Educational Technology Philosophy
If learning is gaining knowledge or skill, then teaching is facilitating the gaining of knowledge or skill. What then is education? To me, education is teaching that has a bigger picture. This bigger picture may vary from person to person, society to society, but to me this bigger picture is a social purpose of increasing opportunity and equality. Education achieves something good for society, or at least it should. Should technology, applied science, be used to help teaching or education? Instructional technology, whatever it may be, can help make teaching easier. A microphone and a set of speakers can help a teacher be heard, making it easier for a the teacher to teach a class in a big lecture hall. This is an example of technology helping improve teaching or instruction. However, I would argue that educational technology should not only help improve teaching, but education as well. In other words, educational technology should help achieve the bigger picture, the social purpose. The microphone accompanied by a set of speakers as an example may help instruction but if it is only ever used to help that teacher in that lecture hall, it only serves the people within his/her institution. If the teacher uses that microphone to teach people beyond the walls of that institution, then the teacher is potentially helping achieve that social purpose. This is to say that the same technology can be used in many contexts to achieve different things. In either situation, the teacher is very much empowered by the microphone. Instead of using the microphone to project his/her own voice, the teacher can use the microphone to give voice to a student.
Technology has the power to empower people. For this reason, I would argue that technology should only ever be created and used with the bigger picture in mind. Why? Because education, as David Labaree (2010) puts it, is currently a zero-sum game. Individuals seek education often for personal gain, for opportunity. Yet society, driven by the very individuals who seek opportunity in education, relies on education to generate equality. Oftentimes this comes into conflict. Because everyone uses education for personal gain, everyone at the same time prevents education from being able to create the equal society that everyone also wants education to achieve. My question, conundrum, and challenge to educational technologists is this: how can we use technology to cheat the zero-sum game and make sure that, as individuals seek opportunity, they do not create a society that represses the ability of others to do the same?
Labaree, D. F. (2010). Someone has to fail: The zero-sum game of public schooling. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.