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Baldursson, Stefan (1989). The Computer Use and The Pedagogy of Writing. Unpublished Dissertation Edmonton: University of Alberta.


< Abstract >

In this study it is proposed that the educational problem of the use of computers in the curric~um is neither a technical nor a scientific problem, but a pedagogic one. This is to say, neither the computer scientist as computer scientist, nor the psychologist or sociologist for that matter, has anything essential to say about the educational problem of computers. As a pedagogic concern the question about computers in schools is a practical/ethical problem, requiring a different kind of theorizing and research than is usually found in positivistic educational inquiry. By suggesting that the AristotelianGadamerian notion of practical reasoning ~hronesis) may be used as the model for understanding the application of computers in schools, the problem is presented as a hermeneutical problem — a problem of interpretive understanding of the meaning of computers and of the self-understanding of educators. All genuine understanding, according to this view, is guided by a wirkungsgeschtliches Bewusstsein, a consciousness of historical finitude, which endeavors to enlarge its horizon; the fundamental assumption is that there exists an inextricable relationship between the practical and the theoretical in hermeneutic thinking.


To view the application of computers in schools as a hermeneutic problem under the auspices of practical reasoning means to give the notion of application a non-technical significance. The technical notion sees application as the utilization of scientific or technical knowledge to predefmed tasks in the most efficient way possible. In contrast, practical/ethical reasoning reveals application as a problem of understanding of meaning and of thoughtfulness. Whereas in the technical mode there exists most often a fairly explicit knowledge of the end, the things to be produced, and often of the means to reach that end, there is no such a priori knowledge of the right means available in the practical/ethical mode of application. Indeed, in practical/ethical reasoning the ends and means are co-determined on the basis of a reflection on the pedagogic Good of the ends and the suitability of the means (which indicates that there is no knowledge of the meaning of computers as such, only particular applications). It is only through such reflective consideration (deliberation) that the meaning of means and ends receive the concrete significance necessary for an understanding the idea of application. In other words, it is only in relation to a concrete application that the meaning of computer technology shows itself. It is furthermore proposed that a hermeneutic pedagogical reasoning about application must become phenomenological, that is, it must be grounded in an understanding of the meaning of lived experience of the technology.


The main focus of this study is on word processing, the application of computers to the process of writing. How do we understand word processing as a problem of practical reasoning? By formulating the question about word processing in terms of practical or ethical reasoning limply that the decisive thing is not the efficiency of the word processor as a writing instrument in comparison with other means of writing. The primary concern is not the factual aspects of word processing; it is the meaning of the application that is the object of this study. The objective is to put word processing in its proper perspective by exploring the context of meaning disclosed by word processing and by exploring the truth of these presupposition in the light of lived experience of users and the tradition to which we belong, primarily the notion of writing presupposed in word processing. In a Heideggerian manner one could say that the task is to disclose the truth of word processing. Such knowledge does not give educators blueprints for actions but it may foster the kind of thoughtfulness that creates the condition for a tactful use of word processors in the teaching of the mother tongue.