Saturday, April 17, 2010

Technological Complexity (MCL)

After reading Ruchi's recent post, I got the urge to write about an example of technology usage gone wrong. Her main question is 'At what point does technology use no longer benefit society? One example of this might be when technology complicates things instead of simplifying them

One example of this is the New Trier language lab. As much as I think technology can help learning, trips to the language lab aren't trips to learn so much as gawk at overly-bureaucratic, expensive technology. The technology makes nothing easier, faster, or more efficient, and does very little that is unique. Further, it doesn't do much in the way of community-building, as the students are all confined to desks for extremely simple things.

Its once-weekly usage often consists of students logging in, then logging in to another system. Then the teacher might lock the screens and broadcast corrections of homework, while students correct it at their cubicles. After that, online textbook activities, discussions with other students via mic/headset, and other things like that take place. Perhaps IM conversations or pictionary (I have experienced each once and they were used terribly).

The problem with this is that almost all could be done in the classroom, face-to-face. The only unique things are the online textbook, which has extra practice, and recording. The head sets are high quality and great for recording, but they largely go unused for that purpose. Most interesting is that, while no student really needs the lab for most of these activities, the lab technology is so complicated it requires tech support staff to be present at all times because the teachers don't understand it. Does that make sense?

Although I hate to make this comparison, as I think it's exaggerated, it reminds me of Huck Finn, where Sawyer/Huck are acting out their escape plan. Clearly, they could just escape right out the door, but they invent this weird scenario where they invent hoops to jump through. That's how I feel in the language lab-- suspended in some artificial scenario. The only reason I need to use the lab technology to begin with is because we're placed in front of it, with no mobility. As a result, we do not use the technology as an extension of ourselves-- our actions are merely an extension of the technology.

Do you think the language lab is beneficial?

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