Friday, January 15, 2010

Class #2: A rose by any other name ...

Once again, during my 3-hour drive home, I contemplated my post for this class – lots of interesting stuff! Once again there are a number of ideas and concepts to choose from for discussion, from Plato to the ‘back and forth’ viewpoint. As I drove, listening to “Classic Vinyl” on XM satellite radio, the timeless Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin came on. One line in the song is: “But she wants to be sure … 'Cause you know sometimes words have two meanings.” That was it! I was going to look back at the discussions of definitions.

Language has always been a source of confusion. International agreements are often stalled by disagreements about wording; legal contracts and legislation are always open to interpretation. Every institution has its own jargon, acronyms, and conventions. Education is often one of the worst for this. I believe that, often, the fuzzy nature of some terms or wordings lead to unnecessary confusion. So, while at first thought, one might think discussing terminology is much ado about nothing, it is important to understand what the terms are referring to for the sake of clear communication.

The points made about ICT (Information and Communication Technology) are well taken. It is a vague term and is open to interpretation. The acronym itself is not known by many people, especially parents, though this is not limited to that group. I have heard many people use ITC instead – a slip? Perhaps, but many think that is the term. It might seem trivial, but it can lead to confusion. I think that perhaps the Parent Guide to Literacy with ICT that the Department of Education produced is partly to help convey the meaning of the term, among other things. In researching the digital divide for a previous paper, I came across work by Neil Selwyn, he states:

Indeed, the term ICT more accurately refers to an updating of the conventional ‘information technology’ to encompass the rapid convergence of technologies such as computers, telecommunications and broadcasting technologies, as well as stressing the communicative and networking capacity of modern-day information technologies. Thus, the term ICT is best seen as an umbrella term for a range of technological applications…
(Selwyn, N. (2004). Reconsidering political and popular understandings of the digital divide. New Media Society. 6(3):341–362.)

It seems to me, and I may be wrong, the term IT has a very business orientation (IT departments, etc) and ICT is used, as Selwyn states, to be more encompassing – and maybe to distinguish education from corporations?). Yes, information technologies include books, and communication technologies include pencils as Denis made clear in his draft paper. Yet, in education circles (at least in Manitoba) it is generally understood to be modern computer based technology. The problem is that this meaning must be made clear to parents and others so they know what we are talking about.

Denis also points out that this term, ICT, implies the tools, not process and pedagogy. I agree, and I think it is generally used in that way. When one looks at the Department of Education LwICT continuum, I think it also acknowledges this since it is a literacy with ICT continuum, implying that it is not the tools per se that are important, but the process of using them in an appropriate way to enhance literacy (in its broad meaning – another confusing term?) as opposed to ICT literacy, which is the actual use of the tools.

I do like the broader term, educational technology. Defined by AECT as; “the study and ethical practice of facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using, and managing appropriate technological processes and resources”. It does include the process, theory and pedagogical aspects. I think the terms ethical and appropriate add some fuzziness, but it also reminds us that these technologies are not neutral and we need to be cognizant of how they are used.

In the end, as the saying goes a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, yet we must clearly communicate what we mean by these terms. While it may not really matter which term we use, it is a fun exercise to explore their meanings, and, more importantly, we must have a similar view in mind when using them in order to avoid confusion and needless disagreement.

1 comment:

  1. Language. A fascinating technology! This year, the first activity my 5-8 Social Studies kids did was create their own alphabet. We discussed communication and how the Europeans and the Aboriginals communicated. We talked about gesturing and hand signals, and that the groups would listen to each other and ultimately learn to talk. Then was the symbolic code attached to the sounds. You get the idea. In the end, they translated an English paragraph into their individual alphabets and then wrote a paragraph using them. The meanings of words. Remember Meech Lake? The "distinct society" clause was a doozy. How does one define "distinct" in the social context, especially in Quebec? The language, of course, but as a people, there is no distinction. I won't go to the veto power clause.

    LwICT. It seems so, so techie. It even looks like a variable definition in someone's code! We do need labels, but even in computer programming, it is important to define program variables with meaningful names so that future coders who maintain the program will be able to make meaning of the code more quickly. How much more clarity then should be given a term intended for public consumption?

    The debate about what ICTs are and how they are defined will likely continue as new technologies are created and become part of the educational fabric. I think we need not worry too much about it. There will always be someone who will apply technology in the name of perversion. Just because a browser can display filth as easily as virtue doesn't mean we should not define it as a learning technology. Ethical use doesn't make a technology a learning technology anymore than marajuana a medicinal drug. A drug is a drug and a technology is a technology; application is independent. It's just that some applications are deemed more appropriate than others.