When introducing the nature of technology (NOT), activities are used to confront naïve views about NOT. Importantly, these introductory activities are decontextualized in nature. That is, initial NOT ideas are constructed to illustrate the concepts without use of complex technology. For example, one activity has students rolling marbles and using rulers to investigate an unknown shape (Kruse, 2012b). The preservice teachers are asked why a marble is a technology to encourage them to reflect upon the view of what constitutes technology. Also, the preservice teachers are asked what is the use of a ruler. When they respond, “for measuring”, the instructor asks how they know a ruler is used for measuring, or what about the ruler indicates it would be useful for measuring. This discussion introduces preservice teachers to ideas like technological bias and the difference between cues and affordances. While these decontextual activities provide an initial introduction to NOT ideas, the preservice teachers could easily dismiss the ideas when considering more contemporary technologies. However, decontextual activities provide a less emotionally charged way to encourage students to critically question technology. If such discussions start with “near and dear” technologies, learners might resist being critical of the technology.
To further explore the utility of NOT ideas to critically question technology, the preservice teachers are asked to apply nature of technology ideas to classroom technologies. These more contextualized examples are important to help the preservice teachers apply the nature of technology ideas to their own teaching. In one example, the preservice teachers are asked to take digital pictures of various plant life around campus and upload the pictures to a common website. While the preservice teachers are initially excited about the tremendous amount of data that can be collected for later analysis in such a short amount of time, the instructor asks, “What benefit might there be to having students draw the plant instead of snap a picture?” The resulting discussion highlights the lack of thought and careful observation when taking a picture compared to drawing a picture. While the preservice teachers easily recognize the gains from a particular technology, they need to be explicitly prompted to consider the trade-offs.
This post is from a paper I recently presented at the Association for Science Teacher Educators. For the full paper and citations, click here.