April 1999 // Letters to the Editor
Re: Digital Diploma Mills . . .
by Glenn Ralston
Note: This article was originally published in The Technology Source (http://ts.mivu.org/) as: Glenn Ralston "Re: Digital Diploma Mills . . ." The Technology Source, April 1999. Available online at http://ts.mivu.org/default.asp?show=article&id=1034. The article is reprinted here with permission of the publisher.

The Technology Source scores again with the valuable addition of its Critical Reading section. This timely discussion thread challenges the growing misrepresentation of technological issues in the popular press, which for self-serving ambitions uses wild exaggerations, highly selective anecdotes, and even the occasional attribution of base motives to technology proponents. Thank goodness a few scholars, represented in TS and elsewhere, are willing to check their usual reticence at the door and recognize the high stakes involved in this political gambit to slow down investments in technology.

Skeptics frequently voice anecdotal arguments decrying the supposed lack of utility or value of the intellectual appliance that is the PC in our learning arenas and marketplaces. These anecdotes are generally descriptive, colorful, and thought-provoking, but they often lack authentic research and instead rely on word of mouth or simple conjecture.

As an example, in a February 24 New York Times article entitled "Report Calls for Teacher Training in Technology" (1999), journalist Pamela Mendels provides a broad view of the just-released report by the CEO Forum on Education and Technology. In order to provide balance, Mendels also cites anecdotal comments by William L. Rukeyser, coordinator of Learning in the Real World (see that site's "Further Reading"), who frequently suggests that learning technology is not effective training for life in the "real" world. Many similar comments appearing in the press are highly selective anecdotes and sometimes characterize opinions as "surveys" and otherwise present unsubstantiated observations.

Other recent examples that have been widely touted in the same manner include "The Computer Delusion" by Oppenheimer and "The Liberal Arts in an Age of Info-Glut" by Gitlin (see the Environmedia site). Fortunately, with the new Critical Reading section, The Technology Source provides an ideal forum in which scholars can air contradicting opinions about technology and, in the process, clear up misrepresentations about the value of technology in education.

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