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In the shadow of technology: questions to ask when adopting computer applications in planning education

Computers enhance education in some important ways, but they may have unintended consequences for teaching and learning. Using undergraduate education in urban and regional planning as a case study, this paper examines how computers affect interests (what we think about), symbols (what we thinkwith), and community (the forum in which thoughts develop). The primary critiqueis that computer applications teach students that planning is primarily a technical activity, one in which individualistic and rationalistic approaches are most appropriate. However, this message contradicts what many planning theorists and practitioners have come to agree is good planning: a collaborative decision-making process that has communication and democratic practice at its core. The paper challenges planning educators to carefully consider how they use computers in teaching and learning, and prods them to find uses that reinforce a collaborative, community-centered model of planning.

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