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Neil Postman Virtual Students, Digital Classroom

Introduction
Introduction

The following module will take up Neil Postman's essay "Virtual Students, Digital Classroom," which is found on page 543 of The Norton Reader. In this module you will be responsible for constructing a response to one of the questions posed in the “Your Posting” section. As in previous modules, please feel free to make comments and to initiate your own discussion and commentary in either the “Passing Notes” sidebar or in a specific discussion board. Comments made outside of the “Your Posting” requirement, however, are entirely voluntary, but strongly encouraged, particularly considering the level of debate that the Postman essay is capable of eliciting.

Quick Poll -- Has the inclusion of computers in the classroom, as teaching tools, provided a generally positive experience for you? Yes or No.

Table of Contents

This will appear in the clock image designed for the Content links 1.Introduction (video)
2.Background
3.Key Terms
4.Pointers for Reading
5.Go Read the Essay
6.Commentary
7.Argumentative Strategies
8.Reread the Essay
9.Your Posting
10.Further Exploration
11.Discussion Groups
12.Looking Ahead

Background
Background

Technological development, since the invention of the printing press, has often been rhetorically linked to the production of a more democratic society. It is important, however, to note, as cultural critics such as Raymond Williams and Neil Postman do, that quite the opposite may be said to have occurred. For Williams and Postman the issues that should be attended to are who, indeed, control access to the technologies, which we utilize, as opposed to focusing solely on the technologies themselves. In other words, technology does not exist within a vacuum.

Technological innovation, historically, has been closely associated with the idea of social progress. This assumption is of particular importance to the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Some theorists have suggested that this linkage between innovation and progress, in fact, can be considered the defining cultural discourse of our contemporary historical context. Paul David, a computer technology economist, suggests that this discourse is mediated by contemporary society's "attraction" to the future, "which allows the present to be forgotten in a democracy." This attraction to the future, as David suggests, facilitates a utopic response to the emergence of new technologies that is devoid of any kind of critical and careful understanding of both the role that the technology has assumed within everyday life, as well as of issues of control and access to that technology.

Neil Postman is Professor and Chair of the Department of Culture and Communication at New York University. His research interests include media and learning. Postman has published 17 books including The End of Education, Technopoly, Amusing Ourselves to Death, and Teaching as a Subversive Activity. In 1986 Postman was awarded the George Orwell Award for clarity in Language by the National Council of Teachers in English.

Internet Timeline[->0]: A concise historical overview of the development of the Internet and Internet technologies.

What Is Culture?[->1]: A baseline definition of “human culture,” which includes selections from seminal essays on the nature and function of culture from Matthew Arnold and Raymond Williams among others.

Key Terms
Key Terms

All definitions are from “Cambridge Dictionaries Online” http://dictionary.cambridge.org/.

Belief:
The feeling of certainty that something exists or is true.

Pedagogy:
The study of the methods and activities of teaching.

Polemic:
A piece of writing or a speech in which a person strongly attacks or defends a particular opinion, person, idea or set of beliefs.

Real:
Existing in fact; not imaginary.

Virtual:
Almost, even if not exactly in every way....
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