Question Concerning Educational Technology

Can’t we just ignore history and get on with the educational media and technology show? To what degree ought we pay attention to history? Who cares about old media— the future is in new media, isn’t it?

‘Who controls the past,’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’ says George Orwell in 1984. The discourse around educational technology often touts technological advancements as the future of education. However, the future cannot be constructed without understanding the past. The present is always conflicted between the intractable, deterministic drive of an id-like past and the aspirational ambitions of a super-ego-like future. The present, ego-like, must be the mediating agent that understands the drive of history (and its impacts) to help us better navigate the road to the future. It is only by understanding and dissecting history that we can perceive the future as a network of choices rather than a destined, immutable inevitability. The past, the present and the future become the past, the present and the possible in light of history. This understanding allows us to evaluate and pursue options with greater understanding and responsibility. Jacques Ellul might argue that examining the historical dimension of technology allows us the true freedom of evaluating technology from a moral and ethical perspective, thus enabling a freedom that the interminable drive of technology seeks to suppress by valuing mechanistic efficiency above reflection.

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