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Educational Technology and Innovation

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James Robson

on 8 October 2013

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Transcript of Educational Technology and Innovation

Educational Technology and Innovation
James Robson

CSTG Leader Weekend

Who am I?
What this seminar is and isn't
Not a list of digital tools
Not a list of tips and shortcuts on how to use technology

Instead I want to:

Make the Familiar strange
Provide a critical discussion of educational technology and how it fits into wider social contexts
Make a philosophical stance against top down models of innovation
Share several 'bottom-up' examples of technology use in RE classrooms
Participate in a space in which everyone can share ideas
Start a conversation
What is technology? What is Educational Technology
‘Technologies are developed and applied so that we can do things not otherwise possible, or so that we can do them cheaper, faster and easier’ (Volti, 1992: 4).

Technology can be anything that extends human capabilities – a sword, a pen, a book.

Here, we're talking about DIGITAL TECHNOLOGIES:

Hard technologies - computers, screens, mobile devices, cameras etc.
Soft technologies - the Internet, websites, programmes etc.


The word technology refers to far more than simply machinery or non-human artifacts. It also refers to the
social circumstances
social contexts
of the users of such machines and artifacts.
The Internet
The Internet is more than just a conglomeration of copper wires, fibre optic cables, wireless connections, computers, keyboards etc
When people talk about the Internet they are usually talking about the activities that they engage in online, the cultures that can be said to surround these social activities and the knowledge that results from these activities
It is far more useful to describe the Internet in terms of its social ‘content’ rather than its technical forms (Wessels 2010)
Technology as Social
Thus it is clear that it makes more sense to talk about technology in both material and social terms.

Lievrouw and Livingstone offer a very straightforward and useful way of describing the social and technical aspects of technology (2002), which can be expanded into educational technology terms:

1. ARTEFACTS AND DEVICES: that is, the technology itself and how it is designed and made before they reach educational settings
2. ACTIVITIES AND PRACTICES: that is what people do with technologies in educational settings and for educational purposes (including issues of human interaction, organizing, identity, cultural practices)’
3. CONTEXT: that is social arrangements and organizational forms that surround the use of technologies in educational settings and for educational purposes(including institutions, social structures and cultures)

Educational technologies are not simply neutral tools that are used in benign ways within educational contexts. Like all technologies, educational technology is intrinsically linked with the social, cultural and political aspects of society.

Simply acknowledging that technology is connected with pre-exisisting organized structures of human activity can help us develop more detailed understandings of how and why technologies are used in education in the ways that they are.
This socially complex situation is clear when the reasons why teachers may want to use technology are analyzed
Why use technology in education
External imperatives

- keeping up with the rest of modern life
- Meeting the demands of the knowledge economy
- Meeting the demands of the information society

- Meeting the demands of local and schools based administration and management
- Meeting the demands of parents
- Meeting the demands of children
Why use technology in education
Internal imperatives

In other words top down pressure from government, industry, educational establishment, and wider societal trends, often only partially related to teaching and learning
From the student perspective
- Enhancing social learning
- Positioning the learner at the centre of the learning process
- Expanding learning beyond local site
From the teacher perspective
- Directed and differentiated learning
- Enhanced quality through access to an almost limitless bank of resources
- Enhanced learner experience through deeper and more dynamic presentation of materials (eg whiteboards, prezi etc)
- Assistance with bureaucracy, eg marking, enabling them to spend more time with learners
- Ready access to digital community based CPD through online engagement and resource sharing with teachers around the country/ world.
I.e. primarily bottom up concerns of making education provision work better, with a growing number of educationalists attempting to harness the potential of digital technologies to overcome existing problems or limitations in education or enhance teaching and learning methods.
The Allure of the New
Dominant Discourses Surrounding Educational Technology
Technology as Progressive and Transformative
Technology as Neutral
Based in an idealized setting, failing to spot the messy realities and tensions in real schools
Although frequently not explicitly acknowledge, this is often placed within a Marxist transformatory disourse aimed at changing the whole education system - removal of teacher; removal of school
Assumption that technology is simply a politically neutral tool devoid of social contexts.

