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Technology Mastery for Liberal Arts: Thank You, Steve Jobs

In a 1996 interview with Terry Gross from National Public Radio (NPR), Steve Jobs highlighted his philosophy of "Computer Science Is A Liberal Art" that, in hindsight, would by followed by over a decade of innovative products that made technology easily accessible for millions of people.


"I think our major contribution [to computing] was in bringing a liberal arts point of view to the use of computers. If you really look at the ease of use of the Macintosh, the driving motivation behind that was to bring not only ease of use to people -- so that many, many more people could use computers for nontraditional things at that time ... so that they could see beautiful photographs, or pictures, or artwork, et cetera ... to help them communicate...."


"In my perspective ... science and computer science is a liberal art, it's something everyone should know how to use, at least, and harness in their life. It's not something that should be relegated to 5 percent of the population over in the corner."


"It's something that everybody should be exposed to and everyone should have mastery of to some extent."


The entire interview is available here.

In previous technology and Apple related posts, we've discussed that this Arts focus in "Technology Integration Isn't About Technology" and "Is Your School Developing the Future Innovators?"

This 1996 interview emphasizes the importance of accessing technology and mastery. Mastery of technology ultimately leads to using technology for meaningful pursuits. Technology is not an end in itself and should lead to other things in life.

From our educational perspective, this interview reminds us of the importance of ensuring student access to technology so they can develop their skills and interests to use technology productively in their personal and professional lives.

How can we help our students be exposed to technology so they can develop that mastery "to some extent"?

Here are some important questions for educators in helping teachers and students develop mastery of technology:

For the teachers:

1) Access: Do teachers have access to technology tools that enhance their effectiveness in the classroom? In areas where technology resources are scarce, how can teachers learn about emerging technologies?

2) Support: Do teachers receive both hardware and instructional support to use the technology? What are other sources of support when local help isn't readily available?

3) Professional Learning: Do teachers have time within the school day for professional development from specialists or other teachers in the school to share and collaborate on instructionally meaningful uses for technology? How can teachers maximize their learning when time is scarce?

4) Priority: How embedded is technology in the instructional priorities of the school? This dictates allocation of time and resources that either facilitate or impede technology use in classrooms.

For the students:

1) Equalizing Equity: Do all students have opportunities during the school day to use technology to develop their skills towards mastery? Do students have time after school or during lunch to use technologies that they may not have at home? What other opportunities for learning are available?

2) Purpose: Are students using computers to "explore their interests" so they can, as Steve Jobs said in his 2005 Stanford Commencement Speech, find what they love to do in order to do the great work?

Or, are computers being primarily used for online common assessments, drill and practice, or test preparation? Both are important, but is there a balance or imbalance of these priorities in your school?

These are some of the educational challenges and issues we face in ensuring that our students develop their skills for technology mastery to lead meaningful lives.

There are no easy solutions, but these reminders will keep us on track as the technology continues to evolve, but the purpose should always be the same.

Thank you, Steve Jobs, for your passion, drive, and focus in reminding us what technology is really about....

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What challenges or solutions do you see in helping develop student technology skills for mastery?


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