Many teachers prohibit the use of technology in their classes, occasionally forbidding laptops and frequently forbidding cell phones. These bans are generally called “technology policies”, but that name ignores the fact that the ballpoint pens and bleached-white papers our students otherwise use, as well as the chairs in which they sit and the windows out of which they stare are each another form of technology, created by humans as a tool to help make life simpler and more productive. Why are they not banned in “technology policies”, too?
I wonder whether it’s time or design that determines whether we think of something as a technology. I mean, I know that something doesn’t stop being technology when it’s old, but how long does something need to be with us before it’s no longer considered tech? A book of matches required design of the paper, plus the chemicals used to safely initiate combustion. I doubt many people look at a matchbook and think of it as a technology, though it was only developed in the middle of the 1800s. How often, when we flip a light switch or turn on a faucet, do we think of the technology involved in providing electricity or running water? How many teachers say they don’t like the distractions of technology, when they mean they don’t like the technologies that they didn’t have when they were students?
These questions may seem like red herrings, but I think it’s important to point out how much novelty plays into our current perceptions of technology. The same holds true with educational technology, with the siren song of “new! improved! faster! lighter! thinner! more features!” constantly vying for our attention…and our money. It’s too easy for us to focus on the novelty and not on the implications. We can too easily lose our critical perspective by thinking about what we can do versus what we should do.