My purpose today is to suggest what does and does not -- and what should and should not -- determine the uses of computing in higher education. More succinctly, I intend to debunk technological determinism. But I also hope to suggest several alternative determinants of the use of computers in education. These suggestions will make both the technophiles and the technophobes dislike me -- an indication that I may be on the right track.
Technological determinism is the idea that the technology drives us rather than us driving the technology. The strong view of technological determinism is as follows: if a technology can be developed, it will be developed, it will be put to the use that the developers intended, and it will have the effect that the developers intended. Politely put, this is bunk.
The view of people who hold this persuasion is that more technology always is better -- more in terms of more hardware, faster hardware, more software, more complex software. "Better" is often measured in terms of millions of instructions per second (MIPS), random access memory (RAM), read only memory (ROM), bits per second (BAUD -- after the Frenchman Baudot). It is easy to be seduced by these quantities; they are easy to measure -- unlike the stuff educators usually deal with (knowledge, understanding, insight,
Huff is Assistant Professor of Psychology, St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota.