Technology is not “just a tool”.

I have not written much here lately.  However, I have been writing quite a bit in more “formal” settings.  I’ve decided to share excerpts from this writing that I hope you all will find thought-provoking.

Considering the disadvantages of technology is not something many people spontaneously consider (Postman, 1988).  Whenever possible negative aspects of technology are raised, the offender is often dismissed as Luddite, technophobe, or education’s John Henry. Articulating the disadvantages of technology is not a popular endeavor, but too often educators at all levels claim that technology is “just a tool” and that any positive or negative use is simply a matter of decision-making.  While educators might like for technology to be neutral, or value-free, this is simply not the case.  While philosophical arguments between technological instrumentalism and determinism are beyond the scope of this section, the author will acknowledge the value in understanding that our decisions regarding technology use are important while, in some ways, technology makes many decisions for us – shaping teachers, students, and learning environments in profound ways.  The dismissal of these deep impacts by educators is troubling.  Perhaps Postman (1988) said it best: “…it is extreme naïveté to believe that a medium of communication, or, indeed, any technology is merely a tool, a way of doing.  Each is also a way of seeing” (p. 33).

The above is from an upcoming volume of Debating Issues in American Education edited by Charles Russo and Allan Osborne.  The volume for which I wrote concerns technology in education.   The chapter for which I wrote the above addresses the question, “Do Pocket-Assisted Technologies, Such as the iPod and iPhone, and iPad, Provide Mainly Educational Benefits or Distractions to Students in Today’s Schools?”  Nick Sauers wrote the “point” and I wrote the “counterpoint”.


Postman, N. (1988).  Conscientious Objections: Stirring up trouble about language, technology, and education. Random House, NY.

This entry was posted in Critical Examination of Technology, Nature of technology and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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