop computer and the Internet have
been developed; but there have been similar dawns throughout the century -
radio, records, broadcast television, audiotape, videotape, programmed
machines etc. Each time enthusiasts have announced the transformation or
even the end of the school/college/university. In fact, the impact on the
bulk of teaching and learning has been minimal. Developments in
paper/printing technologies have had far more influence, with the
consequence that face-to-face discussion and paper resources still
dominate public education. Audio-visual media have been treated more as an
icing-on-the-cake than as something at the very heart of learning - and
likewise their long-suffering support services (though the new media,
particularly video, have fared somewhat better in the development of
corporate training programmes).

Is the current information and communication technology (ICT) revolution
different from earlier audio-visual `revolutions'? Possibly. Probably. But its
success in public education may be compromised (yet again) by a failure to
from past mistakes. As usual we have the problems of compatibility, standards
changes, reliability, portability, flexibility, costs of access, obsolescence,
inappropriate use etc. These are probably not insoluble. More deeply
we have next-generationitis (hang on in, the solution is just round the
which impedes proper investment and embedding; we have failure to empower
teachers (with those who provide and support technologies manoeuvring to
their control, often only interested in working at the next technological
frontier) which impedes autonomous use and wide diffusion; we have teaching
staff who cannot use an overhead projector effectively, never mind use
text-based cmc or combine text and images in a computer package (and who
have never even learned to design reliable multiple choice tests on paper,
for example) - which discredits change through poor quality and failed

I exaggerate for effect - but not much. There is, of course, excellent
around on a continuum from the use of paper-based technologies through to
today's frontiers on the Internet. There has always been excellent
practice, but it has tended to remain, stubbornly, in limited pockets of
expertise - often widely acknowledged, but still pockets nonetheless.

My question is, will we ever make ICT work for us ubiquitously in education
- not just for interpersonal communication and data transfer, but in core
teaching and learning - if we fail to make `old' technologies work
ubiquitously first? In other words, is in-depth pedagogical experience
using old technologies (text, graphics, audio, film, video etc) a
precondition for effective use of today's ICT? After all, multimedia is
itself a mixture of all these old technologies, combining familiar
methods with an unfamiliar rigour. And what implications for strategy, for
investment, for staff development, for implementation, emerge from the
ways this question is answered?

More details about other forthcoming discussions in the forum are available
at forum website:

Rossen Rashev E-mail: Rossen.Rashev@gmd.de
Phone: +49 2241 14 28 70, FAX +49 2241 14 20 65
GMD FIT Forschungszentrum Informationstechnik GmbH
German National Research Center for Information Technology
D-53754 Sankt Augustin, GERMANY (near Bonn)

Date: Wed, 18 Nov 1998 09:03:05 +0000
From: Willard McCarty <Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk>
Subject: forgotten technologies

>From the latest Times Literary Supplement, 4989 (13 November 1998), a review
article by Hugh Kenner, "Journals on the Internet", specifically mentioning
Jacket, Richmond Review, Slate (p. 35), this paragraph:

"But -- computerized? Then, goes the outcry, it can't be literary! It's
(shudder) -- Technological! But, ah, so were Gutenberg's presses. So, for
that matter, were ink, and the quill pen, even the manufacture of parchment.
The only pre-tech bard will have been some Homer, reciting; and he too is
pre-tech only if we assume he didn't smite a high-tech lyre."

Now, while briefly we are surfaced to the realisation that our knowledge is
mediated, let's make the best of the opportunity. Perhaps we could say that
the purpose of humanities computing is to keep our minds afloat in that sense.

Perhaps, to carry Kenner's thought further, we might view the tongue as
(anatomical) technology, and the opposed thumb, and that which allows us to
walk upright, and the bodyparts of joy that give us access (as Blake said)
to knowledge of beauty. The idea obviously can be extended until it embraces
everything, and so in a sense becomes useless. But perhaps the notion that
mediation is all is not entirely a waste of time. For us computing humanists
it would seem that the indissolubility of form and content is fundamental.


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Dr. Willard McCarty, Senior Lecturer, King's College London
voice: +44 (0)171 873 2784 fax: +44 (0)171 873 5801
<Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk> <http://ilex.cc.kcl.ac.uk/wlm/>
maui gratia

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