It is often stated that technology is merely a tool. The typical argument goes something like this: it’s not the technology itself, it’s what you do with technology that counts. This notion fails to recognize that technology itself embeds a message. Ever since the first personal computers emerged a little over thirty years ago, computer technology has changed education. As Christian educators, we recognize the latent potential in creation for computer technology and how it is a gift from God. However, technology often changes things in subtle ways, and it requires discernment as we decide how technology ought to be used in education.
The book Responsible Technology defines technology as:
A distinct cultural activity in which human beings exercise freedom and responsibility in response to God by forming and transforming the natural creation, with the aid of tools and procedures, for practical ends or purposes (Monsma 19).
This definition recognizes that technology is a human cultural activity; it is more than just devices, it is what we make of the world (Crouch 23). Second, it recognizes that technology is a response to God, one in which we have both freedom and responsibility. Andy Crouch, in his book Culture Making, suggests several questions we can ask when evaluating new cultural developments. Two questions in particular acknowledge the extraordinary power of culture (and hence, technology) to “shape the horizons of possibility” (Crouch 29). When it comes to technology, the first question to ask is what does it make possible? And second, what does it make impossible or more difficult? (Crouch 29) With regards to computer technology, most people have no trouble with the first question and identifying all the new possibilities that it brings. A less obvious question is how computer technology will make certain things harder or more difficult. This second question is one you are unlikely to hear at a learning technology conference or from a technology vendor, but it is a critical question to ask.
The second question makes little sense if one views technology as “just a tool.”