Technology and Authenticity?

When the idea of authenticity and computers was first introduced in one my classes, the first questions asked was "How authentic can a computer be?"  One of the assumptions behind this question is th at computers can never feel or look exactly like being in a real life situation. 

No matter how great computer graphics become, a sunset on the computer will never compare to watching a sunset on the front porch.  Or watching an explosion from a science experiment on the computer will never have th e same amount of anticipation as experimenting with a chemistry lab set in the backyard.

Something to think about is what we choose to compare between real life situations and computer simulations.  Should we compare the mediums (and how the five senses respond to each)?  Or, should we compare the consistency of ideas presented by the two mediums?

The first question will always produce the same result --computers are not authentic.  But if we begin to look at how consistent the ideas presented are with what happens in real life situations, then it becomes possi ble for computing environments to be considered authentic.(Ideas inspired by J. Beller)

The Role of Technology

One area of debate, is how much of a role technology should play in authentic learning environments.  Should computers be the focus of such an environment, or should they be supplemental to instructio n? 
      At one extreme, Roger Schank
believes that an "educational revolution" could occur by allowing " individualized instruction" on computers, thus making the computer the learning environment.  An example of a system that is the learning environment would be Broadcast News< /font> or Is it a Rembrandt.  These programs are self-sustaining and are meant to be used on a one to one basis with the student.  Central to both of these programs is the ASK System which uses screen prompted questions to help guide the student.  The ASK System demonstrates the individualistic attitude of the program, because it follows the train of thought of one student and makes collaboration difficult.
      Barbara Means
takes an intermediate stance saying that "technology lends authenticity to school tasks".  S he views technology as a "tool" that enables students to achieve more "polished" work that is more valuable to the students.  Tools also allow students access to tools that professional's use. She supports the integration of t echnology into curriculum.  An example of a program that supports her use of technology would be the Weather Visualizer where students are given th e tools of meteorologist's, and can use the tool to complete assignments.
      Roy Pea would argue that the computer is just another tool increasing student knowledge, and should be considered just another segment of the student's body of knowledge or "distributed intelligence".  It is how th e tools are used and manipulated that determine a student's intelligence.  The computer itself is not the learning environment, but just a tool. (5
      Personally, it seems that computers are best utilized as supplements to good learning environments and provide tools that normally would not be available to students.  One thing that must not be lost site of is that schools are also social skill builders, and if the computer becomes the central learning station, this skill is no longer developed.

Tiffany Marra