Comparing Established and Emerging Technologies

I noticed an interesting trend within the discourse of several presentations (both cautionary, resistant, and pro-technology): speakers would compare computer-mediated technologies' impact in the classroom to past attempts to use television (at the time it was an emergent technology) in education. Ken MacAllister, in "Plugging Technology: The History of Television, the Future of Computers," pointed out that educators who wished to use television to transform education used the same rhetoric of democratization and student-centeredness that current computer technology proponents use to argue for the inclusion of computer-mediated communication in composition classes. This theme was echoed in several presentations throughout the conference--technology-resistant presenters emphasized the failure of television as a liberating technology in education, while others, such as MacAllister, urged the listener to learn from the example of television in an effort to prevent a repetition of the same failures.

Interestingly, very few of the speakers who used the history of television as a parallel to emergence of computer technology in the classroom seemed to note the distinction between television as a broadcast medium and computer-mediated technology as a dialogic, communicative medium. Similarly, most of the presenters who drew connections between television and computers in education tended to treat educational computer use as fairly ahistorical--merely a recent trend in composition instruction (when in fact attempts to integrate computers in writing classes have been going on since the 1960s). Perhaps we can learn from past attempts to integrate new technologies in educational instruction, but I think it would behoove us to make clearer distinctions between the socio-historical situations of these past technologies and the technologies we are currently using in our classes (with much more success than television, I might add.)

Expanding Composition Teacher Training for Technology Evaluating CMC
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