Cogs and pinions

“It should just work” – a common refrain of management teams overseeing the rollout of a new learning-enhancing technology. “Just show me which button to press.”

Few of us have any great desire to know what is going on under the bonnet. We just want something that gets us from A to B.

Yet, 101 years ago, in his 1915 book Schools of To-Morrow, John Dewey warned

image“Unless the mass of workers are to be blind cogs and pinions in the apparatus they employ, they must have some understanding of the physical and social facts behind and ahead of the material and appliances with which they are dealing.” (Dewey 1915 p.274)

As Jesse Stommel observes, translating Dewey’s comments into the context of TEL in the 21st Century, “the less we understand our tools, the more we are beholden to them. The more we imagine our tools as transparent or invisible, the less able we are to take ownership of them.” (Stommel 2016)

Knowing how a technology works is key to making it work for you, to appropriating it creatively for the benefit of learning.

One can of course take the view that it’s someone else’s job to make the technology work. “Just show me which button to press.”

Some of us may indeed welcome driverless motoring.

Leave a Reply