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Social Impact of Technologies in Education. Chip Bruce University of Illinois. Laws. Moore: # transistors/chip doubles every two years Metcalfe: network value increases as the (# users) 2. Pivot Points. Digital libraries Multimedia Collaboration systems Ubiquitous computing

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Social impact of technologies in education

Social Impact of Technologies in Education

Chip Bruce

University of Illinois


  • Moore: # transistors/chip doubles every two years

  • Metcalfe: network value increases as the (# users) 2

Pivot points
Pivot Points

  • Digital libraries

  • Multimedia

  • Collaboration systems

  • Ubiquitous computing

  • Tools for lifelong learning

In the future already
In the Future Already

X-Files: on-line forum to discuss show’s direction

Science fiction itself has remained the same. We have caught up to it...We are a science-fiction generation.

–Ray Bradbury

We can’t think far enough ahead anymore.

–Ron Shusett

Opportunity digital libraries
Opportunity: Digital Libraries

  • Learning challenges: integrating knowledge from multiple sources; finding information

  • Social challenges: reliability of information; hate sites, etc.; access

  • Add’l learning challenges:; integrating knowledge; learning how to find problems

Electronic communication
Electronic Communication

  • 5,000 electronic journals

  • 100,000,000 web users

  • Net traffic measured in terabytes

  • => 100,000 War & Peace/day

  • E-mail communities

  • MOOs, MUDs


  • “my grandmother in Kenya”

  • ATT leaves out continent

  • windup radio

Opportunity multimedia
Opportunity: Multimedia

  • Learning challenges: new representations of knowledge; visualization; new skills (Sheldrake); inquiry-based learning

  • Social challenges: loss of common knowledge; corporatization; reification of dominance

  • Add’l learning challenges: meta-knowledge; reflective understanding

Reification of dominance well trodden battle lines of social conflict
Reification of Dominance“well-trodden battle-lines of social conflict”

  • access to tools & information

  • construction of disability

  • ascii

  • netiquette

  • desktop metaphors

  • web architecture

  • domain name system

Opportunity collaboration
Opportunity: Collaboration

  • Learning challenges: new ways to work together to solve problems; understanding the perspective of others; using new tools

  • Social challenges: plagiarism; ownership; inclusion/exclusion

  • Add’l learning challenges:social understanding

Opportunity ubiquitous computing
Opportunity: Ubiquitous Computing

  • Learning challenges: understanding hybrids; new ways to explore the world

  • Social challenges: surveillance; control; deskilling society

  • Add’l learning challenges: reading technology/reading the world


  • The road to freedom via a two-way Information Highway may turn into a one-way Surveillance Street, used to condition people’s thoughts and control their behavior.

  • – Crawford,1994

  • Video surveillance is now so ubiquitous that we’re on television more than we watch it.

  • CSCW research (program committee)

Opportunity lifelong learning
Opportunity: Lifelong Learning

  • Learning challenges: new frames for learning, neither time- nor space-bound; learning how to learn

  • Social challenges: new roles for teachers, forms of accreditation, learning institutions, etc.

  • Add’l learning challenges: self-direction

Pivot points1
Pivot Points

  • Digital libraries

  • Multimedia

  • Collaboration systems

  • Ubiquitous computing

  • Tools for lifelong learning

Classroom realities
Classroom Realities

  • Power strips stolen!

  • 50% typewriters broken

  • An Apple II on the info. superhighway

  • “Haven’t used it yet this year”

Separate spheres
Separate Spheres?

We are taught to view the political and the technological as separate spheres, the former having to do with values, ideology, power, and the like, the latter having to do with physical artifacts exempt from such vagaries of social life.

–L. Suchman (1988)

Technology as social practice
Technology as Social Practice

  • Construct technologies out of social values & practices (Akrich; Bromley; Selfe; Spender)

  • Conceive technologies in terms of our socially-constructed views of reality (Turkle)

  • Construct ourselves through technologies (Haraway; Kramarae)


  • Dramatic changes in educational practices

  • More democracy, liberatory education?

  • Technologies alone do not produce change

  • Need to understand & shape these changes

  • Call for dialogue

Return to basic questions
Return to Basic Questions

  • What is literacy? How does it develop?

  • What is its relation to schooling and life?

  • What is learning?

  • What is teaching?

  • What does it mean to be human?

Possible consequences
Possible Consequences

  • Information as a commodity

  • Reification of dominance

  • Hybridization

  • Virtual reality

Smart highways
Smart Highways

  • Video scanners for electronic tags, radio transponders

  • Help with congestion, parking

  • But, monitor movements

  • Insurance, legal issues

The computer hybrid
The Computer Hybrid

  • Like Music Minus One

  • Listens, follows, adapts, ...

  • New conceptions of practice, performance, music

  • Can it be too adaptive?

Opportunity to learn
Opportunity to Learn?

  • Prior experiences--computer at home; museum trips; parental support

  • Existing practices--pullout programs; classroom experts; social networks

  • Multiple ways to learn; learning difficulties--emotional, physical, cognitive

  • Second-order--the treatment of difference

Social technology relations
Social/Technology Relations

  • (1) Tech. + {Social} –> {Social*}

  • (2) Tech. +{Social}–> {Social*}

  • (3) Tech. + {Social} –> {Social*} –> {Social*.} –> {Social*} –> {Social*} –>

Assumptions about net use
Assumptions about Net Use

  • Reliable network

  • Software updates

  • Adequate training

  • Personal accounts

  • Work on the net

  • Compatible schedules (cf. the wizard)

  • Equitable access (cf. Foucault)

Knowledge info
Knowledge => Info.

Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things. We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate.

–Thoreau, Walden

Deep Blue not programmed to accept draw

Definition of self
Definition of Self

  • Barbie & Her Magical House

    • Visual discrimination: home decorating

    • Cause/effect: select music

    • Decision-making: choosing make-up

  • Materials-centered

The autonomy myth
The Autonomy Myth

  • We need to prepare for a strange future.

  • We can select specific aspects of new Ts.

  • We’re unaffected by T if we choose.

  • We can stand apart from Ts.

Mutual constitution
Mutual Constitution

  • Can’t pull the plug; Ts are integral to our social fabric.

  • We––

    • build Ts on social values & practices;

    • conceive Ts in terms of our socially-constructed views of reality;

    • construct ourselves through Ts

Hopes realities
Hopes & Realities

  • Conflict between hopes and realities

  • Computer not just a physical device

  • Sherry Turkle: The Second Self

  • Computer as text; user as reader

  • Read as library; museum; telephone; teacher; tool; partner in inquiry

Theoretical tools
Theoretical Tools

  • Re-creation

  • Idealization/Realization

  • Situated evaluation

  • Hermeneutic circle

  • Technology as social practice

Nested contexts of technologies
Nested Contexts of Technologies

  • Devices: Hardware & Software

  • Documentation

  • Activities

  • Training

  • Support system

  • Perceptions

  • Surrounding practices


  • Diaoyu BB

  • Terminals under glass

  • Great Digital Wall


  • Electronic communication: journals, users, terabytes

  • Information-driven science, work, education

  • Smart devices: embedded systems

  • Cyborgs: Vivace, medical