A Response to Peter Havholm and Ed Neal
A Response to Peter Havholm and Ed Neal" The Technology Source, May 1998. Available online at http://ts.mivu.org/default.asp?show=article&id=1034. The article is reprinted here with permission of the publisher.
Scholars like Peter Havholm and Ed Neal offer thoughtful and reflective observations about educational technology. But their descriptions rely largely on highly selective anecdotal material, especially in their rebuttals to James Ptaszynski's commentary.
Their argument is that using educational technology must result in a "pedagogical deficit." But these academics have elected to not do original research to support that hypothesis. Instead, they rely on taking in each others' wash, as in "a survey of the literature does (or doesn't) show" the claimed results.
"Everyone knows the perils of a category error," writes Havholm. It is instructive to note that it is just now beginning to be easily shown that the so-called "Productivity Paradox" does indeed lack the basis of real-world facts, primarily because academic economists chose not to change the category rules of data collection in spite of a demonstratively changing real world.
As a result, our crippling reliance on the rigid and inflexible job categories of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) means we haven't even tried for 25 years to measure the dynamics of today's "real world" information economy. Instead, economists have relied on government measurements using faulty baseline (frozen SIC) categories resulting in faulty benchmark statistics of growth, now properly challenged by the "new economy" papers. Under an umbrella of legacy economics, the academic sources and citations, with little or no macroeconomic impactthe so-called "Productivity Paradox"lack original research and are incontrovertibly wedded to these 25 year-old fixed definitions of the categories.
Further, Havholm makes the wild exaggeration that: "If both the developing world, and that U.S. state that Ptaszynski mentions, 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..." This simply ignores how cheap, ubiquitous, and powerful today's microcomputers are. These observations represent common complaints, but ignore reasonable prescriptions for using our rich cultural resources. Victor Hugo wrote:
The invention of printing is the greatest event in history. It is the mother of all revolutions; it is humanity's mode of expression made completely afresh; it is human thought casting off one form and donning another...In its printed form, thought is more imperishable than ever; it is volatile, irresistible, and indestructible. It pervades the air...Now she is a flock of birds, flies abroad to all the four winds of heaven, and occupies at once all the points of air and of space... (Hugo, 1887, p. 241-2).
This practically describes electronic (virtual) publishing in the present day.
There is no need for us to be stifled by an intellectual conceit lazily wrapped in 500-year-old Gutenberg technology of the printed word on "primitive" paper. We must easily transport thought and ideas through virtual paper or through books and journals on paper as though they were, indeed they are, just another electronic form known as hard copy. Otherwise our children will be cheated.
What if you acquired a PC today that was a thousand times more powerful than one available 10 years agoat the same cost? And what if, ten years from now, you acquired another PC a thousand times more powerful (and still at the same cost)? It is an interesting exercise to run the numbers from one's own personal experience. That's a million times more power in the course of just 20 years, with no increase in costand that's just the hardware. The greatest value by far is the power of the software in the hands of the individual. Each individual student or professor has cheap access to all the benefits of more than $6 billion of applied research and development of personal software tools.
It is perhaps naive for us to have claimed book reading technology as superior to film or TV or computer technology. To do so would be to hold that Shakespeare's greater art lies in the printed text and not on the limelighted stage, or that James Whitcomb Riley's words leap to life best from a paper page and not in the cadence of a spoken or recorded voice. 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.
The newest media configurations of 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. Following these suppositions, I must conclude that not requiring modern library skills or the communicating skills of using virtual text is not just educationally risky, but is academically and pedagogically unsound.
Victor Hugo might now opine about thought transformed by technology as "In its printed form, thought is more imperishable than ever; it is volatile, irresistible, and indestructible. It pervades the air...Now she [virtual text] is a flock of birds, flies abroad to all the four winds of heaven, and occupies at once all the points of air and of space..."
We can "see" the extension.
Hugo, V. (1887). Notre-Dame de Paris. New York: George Rutledge & Sons, 241-242.hidden object gameshidden objects gamestime management gamesmanagement gamesmarble popper gamesbrain teaser gamesadventure gamessimulation gamesbrick buster