Needs before means: the dialectics of learning and technology
Higher education and society in general are changing rapidly. The student body is more diverse and larger. Arguments rage about the vocational relevance of higher education. The unit of resource is declining. The way ahead appears fraught with difficulty. However, computer-based technology is advancing at breakneck speed. Is it the 5th Cavalry charging to the rescue of the beleaguered educational troops? The argument that will be advanced in this paper is that such a view is simplistic. The key issue is that pedagogic purposes and individual student needs should be first defined so as to identify the best means of meeting those purposes and needs. The general argument that dialogue based on dialectical communication lies at the heart of the learning process will then be applied to the use of learning technology in language learning. It will be demonstrated how, through a dialectical process, the appropriate use of learning technologies in meeting students' changing needs can be progressively refined.