Implications for Learning the Nature of Technology (Part 3)

January 27, 2012

Beyond the extent to which students’ learned about the NOT, the study investigated ways in which the preservice teachers used NOT in broader context.  Unfortunately, a minority of students included NOT ideas within the broader context of technology literacy at the end of the course.  This might mean more explicit attention needs to be paid to how aspects of the NOT might be important for K-12 students and the general public to understand.

At the end of the course, the preservice teachers did tend to use NOT ideas when discussing factors they would consider when implementing technology in their future classrooms.  This finding reinforces the idea that the preservice teachers are seeing value in the NOT in their own decision-making, but may not be making a connection to the need to help their future students come to understand the NOT.

Overall, the results of this study are quite promising.  Although not all students made significant improvement in their understanding of each NOT idea, the overall trend was that students did improve their understanding of the NOT and were able to apply these understanding to make more informed decisions regarding technology implementation in educational settings.  Given these promising results and students’ struggles, further research must be explored concerning the NOT in both preservice teacher education and in K-12 settings.  Specifically, investigations might further explore students’ thinking regarding the NOT.  This study’s conservative analysis of data may have prevented some fine-grained understanding of student thinking.  Therefore, more detailed investigation of students’ thinking might improve understanding of student struggles to learn and apply the NOT and how such struggles might be overcome.


This post is from a paper I recently presented at the Association for Science Teacher Educators. For the full paper and citations, click here.

Implications for Learning the Nature of Technology (Part 1)

January 25, 2012

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.

Preservice Teachers as Questioners of Technology (Part 3)

January 24, 2012

Unfortunately, learners might not connect these classroom issues to the greater culture.  Therefore, teachers are introduced to historical examples of technology use to further illustrate nature of technology ideas.  These examples range from the printing press to the chalkboard.  The preservice teachers are asked how these technologies changed education and cultures.  For example, when discussing the chalkboard, the instructor might ask, “How do you think the chalkboard has impacted education today?”  This question asks teachers to consider the nature of technological progress and the implications for current educational technology’s effect on instruction.  These historical examples help the preservice teachers see how the nature of technology provides a useful lens for considering educational technology.  Preservice teachers can easily dismiss claims by the instructor that current technologies may have unintended consequences for the future of education. However, they cannot dismiss lessons from history.


This post is from a paper I recently presented at the Association for Science Teacher Educators. For the full paper and citations, click here.

Preservice Teachers as Questioners of Technology (Part 2)

January 23, 2012

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.

Preservice Teachers as Questioners of Technology (part 1)

January 22, 2012

The educational technology course in this study uses the six nature of technology (NOT) ideas previously discussed to help the teachers become more informed questioners of technology.  As previously noted, the preservice teachers are expected to identify and discuss possible biases, limitations, and trade-offs of each technology on which they complete a project.  Importantly, these projects are meant as assessment of the preservice teachers’ understanding of the NOT ideas, not as a way to introduce the NOT.

NOT instruction in the educational technology course is informed by both conceptual change theory (Posner et al., 1982) and Clough’s (2006) application of conceptual change theory to the nature of science.  This framework highlights the importance of confronting misconceptions and maintaining pressure on students’ thinking by ensuring new ideas are fruitful, intelligible, and plausible.  That is, once learners become dissatisfied with their views of the NOT, new ideas must be carefully introduced so students do not choose to exit instruction.


This post is from a paper I recently presented at the Association for Science Teacher Educators. For the full paper and citations, click here.

The Limited Nature of Technology (part 1)

January 10, 2012

Unfortunately, “We have been brought up on the myth that almost any problem can be solved with a technological solution” (Ely, 1995, p. 12).  However, technology cannot solve all problems.  Preservice teachers must recognize that some problems must be dealt with at a much deeper level.  For example, Waight and Abd-El-Khalick (2007) when researching a classroom in which the teacher was known for inquiry and technology found that when technology was used, the level of inquiry suffered.  Given this negative impact of technology, we cannot expect technology to suddenly transform a traditional classroom into a highly effective inquiry-based classroom.  The issue here lies in the fundamental disposition of the teacher.  As Okan (2003, p. 255) notes:

[E]ducation is concerned with the development of cognitive structures and that educational technology is a medium, not a pedagogy that is useful in creating such learning environments.

Considering the limits of technology, one wonders why education reformers spend so much energy touting the need to infuse technology in schools. Providing a traditional teacher with modern technology simply means the technology will get used to reinforce traditional teaching (Ely, 1995; Lazlo and Castro, 1995; Fraser & Deane, 1999; Selber, 2004).


This post is from a paper I recently presented at the Association for Science Teacher Educators. For the full paper and citations, click here.


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