As with many other fields in the arts, sciences etc. the theories of technology can be considered and found applicable to education as well. The two key technology theories introduced this week included Social Construction of Technology (SCOT) and Media Ecology. Social Contructivists basically “argue that technology does not determine human action, but that rather, human action shapes technology …(and) that the ways a technology is used cannot be understood without understanding how that technology is embedded in its social context” (Wikipedia, 2012). Media Ecology, on the other had, “looks into the matter of how media of communication affect human perception, understanding, feeling, and value; and how our interaction with media facilitates or impedes our chances of survival…” (Strate, 1999). Admittedly, these theories, like many others and in this instance because of the vastness of the subject matter at hand, are rather complex and convoluted. They have, however, been put forth in an effort to make sense and perhaps harness some of the changes that have been brought about by the rapid technological evolution that has occurred in recent history.
Whether you ‘love it or hate it’, technology has greatly impacted education over the past few decades. As a result, there have been many changes within the field that reflect this development. Although we are often (maybe subconsciously) aware of this, these theories make one critically consider, examine, and perhaps re-apply one’s knowledge and use of technology. In the same manner we look at an ecosystem in biology, we, as future teachers, need to look how certain things, in this instance, technology, affect our “classroom ecosystem”. (On a bit of a side note, Brian Solis with the JESS3 team created this ‘Twitterverse’ to visualize the Twitter ecosystem). This means that we need to look at how the student’s interaction with media and technology affects their thinking, feelings and behavior (i.e. Media Ecology). By being aware of this, as a teacher, one can hopefully utilize it to improve the learning environment.
In a similar manner, understanding what technology works for a student and how they can best utilize it, is also important. To do this effectively, one has to consider the social and human context, as suggested by the SCOT theory, that drove the creation of the technology in the first place. For example, if I have understood this theory correctly, Social Constructivists would argue that Facebook and Twitter did not trigger the creation of generation that desires to be connected, but rather perhaps that they were created to meet the existing needs and demands of a generation that already was social and strove to be connected. This development actually also ties into the theory of Connectivism as well (Siemens 2004). While I personally would not be able to assess my students and create a piece of technology based on their generation’s actions/needs, I believe teachers need to be aware of what technology has “answered” certain demands, so they can apply them accordingly.
Obviously, as with any theory, there is always room for criticism and aspects that could be considered irrelevant, not just in the field of education, but in general. It is, nonetheless, important to be conscious of them and take them into consideration. While they are just theories, being aware of diverse perspectives, their proposed characteristics, criticisms and solutions, might come in handy when faced with a classroom of students; being that they are each unique, one (or many) of them just might benefit from a different approach proposed or explored by a certain theory….
Wikipedia, SCOT Article. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_construction_of_technology Retrieved September 27, 2012.
Postman, Neil. “What is Media Ecology,” http://www.media-ecology.org/media_ecology/index.html Retrieved September 27, 2012.
Solis, Brian. “Exploring the Twitterverse”. http://www.briansolis.com/2011/01/exploring-the-twitterverse/ Retrieved September 27, 2012.
Siemens, George. “Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age,” 2004. http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm Retrieved September 27, 2012.
I really appreciate the perspective that you have brought when answering this question. To be completely honest, out of the two technology theories, media ecology was something that escaped me in regards to its application to education. I was literally getting a headache having to read about the vagueness of the field itself. However, with your explanation of the “classroom ecosystem”, I feel that now I can understand the application of media ecology: a place where teachers must be aware of students and their interaction with technology, and how teachers can possibly foster that environment to improve learning.
As well, like you, I personally do not think I could create a piece of technology for classroom needs from scratch, but I definitely think there is the potential to modify existing technology and use it to our advantage. For example, with powerpoint, manipulating the movement of images to create a simple word game, or perhaps making an online blog where class projects can be archived and reflected upon by the students — an up-to-date class yearbook? I am sure there are several other ideas, but the influence of technology certainly offers inspiration.
Thank you for the insight!
Thank you Emily for your response! I too, have to admit that it has been a bit of a struggle to wrap my head around some of the theories we have have covered this past week. While I was going over them, I kept thinking how great it would have been to learn each theory according to their guidelines, characteristics, approach etc. In the same manner in which we learnt about Behaviorism via the theory (i.e. candy acting as the reward for “our” behaviour), I thought it might have been interesting if the others also would have had relevant concrete examples, through which we could have learnt about the theory. Although I can’t think of any that are nearly as effective as flying candy, and most would have been virtually impossible to carry out in the time/place provided, I just thought it would have been novel. Anyway, its been great reading everyone’s postings and responses. I suppose the collaboration involved in the discussions is somehat a nod to Constructivism (as well as the unofficial fourth theory of Connectivism). In the end, I think its going to take a blend of these learning theories’ methods (rote memorization, acronymns etc.) for me to keep them all straight :). Hope one or more are working out well for you!
Your discussion was very well written and clarified the Media Ecology theory for me as well… I agree with you that like it or not, media and the technological age is upon us, and I believe it would be in our best interest as future educators to familiarize ourselves with just exactly what is out there. Our students will have access to many forms of technology and it seems so far that kids are drawn to these digital devices. There is obviously something about them that engages children and keeps them interested and curious as to what else they can do with it or who they can connect to with it. This is only an analogy, but I was given some advice from a book author once who expressed that in order to create a reader who loves to read, we as adults have to be their reader hero. This is transferable to us as educators as well, that if we want our students to become technologically inclined we have to model that ourselves. The author also mentioned that we should read books that our students are reading in order to show that their interests are important to us and that we can further connect with them. As educators, we too can learn from our students by actively engaging in what intrigues them about the digital age we are experiencing.
Thank you for your insight and reply! I have to say that your analogy reminded me of a quote by Plato, and I thought I would share it, as I think it ties in with what you are suggesting:
“A hero is born among a hundred, a wise man is found among a thousand, but an accomplished one might not be found even among a hundred thousand men. ”
I feel that as teachers, we almost need to be wise, accomplished heroes. I personally do not know if I will ever measure up to be considered a hero or wise or accomplished, but I think that as a (prospective) teacher, it is important that I try. Even if I can never attain the heights put forth, I think endeavoring to do so, hopefully will count as well. So, while in 20 years I may not be up-to-date on every theory or technological advancement that is available, hopefully I will be able to keep up with some of them and remain open to methods or approaches that evolve from them. At the very least, hopefully I can utilize the Connectivism method and connect my students with those that are experts in their respective fields. I have no doubt, as you mentioned above, that there will be much that we will end up learning from the students themselves. All the best in your “hero” endeavor 🙂 !