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Technology as an augmentation of human performance has been central to my design practice - for creativity, communication and content. I have been a strong advocate of Owers' ideas (2001) regarding the evolutionary symbiosis of technology and humankind, which provides a context for justifying educational design with technology.

Technology in education is often positioned as its servant, a tool to help achieve pedagogic ends already determined without technology. Although there is merit to be driven by educational needs when employing any resource, this position can be questioned in the light of technology's relationship with humankind more generally. As Stan Owers pointed out in his PhD study:

The literature research confirmed that technology is as old as humankind. The foundations of technology resides in our imaginative capabilities as toolmakers. Humankind has always used tools, and recently technologies, as extensions of itself. Tools and technological evolution have been constant companions to the evolution of humankind.
(Owers 2001, abstract)

Owers' point of view, that technology extends humankind and has been a constant companion in evolution, suggest that we look for extension to education through technology, not simple service to education. Educational software has the capacity to support new pedagogies, and this has been recognised since the 1970's as evident in the analysis offered by McDonald et al (1977), as tabulated by me in table 6 (Millwood 1987), to identify the computer's potential contribution through three paradigms: instructional, revelatory and conjectural.

Table 6: Educational Paradigms for Computer Assisted Learning




Key concept:

Mastery of content.

Articulation and manipulation of ideas and hypothesis-testing.

Discovery, intuition, getting a 'feel' for ideas in the field etc.

Curriculum emphasis:

Subject matter as the object of learning.

Understanding, 'active' knowledge.

The student as the subject of education.

Educational means:

Rationalisation of instruction, especially in terms of sequencing presentation and feedback reinforcement.

Manipulation of student inputs, finding metaphors and model building.

Provision of opportunities for discovery and vicarious experience.

Role of computer:

Presentation of content, task prescription, student motivation through fast feedback.

Manipulable space/field/'scratch pad'/language, for creating or articulating models, programs, plans or conceptual structures.

Simulation or information handling.


Conventional body of subject matter with articulated structure; articulated hierarchy of tasks, behaviouristic learning theory.

Problem-oriented theory of knowledge, general cognitive theory.

(hidden) model of significant concepts and knowledge structure; theory of learning by discovery.

Idealisation / Caricature:

At best, the computer is seen as a patient tutor; at worst it is seen as a page turner.

At best, the computer is seen as a tool or educational medium (in the sense of milieu, not communications medium); at worst, as an expensive toy.

At best, the computer is seen as creating a rich learning environment; at worst, it makes a 'black box' of the significant learnings.

McDonald et al (1977) also propose a fourth paradigm, the emancipatory paradigm, in which the key concept is the reduction of inauthentic labour, but this does not occur in isolation to the three paradigms initially defined, since each reduces such labour to some extent.

McDonald et al's analysis was hugely influential in the 1980s, often cited by students exploring the possibilities of technology, but as time passed and new capabilities of the technology available were developed, I have found the need to extend and clarify the potential contribution made by technology in learning as set out in the Claim section in the analysis How can technology enhance learning? [A2].

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“Thus, the task is not so much to see what no one yet has seen, but to think what nobody yet has thought about that which everybody sees.”
― Arthur Schopenhauer