Invisible cusp and unintended outcomes : a response to two influential documents as heralds of computers in Tasmanian government schools
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I have long felt that we, as educators, seem to be walking backwards into the future, facing where we have been. I was hopeful that the introduction of computers into Tasmanian schools in 1997 would signal a ‘cusp’, a point where teachers would, figuratively and willfully, turn 180 degrees, and move forwards, in an imaginative and exciting way, to help their students prepare well for an unpredictable future.Computers as Tools for Teaching and Learning was implemented by the Tasmanian Government and was accompanied by two documents: a ‘policy-cum-teachers’ guide’, A Planning Resource for Schools and Teachers; and a literature review of research that underpinned the government initiative, Does Information Technology Improve Student Learning Outcomes? I consider these two documents within this thesis embarking on a historical narrative journey. I demonstrate that these documents represented ‘thin’ conceptions for justifying and using computers in Information Age classrooms, particularly primary classrooms. On my journey I hope to develop a ‘thicker’ understanding of the potential unintended consequences of the Tasmanian Government’s initiative to give all students access to computers. Whilst exploring the only policy-related document released since 1997 and finding in this the same kind of thinness, I now seek a rich place from which I can maintain my moral agency as an educator - optimistically, lovingly and with hope for a good future for our children.To help understand my reaction to the documents, I turn to the words of philosopher writers, who provide some perspectives for inquiring into the socio-cultural layers of complexity with which I am concerned. I draw upon two particular conceptual frames. One is William Spady’s metaphor: winds of change blowing across the tip of an ‘educational iceberg’ that drifts in a sea of ingrained habits, past practices and institutional inertia, and accumulates cultural and historical paradigms successively through the ages - Feudal, Agrarian, Industrial and Bureaucratic. In this Information Age, winds of change blow across the tip of the ‘educational iceberg’, that is, across one-tenth of it. The nine-tenths of inherited characteristics, below the surface of the sea, impede our progress, and we remain sheltered from and largely uninfluenced by emerging conditions and realities. I ask why we continue to drag nine-tenths of the iceberg along with us, why computers restrict our focus on the past, and why computers in schools might not succeed in turning us, at the cusp of change, towards a humanly hospitable future.My second frame satisfies my resolve to understand my agency in the winds of change. I draw upon Neil Postman’s three cultures of technology: Theocracy, Technocracy, and Technopoly, the culture in which we live today. In Technopoly, all forms of cultural life are subjected to the sovereignty of technique and technology, which becomes a hegemonic state of mind and culture, and gains status as the chief source of authority, definer of life-goals and provider of satisfaction. At last, the resolution of my response to the growing phenomenon of computers in classrooms finds itself in Postman’s wisdom, as one of tolerance, optimism, revolution and love.
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