Agenda: Class 8

ET 690 Educational Technology Seminar

"Among the greater ironies of the computer age is the fact that information is cheap and accessible, and so no longer very valuable. What is valuable is what one does with it. And human imagination cannot be mechanized." --New York Times review of The Productive Edge as quoted in Oppenheimer, p. 189

"Learning can be only partly measured quantitatively. It's an enterprise, rather, that is deeply psychological, frequently emotional, and thus inescapably subjective. To ignore this fact, to force millions of teachers and students to turn all we have learned about the mysteries of the mind and the human soul into a narrow numbers game, is an insult to science and an abrogation of social progress." --Oppenheimer, p. 292

"For some things, the best balance for children is zero. Alcohol, for example. Cigarettes. Street drugs. What's the right balance of violent images?" Stoll, p. 69

"Do we truly want a knowlege environment in which individuals construct entirely personal and idiosyncratic ways of organizing information, without regard to the ways in which communities of culture and tradition have tended to connect and prioritize things in certain ways rather than others? Does the leveling of all information nodes and the decentering of all organzing principles lead to more freedom or less?" Burbules and Callister, p. 62

"Imperfection, ambiguity, opacity, disorder, and the opportunity to err, to sin, to do the wrong thing: all of these are constitutive of human freedom, and any concentrated attempt to root them out will root out that freedom as well. If we don’t find the strength and the courage to escape the silicon mentality that fuels much of the current quest for technological perfection, we risk finding ourselves with a politics devoid of everything that makes politics desirable, with humans who have lost their basic capacity for moral reasoning, with lackluster (if not moribund) cultural institutions that don’t take risks and only care about their financial bottom lines, and, most terrifyingly, with a perfectly controlled social environment that would make dissent not just impossible but possibly even unthinkable." --Morozov, p. xiv

"Sometimes, imperfect is good enough; sometimes, it's much better than perfect." --Morozov, p. xv

"Recasting all complex social situations either as neatly defined problems with definite, computable solutions or as transparent and self-evident processes that can be easily optimized—if only the right algorithms are in place!—this quest is likely to have unexpected consequences that could eventually cause more damage than the problems they seek to address." --Morozov, p. 5

"In an ideal world, of course, both visions can coexist and prosper simultaneously. However, in the world we inhabit, where the administrators are as cost-conscious as ever, the approach that produces the most graduates per dollar spent is far more likely to prevail, the poverty of its intellectual vision notwithstanding. Herein lies one hidden danger of solutionism: the quick fixes it peddles do not exist in a political vacuum. In promising almost immediate and much cheaper results, they can easily undermine support for more ambitious, more intellectually stimulating, but also more demanding reform projects." --Morozov, p. 9

"To reject solutionism is to transcend the narrow-minded rationalistic mind-set that recasts every instance of an efficiency an obstacle that needs to be overcome." --Morozov, pp. 13-14

"Thus, while Kickstarter might give us the illusion of more efficient distribution of arts funding than the NEA, it would be na´ve and very shortsighted not to take note of the fact that we’ll also get—and this is much more important than the efficiency of the platform—very different art." --Morozov, pp. 27-28

"The problem is that, now that digital technologies allow us to collect and store data on the cheap, it might be tempting to skip the complex philosophical and empirical analysis that is essential to analyzing the purposes transparency and opacity serve in a given context." --Morozov, pp. 85-86

"Knowledge, creativity, critical thinking, discernment, wisdom--these are not about the accumulation of facts. They are about the relations between ideas, information, ethics, and culture." Burbules and Callister, p. 108

"Culture is more than the aggregate of what Google describes as 'the world's information.' It's more than what can be reduced to binary code and uploaded on the Net. To remain vital, culture must be renewed in the minds of the members of every generation. Outsource memory, and culture withers." Carr, p. 197

"The great danger we face as we become more intimately involved with our computers--as we come to experience more of our lives through the disembodied symbols flickering across our screens--is that we'll begin to lose our humanness, to sacrifice the very qualities that separate us from machines. The only way to avoid that fate, Weizenbaum wrote, is to have the self-awareness and the courage to refuse to delegate to computers the most human of our mental activities and intellectual pursuits, particularly 'tasks that demand wisdom.'" Carr, pp. 207-208

"Yes, digital technologies simultaneously threaten and enable such human flourishing, and it’s important to bring new, younger, more knowledgeable voices to help improve policy making about their future, but the Pirates are on the wrong path with their aim to defend “Internet freedom.” The term’s ambiguity aside, its value will always be instrumental, not intrinsic: we value “Internet freedom” because, in many cases, it will lead to “human freedom.” Occasionally—as with sites like—it will not, in which case there is nothing pathological or regressive about curtailing it."--Morozov, p. 101

A stream of “bad” numbers will look bad and disheartening only if we stick to simplistic, reductionist criteria of what counts as “success” in politics to begin with, if we fetishize the means, attendance rates, over the ends, the bargaining outcomes of legislative sessions."--Morozov, p. 116

"We must stop thinking of the new filters and algorithmic practices promoted by the new digital intermediaries (and their digerati cheerleaders) as unproblematic, objective, and naturally superior to the filters and practices that preceded them. These new filters might be faster, cheaper, and more efficient, but speed, cost, and efficiency are only peripherally related to the civic roles that these filters and algorithms will be playing in our lives. Without subjecting these faster, cheaper, and more efficient filters to the close ethical scrutiny they deserve, we risk committing one of the many fallacies of solutionism and celebrating improvements related to less important problems while completely neglecting more burning, but less obvious, issues."--Morozov, pp. 148-149

"The world fostered by SCP [situational crime prevention] is one of atomistic, selfish individuals, perpetually concerned about security and unable not only to trust others but to engage in moral reasoning at all. Such people do a great job of weighing the pros and cons of new alarm systems but struggle to weigh their own values."--Morozov, p. 195

"Morality, thus, is not about pursuing a set of fixed ends but about maintaining the legal and deliberative spaces for such ends to be embraced, debated, revised, and, if necessary, ditched."--Morozov, p. 200

"We will only succeed in challenging technological defeatism if we refrain from using big words like “technology” and “the Internet.” Instead, we need to uncover and set aside whatever cultural, intellectual, and political biases...they introduce into our debates. We’d be far better off examining individual technologies on their own terms, liberated from the macroscopic fetishes of Silicon Valley."--Morozov, p. 223

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This page was prepared by Dr. David M. Marcovitz.

Last Updated: October 24, 2013