Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Education Technology and Hidden Ideological Contradictions

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Education Technology and Hidden Ideological Contradictions

Article excerpt


This article is premised on the notion that there are hidden ideological contradictions in education technology as a field of practice and also of theory. These contradictions are embedded in the discourses of these fields and are present in, for example, positions about what constitutes learning, what constitutes technology itself, what constitutes theoretical positioning and also what constitutes the design for inquiries about these phenomena. It is important to understand educational ideological positions so to facilitate the development of appropriate education technology design and praxis.

Amory (2007) suggested that much of education technology replicates hegemonic practices that limit educational transformation, have little to do with contemporary learning practices and much more to do with fundamental and totalitarian ideologies of instruction. Similarly, Cohen (1987) argued that fundamentalists ideological beliefs embedded in technological products are incongruent with educational transformation. In addition, Gerardi (2006) suggested that advanced technologies are often tools of an authoritarian state leading to standardization of thought and social conformity. However, not all educational technology is driven by fundamentalist approaches to maintain the status quo. Referring to Cultural-Historical Activity Theory (CHAT), Stensenko (2005, p. 72) wrote:

"[P]eople not only constantly transform and create their environment: they also create and constantly transform their very lives, consequently changing themselves in fundamental ways and, in the process, gaining self-knowledge. Therefore, human activity--material, practical, and always, by necessity, social collaborative processes aimed at transforming the world and human being themselves with the help of collectively created tools--is the basic form of life of people ."

Individual ideologies therefore operate, as McAllister (2004) suggested, within societal dialectical struggles reflecting the relationship between self and society and are a cultural artifact of mass-market post-modernism production.

This paper explores immersive- or pervasive environments and pedagogical agents that could more easily support social collaboration and individual transformation. In addition, the ideology-technology-learning triad is informed by developing an understanding of social networks and by recent neuro-scientific discoveries. The main argument of this paper is that personal and societal transformation can be cultivated through fostering social collaboration, designing complex learning activities that include contradictions, and make use of education technology in which embedded ideological positions are explicated. However, it is first necessary to position this exploration within an appropriate theoretical framework, as discussed in the next section.


Theoretical Framing

This paper made use of CHAT both as a way of understanding education technology (tool mediated construction) and as an analytical frame to identify pertinent design principles. A recent contribution to the legacy of Lev Vygotsky's cultural historical theory of learning is Engestrom's (1987) broadening and amending of what Leontiev (1978) began with regard to theory of activity. Engestrom's now often utilized model of an "activity system" is a helpful tool for work in information technology that includes social mediated activity (Fig. 1). In an activity system Outcomes result from Actors interrogating Objects by means of Tools (physical--pencils and technological artifacts; or psychological--signs and symbols). Tools mediate interactions through the activity context that includes Community, Division of Labour and associated Rules (Engestrom, 2000, 2001; Barab, Evans & Baek, 2004; Roth & Lee, 2007). Internal Contradictions create instability and drive the development of and change in the system (Engestrom, 2000, 2001). …

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