Looking beyond learning: notes towards thecritical study of educational technology
The twenty-fifth anniversary of
should be cause both for celebration andcontemplation amongst the educational technology community. Everyone involved withthe journal can look back at the last quarter of a century with a well-deserved sense of accomplishment and pride. Yet the occasion also provides an opportunity to reflect onhow the academic study of educational technology has developed over the last threedecades and, perhaps most importantly, to think creatively about how the field may progress into the next decade. In this latter sense at least, a set of issues relating to process and purpose certainly merit further consideration as digital technology becomes astandard feature of contemporary education provision and practice.As many readers may have noticed, self-reflection and self-analysis are not commonfeatures of the educational technology literature. Indeed, it could be argued that the rapiddevelopment of digital technology has ensured that educational technologists scarcelyhave time to keep abreast of their topic of study, yet alone cogitate on the more complexissues of definition and motivation that underpin their endeavours (although seeJanuszewski and Molenda 2007 as a notable exception). In fact, many people working inthe field would probably refute the existence of a discrete ‘academic tribe’ of educationaltechnologists altogether – contending that ‘education technology’ serves merely as a flagof convenience for a loose assortment of technologically-minded psychologists, pedagogy experts, maths and science educators, computer scientists, systems developersand the like.With these issues in mind, there is a clear need for those of us currently working in thearea of education and technology to take stock of who we are, what it is we do, and howand why we do it. With a view to stimulating further discussion and debate the present paper now goes on to raise a number of straightforward but possibly contentious pointsregarding the future development of the field. In particular, it is argued that the academicstudy of educational technology has grown to be dominated by an (often abstracted)interest in the processes of how people can learn with digital technology. While issuesrelating to the design, development and implementation of ‘effective’ learningtechnologies will continue to be of central importance to the field, it is reasoned thatgreater attention now needs to be paid to how digital technologies are
being used – for better and worse – in ‘real-world’ educational settings. In this sense, it is contendedthat the academic study of educational technology needs to be pursued more vigorouslyalong social scientific lines, with researchers and writers showing a keener interest in thesocial, political, economic, cultural and historical contexts within which educationaltechnology use (and non-use) is located.