Problems with Educational Technology

Last Updated on October 15, 2017 by


Neil Selwyn is critical of the technologically driven de-schooling agenda advanced by the likes of Sugata Mitra (who did the hole in the wall experiment).

His criticisms are based partly on his research into MOOCs, or Massive Open-ended Online Courses put courses online, have discussion on line and online tests….. the most attractive feature is that it is flexible, you learn at your own pace and when and it’s not place based.

started in in Canada in 2008 to 9, and have since taken Higher Education by storm – today massive companies. It took Higher Education by storm – massive companies, MIT Harvard, making profit. Of course the Open University, their Future Learn PLatform..

Sceptical about the idea that MOOCs and Holes in the Wall will lead to a de-schooling of society, or possibly a re-schooling, where we keep the four walls of the school but change everything within – from pedagogy to curricula.

He argues that this is a dangerous road to be going down because there are people who are not in a position to be able. They tend to favour the ‘already learners’ and the well-resourced. For example, HE MOOC courses, tend to attract those who already have degrees, and the drop out rate for such courses is huge.

We are also importing an silicon valley libertarian hyper-individualised agenda to all of this – that anyone can do anything and open ended technologies can help us to learn and do whatever we want.

However, a problem with this individualistic ideology is that it undermines that capacity for the school to ‘force’ people to learn empowering knowledge -the traditional schools is a great place to say to children ‘you need to learn maths’ or ‘you need to learn physics’, for example.

Selywn cites the educational philosopher Gert desta to add a layer of analysis to his argument: schools are sites where subjectification, socialisation and qualification take place – sites where we learn who we are (subjectification), how we should get along with people (socialisation) and what we can do in terms of not just knowledge but also skills (qualification) – these are all fundamental to our very identities and our capacity to achieve our goals in life, and Selwyn wants to chime a note of caution over increasing the role of globalised ed-tech companies in shaping these three self-forming processes – we need to think about the values and interests of these tech companies.

There is no such thing as non ideological education or non ideological technology – technology has politics and values

Liberia is an example of a country which has outsourced its elementary and primary education to Bridge International Academies.

One potential problem with this kind of outsourcing is that it replaces the power of the state to frame their education curricula and gives more power to globalised technology companies to do so

Neil Selwyn is a Professor in the Faculty of Education, Monash University, Australia.






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