I spend A LOT of time researching instructional technology, talking about instructional technology, and writing A LOT about instructional technology. But what do I "think" about technology? At the core of who I am and what I do, what does technology itself mean to me?
I'll begin by defining how I wield the word: technology. What does technology mean to me? Stephen Monsma offered the following definition of technology:
For the sake of this discussion, I will focus only on the first part of the definition: "Technology is a distinct cultural activity..." I appreciate Monsma's definition as it does not try to define technology as gadgetry or devices. In fact, I've intentionally left off Monsma's publication date for his book as the date will be of great significance in the ensuing discussion.
What does 'cultural activity' mean? Well, I think it means how does our society interact with the technology of the day? What does society DO with technology? I think in our society today we see a lot of consumption. We see people with their faces buried in their devices consuming stuff. Whether that be news, social media posts, blogs, Pinterest ideas, cat videos, whatever. People consume. I think a large part of our distinct cultural activity is consumption.
I mentioned the date of Monsma's quote is significant. Monsma wrote "Responsible Technology: A Christian Perspective" in 1986. 1986!! There was no social media or online news or ubiquitous cat videos to consume. In 1986 I had only my own cat to watch and laugh at. How banal.
What was technology's distinct cultural activity in 1986?? What was society's technology of the day? And how were they interacting with it? Well, in schools it was all overhead projectors, blackboards, and film strips. Fancy. In schools, I sat in a desk while my teacher used the technology to feed us information. I took notes using my pen (with erasable ink, no less!!) and notebook. No one thought twice about having to draft or sign an "Acceptable Use" policy when it came to my pen and notebook.
However, how were others using computers of the day? How were they interacting with computers? People were programming software. They were building the infrastructures we take for granted today. I would contest that, in general, the distinct cultural activity was creating.
The main reason I am passionate about instructional technology is that I see the potential for EVERY student to leverage digital devices and software to create their future. The devices and software students already hold in their hands has more power and capacity than NASA did to send a rocket to the moon (Puiu, 2019). Yet, what are we doing with it? How are we encouraging students to use and interact with it?
Imagine their distinct cultural activity if only we as educators would encourage, allow, and expect them to harness those capabilities.
The possibilities are truly unfathomable and exciting.
Monsma, S. (1986). Responsible technology: A Christian perspective. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
Puiu, T. (2019). Your smart phone is millions of times more powerful than all NASA's combined computing in 1969. ZME Science. Retrieved from https://www.zmescience.com/research/technology/smartphone-power-compared-to-apollo-432/