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Looking beyond learning: notes towards the critical study of educational technology

Looking beyond learning: notes towards the critical study of educational technology

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Published by n.selwyn
'Looking beyond learning: notes towards the critical study of education' paper to appear in Journal of Computer Assisted Learning (2010)

'Looking beyond learning: notes towards the critical study of education' paper to appear in Journal of Computer Assisted Learning (2010)

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Published by: n.selwyn on Dec 16, 2009
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12/02/2012

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Looking beyond learning: notes towards thecritical study of educational technology
 N
EIL
S
ELWYN
 London Knowledge Lab Institute of Education – University of London, UK 
 paper to be published in the
 Journal of Computer Assisted Learning 
(2010)
Please reference as:
Selwyn, N. (2010) ‘Looking beyond learning: notes towards the critical study of educational technology’ Journal of Computer Assisted Learning 26, 1
email 
: n.selwyn@ioe.ac.uk 
 postal 
: London Knowledge Lab, 23-29 Emerald Street, London, WC1N 3QS
 
Looking beyond learning: notes towards thecritical study of educational technology
Abstract:
This paper makes a case for academic research and writing that looks beyondthe learning potential of technology and, instead, seeks to develop social scientificaccounts of the often compromised and constrained realities of education technology use‘on the ground’. The paper discusses how this ‘critical’ approach differs from the waysthat educational technology scholarship has tended to be pursued to date. Thesedifferences include viewing technology as being socially constructed and negotiatedrather than imbued with pre-determined characteristics; developing objective and realisticaccounts of technology use
in situ
; and producing ‘context rich’ analyses of the socialconflicts and politics that underpin the use of technology in educational settings. The paper concludes by encouraging academic researchers and writers to show greateinterest in the issues of democracy and social justice that surround educationaltechnology.
Keywords:
technology, education, research, theory, sociology
2
 
Looking beyond learning: notes towards thecritical study of educational technology
Introduction
The twenty-fifth anniversary of 
 JCAL
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 ‘effectivelearningtechnologies 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
actually
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.
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