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Skeptical of Skepticism

“Over the past few years I’ve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory.”    Nicholas Carr

I think we can all relate.  At least I can, and ADLT 640 and ADLT 641 have put this feeling on hyper-speed for me.  Funny, but the image of the cartoon at the beginning of the Monty Python’s Flying Circus Show came to mind as I left class last week.  It seems every time I take two steps forward, I get further behind.  I think I counted 50 references to various technology tools in our reading for last week alone.  How does one stay current?  How does one feel, to steal the phrase, not only knowledgeable but knowledge-able?

I believe one answer in education is to be skeptical instead.  There seem to always be reasons NOT to do things, NOT to change, NOT to consider alternative approaches.  “That is covered in another course.”  “We would never be able to fund that.”  “Technology allows the students to cheat.”  “That is not in the teacher’s guide.”  “It hasn’t been proven to improve test scores.”

Carr states, “Just as there’s a tendency to glorify technological progress, there’s a countertendency to expect the worst of every tool or machine.”  I believe that part of expecting the worst is because of the more, more more and the constant rate of change.  I was interested last week to hear of the Apple TV.  Here’s an interesting thing.  The cable TV companies have been adding and adding – and bundling and bundling – and charging more and more for years.  But Apple comes along and simply thinks, ‘why would you pay for 752 channels when you only watch one program at a time – AND you want to watch it when and where you want – AND you love our technology already.’ So they develop Apple TV, which has access to a gazillion sources of media, but you only pay for what you play.  FOCUS.  SIMPLIFY.  One at a time.  In my mind, they’ve taken the hype of cable TV and turned it upside down.  Oh – and how do you stream this media?  Using the infrastructure that was put in place by the ‘other guy.’  Brilliant.

There are plenty of reasons to be skeptical about constantly changing (and improving) technologies – particularly when introducing them into the Institution of education.  I like the idea of just turning it all on its head and imagining the possibilities for a change.  Why be skeptical when you can be optimistic?


One Response to “Skeptical of Skepticism”

  1. Maybe, we can say that “optimist” and “skeptical” are sometimes synonyms. Or that being “skeptical of skepticism” equals being optimist about skepticism. It’s always alright to take everything with a grain of salt/skepticism. I believe that we are skeptical because we have the idea that not everything will change, which in essence is a type of optimism.

    As you mention, it’s difficult to FOCUS on one technology only, or one type of technology. By the time I manage to buy or learn a new tool, it has been already absorbed into a new one or at least a new version of it. Whenever I add a technological tool to my classes, I check if it has been in use for at least one year. Two years ago, I added “Flowgram,” which a lot of educators and non-educator loved, but it died last summer and I almost cried. Now, I’m sticking with tools produced by companies that look like they will survive. In other words, I have to keep my skepticism en garde!

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