The Three Wise Men: Yeaman, Postman, and Borgman

Okay, finally got through all of the readings, I found the Borgman article completely dry and really hard to read.  I didn’t get as much out of reading that as I did the others.  I’ll react to each reading separately, because while they all relate to the same topic, I find it easier to respond to each one rather than tying them together and hope to touch on some of  Bill’s questions along the way…(if not, I’ll do that next week).

Yeaman (I think he brought the gold?)

What struck me most about this article was the college students responses to technology in the classroom near the end of the article (pp. 10-11).  I feel as though many of the teachers that I work with look at technology as a blessing or a curse (or both).  They can see how it would enhance their teaching and student work or they see it as a complete distraction and unnecessary tool.

Another statement that hit home for me was this, “They mistake the computerization of society through computers in schools as educational technology.” (p. 11)

I could be misinterpreting this statement, but to me that is very much how I see my colleagues.  In my school, our principal is working hard to have teachers collaborating and integrating across subject areas.  Though, almost every time you hear those words, people look to me or the librarian.  They think that if a student creates a PowerPoint on the Middle East that they have used [educational] technology.  I do not see it that way, I see PowerPoint as another means of presenting information, no different than writing a paper or creating a poster.  My colleagues think that if the end product includes the use of the computer and a bibliography that they have integrated both technology and research.  My opinion: Yes, PowerPoint is a technology…but using a computer to create something in school does not make it educational technology.


In the Postman article, he makes the statement that, “television may bring a gradual end to the careers of schoolteachers…” We have many teachers at my school who might agree with this statement.  We recently introduced a product at our school called Moodle (think Blackboard but free and not as pretty), and we had teachers say that if we can use this tool to teach our classes, then are they putting themselves out of the job by learning to use it?  I don’t see how any teacher could see the introduction of this type of tool as a way of putting them out of the job, the tool is meant to enhance their teaching and allow them to use technology in an interactive way rather than a one-way tool as our previous websites allowed us to do.  There are books out there that will teach you how to do anything, that doesn’t mean that classes who provide that same information will one day go out of business.  I think there are many reason why this won’t happen, but I think the way I see it is that there are too many different types of learners out there for this to happen.  I am someone who can usually read a book or directions and figure out how to do something, but not everyone is like that.  Even then, there are many things I wouldn’t be able to learn how to do without seeing, trying, interacting, etc.

Another topic that Postman touched on was the fact that anyone who can master technology has some advantage over others who do not have this skill.  We have many teachers who believe this, they feel they are inferior to those who can figure out technology related thing or those who picked up Moodle faster than others.  However, those people likely have skills that the technology masters cannot master or pick up quickly.  It reminds me of the idea of digital natives and digital immigrants.

Borgman (he definitely brought the myrrh…I don’t really know what myrrh is but it sounds boring)

One thing in the Borgman article that resonated with me were his excerpts from Sturt where he noted that his friends were becoming “machine hands” (p. 46).  I think that students have definitely become “machine hands,” they rely on spell check and other tools to correct things for them.  They have terrible penmanship because they rarely write anything anymore.  They figure if they can read their own writing/notes, it doesn’t matter how sloppy it is because they will be typing it up later anyway.

I liked the part where he discussed the evolution of certain products and their availability, such as the TV.  What I found particularly interesting about this article was Borgman’s discussion about this evolution.  He states, “A program broadcast at an inconvenient time can be recorded and played later” (p. 43), of course, it being 2009 I thought of a DVR or Tivo.  I then looked at when the article was written and saw that it was 1984.  If you read that portion of the paper (about 3/4 the way down p. 43), you can read each of those statements and apply them to 2009 without much adaptation to the vocabulary used.

Another statement that is very clear, even 25 years later, “In the progress of technology, the machinery of the device has therefore a tendency to become concealed or to shrink.”  Think about the iPod, the laptop, the cell phone, etc.  All of these devices are shrinking and if they are staying the same size they are capable of so much more than they used to be.


3 responses to “The Three Wise Men: Yeaman, Postman, and Borgman

  1. You made a lot of good points, and I’m going to try to comment on the things that resonated with me:

    – I think your remark about PowerPoint and how teachers use it, or think they are using it, is spot on. Displaying information in a different (and hopefully) easy manner isn’t so much “computerization of society” as it is just finding the right tool for the right job. Then again, maybe Yeaman concludes that any use of a machine will ultimately lead to computerization, whatever that really means.

    – Moodle was the open source software I was trying to remember the other day in class. That’s insane of teachers really think that software will replace their jobs. Just like you said, that’s like self-help books replace individuals. Hmm, maybe if everyone had a recipe book, all restaurants would go out of business too!

    – The “machine hands” phenomenon has always existed throughout humankind, whether it be with computers or just obtaining food for the day. I have bad penmanship a lot of times partly because in journalism school, you really have to write quickly to quote people. It is nice, however, to be able to type up notes, because that’s the most readable format for me and others, if I need the notes anytime in the future.

  2. I love your comment about cook books and restaurants – great analogy for a ridiculous assumption about Moodle and teachers.

    I agree about being able to write quickly and translate later, I guess I didn’t elaborate much on why I thought there was something wrong with it. In our school if a middle school student has sloppy handwriting (sometimes so sloppy they can’t even read their own notes), a lot of teachers think that giving the student a laptop to take notes is the solution. However, if it’s so bad they can’t read their own writing and therefore wouldn’t be able to hand write an answer to an essay question on a test, etc. Wouldn’t the solution be to have them work on improving their handwriting. I too have very sloppy handwriting and much prefer to type things than write them, but I can at least read my own writing or write neatly if necessary.

  3. Hi, Erin,

    Very interesting what you wrote about texting your friends. I have a colleague who keeps in touch with other professors in her field through Facebook. She says she would otherwise talk to these folks about every few years at a conference or something of that nature. We think of Facebook as a social networking site. It’s almost a professional networking site for her.



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