Volume 10, No. 5 - July/August 2000

                                      TECHNOLOGY AND HIGHER


                           We asked six scholars and writers to recommend the best recent books on digital
                           technology and higher education.

                           Hank Bromley, assistant professor of education at the State University of New York at
                           Buffalo and co-editor of Education/Technology/Power: Educational Computing As a
                           Social Practice (SUNY, 1998).

                                "Public discussions of education and technology tend to treat policy issues in both
                                areas as a simple problem of efficiency -- a question of how best to attain
                                presumably consensual goals. There is far too little work addressing whose
                                interests are served by wiring our schools and colleges. Among the welcome
                                exceptions are David F. Noble's ongoing 'Digital Diploma Mills' essays (available
                                online at www.communication.ucsd.edu/dl/) and Marita Moll's edited collection
                                Tech High: Globalization and the Future of Canadian Education (Fernwood,
                                1997). For twenty-five years, Noble has chronicled pivotal moments in the
                                history of technology, depicting technology as 'hardened history, frozen
                                fragments of human and social endeavor.' 'Digital Diploma Mills' analyzes the
                                motives for putting universities online and traces the incursion of market forces
                                into the educational realm, as well as the resulting attempt to commodify core
                                teaching functions. Moll's book similarly addresses the broader context of
                                educational technologization, emphasizing economic globalization, the nature of
                                educational labor, and the ongoing impact of racial and sexual inequality."

                           Ann Okerson, associate university librarian at Yale University and editor of Visions
                           and Opportunities in Electronic Publishing (Association of Research Libraries, 1993).

                                "With the advent of the microcomputer and the Internet, information moves
                                among people more rapidly than ever. The ease of copying undermines old rules
                                and practices that were designed to turn words into commodities and intellect
                                into property. Universities are caught between the pressures of old and new --
                                the need to foster the dissemination of information and the need to control it.
                                Understanding these pressures is central to The Digital Dilemma (National
                                Academy Press, 2000). Commissioned by the National Science Foundation and
                                carried out by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Science,
                                the book comes with suitably blue-ribbon credentials. At its core lie the
                                complexities and ironies of intellectual property law, which puts forward
                                restraint and control as the best means of facilitating dissemination and
                                freedom. Outlining issues with clarity and judiciousness, the book is without
                                polemic or rancor. The volume is an excellent handbook for faculty, librarians,
                                and administrators seeking to understand the choices they will face as
                                universities produce and consume new kinds of intellectual property in a new
                                kind of information economy."

                           Patrick Clinton, executive editor of University Business.

                                "According to the popular press, the only thing inhibiting the growth of
                                computer-mediated education is a handful of technical problems -- and the
                                alleged Luddite tendencies of the faculty. But there are bigger, subtler problems:
                                How does technology fit into institutional missions; how is it to be funded; what
                                business models are appropriate for developing and marketing new courses; and
                                how are faculty to be brought on board? For insight into these issues, I like
                                Anthony W. Bates's Managing Technological Change: Strategies for College
                                and University Leaders (Jossey-Bass, 1999). Bates has a solid grasp on how
                                successful institutions have established new programs, and he is refreshingly
                                nondoctrinaire. He also manages to talk about education and money without
                                confusing them.

                                "Paul Duguid and John Seely Brown's The Social Life of Information (Harvard
                                Business, 2000) is not really a book about education, though it has a fine,
                                provocative chapter on universities. Rather, it examines a wide array of fields,
                                many of them related to business and technology, to uncover areas where
                                learning and competence are based on something other than the exchange of
                                information. The results aren't always easy to apply, but they illuminate the
                                extent to which classroom learning can be provided electronically, and they truly
                                help to combat what Duguid and Brown call 'Technological Tunnel Vision.'"

                           Richard E. Miller, associate professor of English at Rutgers University and author of As
                           If Learning Mattered: Reforming Higher Education (Cornell, 1998).

                                "Nothing is generating more anxiety and rage in the academy today than the rise
                                of instructional technology. Given all the money that's being thrown into the
                                machines, the wiring, and the dorm rooms, as well as all the attendant hype
                                about the cost benefits of fully automated instruction, most of us in higher
                                education have fallen into 'techno-despair,' a state of mind characterized by a
                                strong sense that the venerable profession of teaching is doomed. Fortunately
                                for those interested in a more nuanced assessment of how best to respond to
                                the revolution in the funding and delivery of higher education, Gail E. Hawisher
                                and Cynthia L. Selfe, longtime leaders in the use of computers in writing
                                instruction, have put together Passions, Pedagogies, and 21st Century
                                Technologies (Utah State, 1999). This edited collection, which includes essays by
                                some of the most thoughtful teachers and scholars working in composition
                                today, shows how technology has changed, and is changing, the meaning of
                                literacy, teaching, ethics, and the self. The result is a usefully discordant and
                                self-reflexive volume, accessible to those just entering the discussion and
                                rewarding to those more experienced readers looking for guidance about how to
                                make sense of this latest evolution in the form and function of higher

                           James J. O'Donnell, professor of classical studies and vice provost for information
                           systems and computing at the University of Pennsylvania and author of Avatars of the
                           Word: From Papyrus to Cyberspace (Harvard, 1998).

                                "Bill Readings, a brilliant and provocative comparatist at the University of
                                Montreal, died much too young, in a plane crash a few years ago. His book The
                                University in Ruins (Harvard, 1997) analyzes the university's inner politics and
                                its relationship to its historic wider social purpose. The book renders forever
                                questionable the language of 'excellence' in academic self-congratulation and
                                brings intellectual passion and seriousness to debates about university futures.
                                Hal R. Varian and Carl Shapiro, on the other hand, barely mention universities
                                in their handbook to survival and prosperity in the network economy,
                                Information Rules (Harvard Business, 1998). The slight is a sign of the great risk
                                universities face: They may well become irrelevant, regardless of how much or
                                how little we use the language of 'excellence.' We must learn again to link
                                academic discourse with academic policy or we will become only one more sector
                                of the service economy, awaiting restructuring and downsizing."

                           Karin M. Wiburg, associate professor and coordinator of learning technologies at New
                           Mexico State University and co-author of Teaching With Technology (Harcourt Brace,

                                "In Electronic Collaborators: Learner-Centered Technologies for Literacy,
                                Apprenticeship, and Discourse (Erlbaum, 1998), Curtis Jay Bonk and Kira S.
                                King examine how digital technologies enable teachers to implement new
                                pedagogical theories about collaboration. The writers study the effect on
                                intellectual development of tools that move learning from synchronous to
                                asynchronous environments. If the book has a weakness, it lies in its lack of a
                                critical cultural perspective and its limited view of literacy as only print-based.
                                Richard N. Katz's Dancing With the Devil (Jossey-Bass, 1999) suggests that one
                                can no longer ignore the rapidly growing competition from for-profit,
                                technology-based universities and colleges. The book also examines some of the
                                emerging problems in higher education that technology might be able to address.
                                These problems include a shift from just-in-case education ('study this in case
                                you need to know it some day') to just-in-time education and the increased
                                demand on higher education institutions to provide services, often at a distance,
                                to the larger society. Katz provides a useful glimpse of the dangers and promise
                                of technology in higher education."

                                                                                     --John Palattella