November 1998 // Letters to the Editor
The Art and Science of Education:
Pedagogy Includes Technology
by Glenn Ralston
Note: This article was originally published in The Technology Source ( as: Glenn Ralston "The Art and Science of Education:
Pedagogy Includes Technology" The Technology Source, November 1998. Available online at The article is reprinted here with permission of the publisher.

Too often, university administrators don't pursue on-campus technological advancements that require large monetary investments and more faculty/staff training, even if those technologies offer substantial benefits. Furthermore, administrators facing their own impending retirement often fail to seriously consider which technologies may be standard for university campuses after their tenure in office. To wit: we often lower our anchors when the climate calls for sails.

An information superhighway road sign commonly placed before universities is "Danger—Technology Ahead." Consider, for example, Ed Neal’s (1998) warning that "Often, technology is adopted for instruction without considering the pedagogical basis for its use or how much it may warp the educational process. ... The potential for conflict arises when teachers lose the right to make pedagogical choices that don't include technology or when they want to go slowly and experiment rather than jumping in with both feet."

Peter Havholm (1998) goes so far as to assume that "if both the developing world, and [an unnamed state in the U.S. mentioned by Ptaszynski (1997)] would swear off buying computers that have to be replaced every three years and software that has to be upgraded every six months, they'd be able to afford a lot of good teachers, books, paper, and pencils. They've already got the tables in their dining rooms and kitchens."

Herb Stahlke and J. M. Nyce (1996) also wave a warning flag:

There has been a tendency to let technological possibilities drive Web instructional design and use. … The theoretical rationales that have been invoked to justify commitment to Web efforts have tended to be weak: ad hoc and post hoc appeals to post-modernism. However, perhaps more than anything else, these efforts build on and reflect a kind of naive optimism about technology, particularly new technologies, and the role they should have in higher education.

Characteristic of [pro-technology] optimism is the statement that the World Wide Web "may have 1000 times more ‘pedagogical power’ than two-way TV." Crucially missing from almost all these Web efforts is any discussion of what is a suitable or appropriate use of technology. On the contrary, the tendency has been to assume its appropriateness. In addition, there has been little in the way of an attempt made to establish research agendas that address the issue of appropriateness.

There is No Pedagogical Deficit

These skeptical scholars offer thoughtful and reflective observations about educational technology. But their descriptions rely largely on highly selective anecdotal material. Their implied argument is that using educational technology must result in a "pedagogical deficit," but they have elected not to do original research to support their hypothesis. Instead, they rely on each other’s statements that "surveys of the literature do (or do not) show" the claimed results.

Technology is Cheap

Many of us have indeed learned from our mistakes, especially over the past few years of robust computer-centered media development. Unfortunately, many others have not learned, and remain in the mindset of ten years back or more, before computer-mediated education was both inexpensive and versatile.

Ed Neal, in a June 1998 article in The Technology Source criticized a study in virtual learning conducted by Jerald Schutte, saying: "We cannot ignore the enormous costs of the technology in this equation. If [Schutte] had used these methods in his traditional class, costs would not have increased, but because he and his students needed the networked technology of a major educational institution, they incurred the extremely high costs of technology" (Neal, 1998).

In his equation of technology with unnecessary and expensive costs, Neal has stacked the deck with outdated, costly assumptions from ten or more years ago. Let's carefully consider a seemingly improbable situation. What if, in the real world, you acquired a PC at the same dollar cost today as the PC you bought 10 or so years ago, which at that time was 1,000 times less powerful, and then in another ten years acquire a new PC which is 1,000 times more powerful than your present one, also at the same dollar cost? That is an increase in power of one million times, at the same cost, over just 20 or so years. If we run the numbers from our own experience, we can readily see that what may have appeared improbable is actually plausible. And that's just the hardware. The greatest value by far is in the power of the software in the hands of the individual. Students and professors benefit from the more than $6 billion that has been spent on applied research and development of personal software tools.

Neal, Havholm, Stahlke and other skeptical scholars tend to ignore how cheap, ubiquitous, versatile, and powerful today's microcomputers are. Their observations represent common complaints while ignoring reasonable prescriptives for using our rich and increasingly boundless cultural resources to address these concerns. Academia must be able to easily transport thought and ideas through virtual books and journals as though they were, as indeed they are, just alternate forms of the same material. Anything else cheats both professors and students of an entire venue of expression. To claim that paper is always superior to visual media would be to hold that Shakespeare's greater art lies in the printed text rather than on the stage, or that James Whitcomb Riley's words leap to life best from a paper page and not from the cadence of a spoken or recorded voice.

We may not be doing enough, quickly enough, to deal with the big changes coming in the near future. Unfortunately, those of us over the age of 55 were trained in an era when none of today's powerful electronic media forces had been unleashed. Our evaluations and decisions are made largely without benefit of the knowledge or intuition gained by the developmental experience of growing up with the overwhelming media environment prevalent now. The background experience of growing up with TV and computers changes our cultural expressions. Will this changed culture impact upon how we think and learn? Not only will it, it already has.

Today, the newest configurations of media on the World Wide Web are powerful, inexpensive, highly interactive, individually controlled for self-pacing, ideally suited for independent learning, and ultimately empowering to the user. Technology has already swept over us. It is no longer a technological argument, but rather a cultural change. It would be foolish not to keep up with the cultural changes of the real world. As you read this letter, the new technology driving corporate universities is eating our academic lunch.

The interactive media of today, such as the Internet and the World Wide Web, are no less humanistic than Gutenberg’s printing press machine. Our cultural literacy is no less critical in either. Given that these interactive media are becoming increasingly prevalent in our culture, not requiring modern library skills or the communicating skills of using virtual text is not just educationally risky, but is academically, pedagogically, and fiscally unsound.


Neal, E. (1998). Techies vs Teachies. AAHESGIT Listserve #134. Retrieved October 4, 1998 from World Wide Web: gopher://

Havholm, P. (Feb. 1998). It's not the technology that worries me. The Technology Source. Retrieved October 4, 1998 from the World Wide Web:

Stahlke, H.F.W. and Nyce, J.M. (1996). Reengineering higher education: Reinventing teaching and learning. CAUSE/EFFECT, 19(4). Retrieved October 4, 1998, from the World Wide Web:

Neal, E. (June 1998) Does using technology in instruction Enhance learning? The Technology Source. Retrieved October 4, 1998, from the World Wide Web:

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