Bass opens “Engines of Inquiry” noting that the contemporary version of the “technological sublime” once associated with the Industrial Revolution, is now associated with the “Information Age” centered finding solutions and using information efficiently (Brass 1). Computers are now machines which make us more perfect and speed up our process of finding answers and our problem-solving abilities. Brass notes Stuart Moulthrop analysis of this as “the game of perfect information,” and that it is precisely this understanding of technology as “perfect information” that has disillusioned educators and education leaders as to how they should use new technologies in education. Effective and meaningful learning with technology cannot take place with this misinformed understanding of technology is coupled with problems that already exist in education.
Bass’ paper explores the various kinds of learning that there are and the ways that technology can be used efficiently within and outside of these learning environments. To be effective pedagogues, then we must zoom out and understand the situations conducive to and enhanced by digital tools, and those that are not. Hence, technology cannot be used with the desire to integrate it, but with purposeful and imaginative intent in how the technology will be used.
He also argues that we cannot use technology effectively when there is a misunderstood notion of perfection and access to information via technology. Instead of access to perfect information, pedagogues can use technology democratically to foster engagement and to have students question and study their learning. Therefore, students can engage with online and become responsible citizens with responsibility for knowledge creation. Communication and accountability for this information will then become a collaborative effort.
Brass’ paper instinctively made me reflect on our society and the way in which we use technology as consumers. Every innovation that major technology companies come out with is their attempt to make the “perfect” technological society. When thinking of technology as supplemental parts of ourselves that are used to extend our knowledge, arguably, people conceive it as a perfect means of exploring information. After all, every iPhone is “the best iPhone ever,” and a perfect version of its predecessor. The idea of technology as perfect has permeated society with a misunderstanding of use that is evident in our schools. And, when I think about teachers who use technology and those who don’t, the ones who don’t are scared not to have it “perfect.” The most effective teachers who integrate technology are those who dive right in.
When I think about these questions with a teaching hat on, the most apparent provocation for me is: How can we do what Brass proposes in education institutions to help teachers use technology creatively, imaginatively, and purposefully as Bass so clearly argues?
On the other hand, when I think about Brass paper through the lens of my Urban Education experiences, it brings us back to the question of “What does it mean to teach in a democratic society” and “What is an education?” Does everyone have the same understanding of what an education is? Therefore, are Brass’ arguments made here with technology universally relevant? Does our society want us to be citizens who contribute to and question the more in-depth and collective knowledge of the people within its society? And if so, how do we teach teachers how to do this in our educator preparation programs with all the other questions and anxieties they have going into the profession in the first place?