The word Technology encompasses a wide range of human inventions, from the controlled use of fire by our hominid ancestors to the smart assistants on our smartphones and the rockets that carry astronauts into space. Although it is used most frequently to describe high-tech developments, such as computers and cell phones, the term can also be applied to lower-technology inventions like bows and arrows, the wheel, and the controlled use of farming tools.
Regardless of their nature, all technologies share a common set of features: they are human-created, they are designed to accomplish goals for their creators and users, and they tend to evolve in ways that have far-reaching implications. As such, there is a long history of philosophical and political debate about the role and effects of technology.
In this article, the author offers a critical analysis of two sharply diverging traditions of talking about technology. The first is an instrumental approach that focuses on the means and ignores the ends. It reduces a technological tool to its function and is associated with scholars such as Aristotle, Hugh of St Victor, Johann Beckmann, and Talcott Parsons. The second is a more holistic view that emphasizes the values and purposes of a technological invention. This perspective is exemplified by the work of people such as Henry Ford, William Barton Rogers, and Karl Marx.
Because technologies prioritize certain pathways and endpoints over others, they often impose new rules on how to achieve their goals. This reordering is not necessarily positive, but it is necessary for the technologies to remain relevant in a changing environment. For example, when digital cameras became popular, they replaced film and darkrooms as the route to photographs. But in doing so, they also deprioritized the inefficient but gratifying culture of physical retouching that analogue photography engendered.
A wide variety of technologies help advance science, including measuring instruments, laboratory equipment, transportation to research sites (including Antarctica and the moon), astronomical instrumentation, sampling equipment, the computer, and communication devices. These tools make it possible to study weather systems, demographic patterns, gene structure, and other complex phenomena that would be impossible without them.
As the pace of technological change continues to accelerate, it is becoming increasingly important for educators to understand how technology affects learning and teaching. This knowledge is essential to designing effective instructional strategies that take advantage of the potential benefits and limitations of new technologies. It is also necessary to recognize how technology is affecting the way students learn and communicate. Whether it is used as a distraction or to promote active engagement, technology has the power to revolutionize classroom instruction. This is especially true if teachers can develop routines that facilitate its integration and assess the benefits of its use in the classroom. For example, allowing students to use technology in small-group activities provides them with an opportunity to practice their collaboration skills while also enhancing their ability to engage and concentrate. For the educator, these strategies can help reduce the stress that often accompanies the introduction of technology into a classroom.