Michael Apple's (1991) analysis of the text book illustrates ways in which the production of simple technologies and educational knowledge contained within can be influenced by politics, production, sales and the commoditization of knowledge.

This can be seen in relation to digital technologies - political pressure, commercial interests, societal trends, marketing etc.

e.g. Apple's marketing of iPads, School of the Future in NY, Microsoft Education Lab etc.
Questions all users of Educational Technology should ask
What are you trying to achieve with the technology?

What are the intended and unintended outcomes of the technology use?

What is the technology changing?

What links are there between technology use at the micro level of the learner and the wider concerns of the educational organization and the macro concerns of politics, economy and culture?

What are your messy realities?
History shows a cycle of hype, hope and disappointment
Concluding Thoughts
No predetermined outcomes to the development and implementation of educational technologies. Instead any technological artefact should be seen as being subjected continually to a series of interactions and negotiations with the social, economic, political and cultural contexts that it emerges into.

It is important to recognize that many of the key questions surrounding education and technology are not concerned with issues of technology at all.

Many of these issues may be far removed from what one usually finds in discussions about educational technology, but all are important elements in making full sense of education and technology.
The Smart Phone
In the classroom due to a complex series of social factors
Peer pressure
Market forces
Commercial interests of manufactures
Commercial interests of network providers
Societal trends
Fashion discourses
Smart phones' ability to access the Internet maybe related to:
Users contracts (perhaps related to parental socio-economic status)
Availability of 3g masts (perhaps related to local politics and commercial negotiations)
Availability of school wireless networks
Smart phone use maybe influenced by:
Wider social trends towards social networking
Structures placed upon use by hardware and software providers
Third party marketing
Commercial interests
Local school cutures
Thus technologies:
Not simply neutral tools humans can use freely to live their lives
Provide structures for human activity
Structure human activity
Rooted in wider social, political and economic contexts
Tied to economic, social, cultural and human capital
Allure of the New and Technology as Progressive and Transformative
Most accounts of the digital age are framed within discourses of progress, transformation and the allure of the new.

As Gere notes (2008) many general discussion of the digital age tend to be informed by the notion that the development of digital technology represents a distinctively new
improved set of social arrangements in relation to preceding ‘pre-digital’ time.


1. This is a form of
Technological Determinism

Larry Cuban's history of educational technology illustrates an ongoing cycle of
hype, hope, and disappointment
throughout the 20th Century

As Diana Laurillard wryly observes: ‘education is on the brink of being transformed through learning technologies; however it has been on that brink for some decades now.’ (2008: 1)
"I believe that the motion picture is destined to revolutionise our educational system and that in a few years it will supplant largely, if not entirely, the use of textbooks... the education of the future will be conducted through the medium of the motion picture" Thomas Edison, 1920s (cited in Cuban, 1986: 9; and Selwyn 2011: 45)
"Television is a quick, efficient, inexpensive means of satisfying the nations instructional needs... it will revolutionise the classroom" Lawrence Conrad 1954 (cited in Selwyn: 51)
"With radio, the underprivileged school becomes the privileged... education will no be fully democratic" Morgan, 1931 (cited in Cuban, 1986: 23)
2. Fails to take account of the
messy realities
of schools
Physical and architectural limitations
Administrative Fears
Disruptive nature of hardware
Innovation in educational technology can be a brilliant thing.


It is important to recognize that many of the key questions surrounding education and technology and innovation are not concerned with issues of technology at all.

Many of these issues may be far removed from what one usually finds in discussions about educational technology, but all are important elements in making full sense of education and technology.


How the technologies they use fit within the social, political, commercial and cultural frameworks and structures
How do these wider contexts influence the place of technology in the classroom
Beware of the allure of the new and hyperbolic claims related to transformation and progression particularly when these discourses come in a top down form and are linked to political and commercial agendas
Focus on bottom up innovations coming from teachers focused on teaching and learning, who have personally overcome the messy realities of their schools
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