The results of this investigation seem to indicate that teaching and learning about the nature of technology (NOT) may be especially difficult. Given the deeply engrained, ubiquitous, and oftentimes “invisible” nature of technology in our society, coming to understand deep philosophical issues and critically analyze technology provides unique challenges. Technology is perceived as a staunch friend, and critically analyzing such a friend may have emotional barriers. That is, the deeply personal nature of technology use may hinder students’ conceptual change regarding the NOT.
While there are inherent difficulties in coming to understand the NOT, the group of preservice teachers did make great improvement in both technological trade-offs and the limited nature of technology. While one can only speculate as to why these constructs showed such great improvement, the course activities ought to be considered. In each of the technology projects students were expected to discuss the trade-offs, limitations and biases of the project’s technology. This extra attention paid to these constructs could explain the more substantial improvement observed.
While the increased time/effort might explain why the participants improved upon trade-offs and limitations, the value-laden nature of technology poses a bit of an anomaly for this explanation. That is, the participants were asked to consider the biases within their projects, but fewer students improved and two even regressed in their thinking related to the value-laden nature of technology. This discrepancy might be explained by the more abstract nature of technological bias or even the more unsettling nature of technological bias. Coming to understand that technology might favor some goals over others and might even “use us” is likely a very different way of thinking for most students and many students may not want to accept the notion that technology influences us in such deep ways.
This post is from a paper I recently presented at the Association for Science Teacher Educators. For the full paper and citations, click here.