March 1, 2007
In Fall 2000, when Theory and Research in Social Education (TRSE) first dedicated an issue to technologies in social studies education. Neil Postman contributed a View Point piece to this issue. Postman, who died in 2003, was an interesting choice because he was an outspoken critic of educational technology who believed that, as he said at the time, "the new technologies both in and out of the classroom are a distraction and an irrelevance."
I knew Postman slightly and admired him greatly. Like many others, my views on literacy and technology have been shaped partly through encounters with his writing and thinking. With Postman's death the educational community - and particularly those interested in educational technologies - has lost a powerful critical voice that demanded we be self-critical, and true to the larger ideals and purposes we bring to our educational work.
I can think of no better way to share my own evolving viewpoint on digital technologies in the social studies than returning to Postman, and having a dialogue with him as it were, about those challenges that social studies education faces, and the place of technologies in helping us address them.