Vol. 13 - Issue 1 2017 - ISSN 1504-4831
Tuesday, 31 January 2023

Volume 2 - issue 2 - 2006

Editorial Vol 2 - issue 2

This journal has a complex subtitle: Media, technology and lifelong img2663learning. The subtitle will to many of our readers be perceived as a synonymous to “ICT in education”. However, ICT in education is strongly influenced by informatics and psychology. Even if schools are main receivers of educational technology, not many inventions in the field stem from the educational field itself. There are many tendencies reminding us of the continual conflict between technology and education. The task of this journal has the aim to discuss media and technology on educational grounds. One might think that in the ideal world, media and technologies would develop gradually from good practice where the technology would fit to the expressed needs and desires of the teachers and students of the actual situation. Ivan Illich brings such an example to the fore: in the 7th century the process of christening the people in Northern Europe came to slow down. For some reasons it was difficult to teach newly recruited students in the monastery schools Latin and therefore Christianity. Some clever monks in Ireland came up with the idea of inserting a graphical sign - an open space - to mark the differences between letters that ends a word and starts the next (Illich 1995, p. 87). Inserting an open space, made words distinct and a lot easier to understand. This innovation speeded up the learning process not only for slow learners of the Northern Europe, but for the whole community of readers worldwide. Inserting a space greatly improved the technology of writing, reading and teaching. A genuinely simple innovation radically changed how writing was undertaken, and the innovation came from teaching.
It might not be common to think of writing as technology. In Carl Mitcham’s seminal work “Thinking through technology” he points out how technology has developed historically, and covers a number of shapes and forms. In the modern everyday conception of technology, most people – as well as academics – think of technology as visible artefacts, gadgets, gizmos or whatever material expressions it may take. But a wider interpretation is that technology is an expression of “how things work”.  According to Mitcham (1994), technology can be identified on many levels: as knowledge, as artefacts, as activity, and as volition. In this sense didactics and didactical interventions are both knowledge and activity. But there are also manifest artefacts representing didactics, that act as the type of “organ projections” that technology has been conceived to be: textbooks, classrooms, computers, projectors etc..

The problem with educational technology is that so much of it does not come as a response to expressed desires and needs. This is a general concern with technology. Technologies are invented for some specific purpose – or simply because it was possible to develop. By accident or serendipity it is all of a sudden applied to some other function. Dissemination of technology is difficult to predict, its patterns, means and ends is difficult to foresee. Our first contributor, Bjørn Hofmann, deals with this phenomenon, and he describes this as an uncontrollable technology. He explains how rather technology controls us. From being a means, technology now has become the end in itself. Hofmann offers us also a profound critique of this position. He claims there is a fundamental link between values and technology. We, educators as well as citizens in general, have a certain responsibility to screen and test technology according to its effects. We have to evaluate the ethics of the technology that surrounds us, and never accept this superfluous fact implied in “technological determination”. He asks us to trace the values inherent in the technology in question and seek beyond the imperatives of technology, for the ethics of technology.

The second article addresses a specific context of teaching about human communication. Halvor Nordby seeks to explore the nature of face-to-face and interactive communication and the respective challenges that students of a national further education program for medical paramedics experience. Nordby builds his paper on an analysis of the communicative situations paramedics often find themselves in. He addresses two main questions: What are the basic problems of understanding paramedics confront when they meet patients and other health personnel in face-to-face situations? And how are these problems similar to, but also different from, the challenges they confront when they communicate interactively via radio or telephone with other health personnel? Nordby uses philosophy of mind and language to understand these situations and provides us with an analytical framework for not only understanding the similarities and differences, but also to avoid misunderstandings. Nordby’s paper is an excellent example on how one can develop fine research from investigating one’s own teaching.

 Another insight from Carl Mitcham is how technology seems to follow steps of naturalistic innovation. What started as an idea and turned into standard procedures in a community of practitioners became more or less fundamental “rules of thumb”, written down in manuals, and distributed in the community. In the next stage one seeks for more consistent systems of predictions, such as ‘if A, then B’ appear, a semi-scientific stage which strives for Scientific precision. In its final stage, agents of the community seek to legitimize and systematize what once was a practical rule by transforming it to science. Now, scientific theories are of two kinds, Mitcham argues: the highest status is gained by being defined as a substantial theory, to which most nature sciences belong. The second group, operational theories, offer less absolute certainty, more insecurity, less predictability. Think of “thermodynamics” and “management” as examples of the two kinds. Education is often trapped between these types of scientific theory. On one hand most teachers act on the grounds of “rules of thumb”, believing there is a good reason to claim that “If I do A, B will follow”. These are dimensions of the personal knowledge teachers carry without giving it much thought. University teachers are no exception in this respect. Even if they seek to build their research on scientific theories, their lives are just as based on personal knowledge as any layperson. When it comes to teaching, university teachers are equally attached do unreflected traditions, habits and unjustified patterns of action. The last paper deals with how scientific interventions into education seeks to challenge established “ways of doing things”, by changing methods of assessment. The paper suggests that giving students proper feedback on their written essays pays off significantly: more students pass the exam, and with better results. Raaheim has screened the available literature on what seems to have a positive effect on student learning when writing papers, and shows how using a different method improves the studying conditions for students. He offers a technological innovation that illuminates the recursive process between the developmental levels of technologies. The obligation of educators is to improve the chances for learners to fulfil their aims. Even if education never can become a scientific theory on par with “substantial” theories, the obligation is still there to increase the chance for making A be followed by B.

Illich, I. (1995): In the Vineyard of the text. A Commentary to Hugh's Didascalicon. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
Mitcham, C. (1994): Thinking through technology : the path between engineering and philosophy . University of Chicago Press, Chicago.