The risky promises and promising risks of new information technologies for education

Nicholas C Burbules, Thomas A. Callister

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Most discussions of the potential of new information technologies (IT) for education have taken one of two forms: enthusiastic proclamations of the revolutionary impact that IT can have for teaching and learning in school and nonschool settings, or dire warnings of the terrible fraud being perpetrated on society about the educational potential of IT. This essay attempts to avoid exaggerated optimism and pessimism about IT and education, while avoiding the trite oversimplification that technology is "neutral" and can be used for good or bad purposes. Our view is guided by the assumption that it is actually very difficult, if not impossible, in many cases to sort out benefits from costs - the very same outcomes can be viewed as favorable or unfavorable, depending on other assumptions about their effects. We propose a posttechnocratic view of IT that recognizes the multiplicity of effects, the indeterminacy and inseparability of consequences, and the difficulty of isolating "good" and "bad" outcomes. As an example of posttechnocratic analysis, the recent educational concern about censorship and the Internet is discussed to demonstrate how educational policy choices are often more complex and ambiguous than we might wish.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)105-112
Number of pages8
JournalBulletin of Science, Technology and Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Management of Technology and Innovation
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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