Permissible Computing in Education: Values, Assumptions, and Needs

Permissible Computing in Education: Values, Assumptions, and Needs

Permissible Computing in Education: Values, Assumptions, and Needs

Permissible Computing in Education: Values, Assumptions, and Needs


Permissible Computing in Education defines and investigates the relationship between computer applications and current values and assumptions regarding computers. In addition, the author analyzes the consequences of this relationship in order to make recommendations for future computer applications to educational settings. Ragsdale first analyzes the psychology behind computer implementation in education. He examines present assumptions in educational computing and describes the evaluation of educational and computer needs. Various types of equity, including racial and sexual, possible through computer uses are addressed. Other chapters examine courseware development; artificial intelligence; appropriate programming and writing; student, teacher, and parent participation; and teacher training and research.


The purpose of this book is to make explicit some of the value bases that support the various uses of computers in education. Our age of science and technology is often seen as an age of "value-free" pragmatism, with a focus on "getting the job done" using tools and procedures "that work," but the assumptions are only partly true. Indeed, many technological tools and scientific procedures are effective in accomplishing tasks that need to be done. But the danger is that the commitment of science is to that which is scientific, whether it works or not, while unnecessary technology has a similar attraction. For example, Polanyi's "Potential theory of adsorption" was rejected by the scientific community for almost 50 years, not because it was wrong, but because it was seen to be "unscientific."

What distinguishes between the scientific and the unscientific? Polanyi refers to the "powers of orthodoxy," the orthodox view of the nature of things, as being crucial. Thus, to say that humans learn languages because they have a "language acquisition device" is scientific, while to say that it is because they are "made in the image of God" is not.

This leads to a paradox which a recent article by Carl Bereiter seems to illustrate. He proposes that students can become better writers by using (among other things) the principle of "chance plus selection," being provided randomly with "strategic moves" for more effective writing. I do not know of anyone (nor does he mention anyone) who uses this method either for improving their own writing or for teaching others. On the other hand, I have met and/or read books by successful authors who make it their practice to pray before they write. the paradox is that science, that "no holds barred search for truth," accepts the former as scientific and rejects the latter as unscientific.

Our use of science and things scientific hinges on values, as do the important questions related to using computers in education. the questions may change as . . .

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