(Seminar given at Lancaster University, 14th March, 2012)
The field of educational technology has devoted a lot of time and effort to theorising ‘learning’, and some to developing ideas about what ‘education’ might be, but perhaps surprisingly, the idea of ‘technology’ remains poorly examined. Work commonly builds on ‘common sense’ accounts of technology, relying on deterministic accounts of the relationship between technology, practices and identities. These accounts rarely pay attention to ideas of context or the role of agency.
These problems can be illustrated by work on digital literacy. Digital literacy is widely assumed to be about free-floating generic skills. The prevalence of new technologies has supposedly led to the emergence of a generation of digital natives, who are supposed to learn in different ways and even have different kinds of brains from other people. Educational systems are expect both to reflect their new preferences for learning, and to prepare them to use technology as a route to gainful employment.
However, instead, digital literacies can be reconceived as consisting of context bound, situated practices that are implicated in the construction of complex, hybrid identities in a range of overlapping domains. Viewed this way, being digitally literate becomes a social achievement, in which technology is taken up to serve personal agency, rather than a cause.
This presentation will review different ways of theorising technology, exploring some alternative framework (such as Actor Network Theory and praxiology), and their consequences for research. This will be illustrated using data drawn from an ongoing JISC-funded project that is using multimodal journaling to document their engagement with technology.