• Goto NETFUTURE main page
  •                                 NETFUTURE
                       Technology and Human Responsibility
    Issue #34      Copyright 1996 O'Reilly & Associates      November 25, 1996
                Editor:  Stephen L. Talbott (stevet@netfuture.org)
                         On the Web: http://netfuture.org
         You may redistribute this newsletter for noncommercial purposes.
    *** Quotes and Provocations
          How Long Before Reality Sets In?
          Technology As Religion
    *** Is Wired a New Age Journal? (Stephen L. Talbott)
          And other impressions of some recent issues
    *** About this newsletter

    *** Quotes and Provocations

    How Long Before Reality Sets In?

    One keeps hoping that the collective hysteria about wiring every child's classroom will finally reach the point of exhaustion, allowing us to ask a few, first, timid questions about what we are doing and why. I can't say there are any substantial signs of impending quiescence, but a couple of straws in the wind did blow my way this past week.

    A friend who is deeply immersed in the educational technology scene wondered aloud whether "the system is going to break down under its own weight." There are computers on many desks, but people don't know how to use them. Support technicians are "screaming for help, but the money just isn't there." When you calculate how much money needs to be there, it's obvious that no one has thought the matter through.

    Shortly after voicing these thoughts, my friend participated in his school district's committee meeting for setting technology standards. This was his email report:

    What a mess! The state is giving us millions of dollars to buy computers but there is no money to support them or train the people who will be using them. So we are supposed to get all this hardware and software on one-time money and then steal money from all of the educational programs to support them for the next however many years. It means hiring half a dozen new technicians (we have added that many in the past 2 years already) reallocating staff development time almost exclusively to computer training, and expecting teachers to somehow figure out how to make the machines work well in the classroom on the time they now have. And no one thinks anything will be sacrificed in the process?! Ah, but that's the price of progress, right?

    The fascinating thing that came out of our first meeting was that everyone is frustrated by their own frustration -- that is, no matter what computer anyone in their building has gotten, within a year they are dissatisfied with it. I hadn't realized just how deeply the ideology of consumerism had permeated educational computing. But there it is as bold as can be: the perpetual state of dissatisfaction that drives the consumer society has reached the core of educational computing.

    It would be depressing if I didn't detect how disgusted everyone on the committee is with it. Maybe the time is ripening