Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Philosophy of Technology Assumptions in Educational Technology Leadership

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Philosophy of Technology Assumptions in Educational Technology Leadership

Article excerpt

Introduction

Philosophy of technology is a branch of philosophy that involves examining the underlying assumptions of how technologies impact and transform human society in ways that are philosophically relevant (Kaplan, 2009). Does philosophy matter? The author humorously recalls that Collier (1994) argued that proceeding without examining assumptions does not mean an absence of philosophy, but more likely, bad philosophy. Does philosophy of technology matter for educational technology leadership? Scholars have argued that philosophy of technology assumptions, especially technological determinism, may influence the thinking or discourse of educators concerning technology (Bennett & Maton, 2010; Cukier, Ngwenyama, Bauer, & Middleton, 2009; Fisher, 2006; Jones & Czerniewicz, 2010; Jones & Healing, 2010; Kanuka, 2008; Kritt & Winegar, 2010; Leonardi, 2008; Oliver, 2011; Selwyn, 2010; Strobel & Tillberg-Webb, 2009), and affect policy (Clegg, Hudson, & Steel, 2003; Cukier et al., 2009; Fisher, 2006; Wyatt, 2008). The pace of technological change presents challenges for contemplative leadership because there may be little time for considered judgment, with leaders responding in a reflexive rather than a reflective way to new information and change (Canole, 2007; Selwyn, 2010).

An important theme in the literature has involved scholarship discussing how technological determinism, a view pervasive in the popular mindset, may influence educational technology professional practice, shape interactions among stakeholders, and sometimes influence decisions. What is technological determinism? Technological determinism is the philosophical perspective that assumes that technology causes inevitable change in society (Leonardi, 2008; Leonardi, 2009), exerting a control over human society with technology considered in some way to be an autonomous force operating outside of social control (Feenberg, 2010; Hofmann, 2006; Leonardi, 2009). Technological determinism typically considers technology as a dominant force for social change, although there are different accounts of technological determinism.

Fisher (2006) examined discourse and rhetoric about educational transformation and observed a tendency for some discourse to be framed in technological determinist language that ascribed to technology the power to inevitably cause positive change in schools. Fisher concluded that such technological determinist assumptions are a problem because by ascribing autonomous change to technology, rather than to educators, the perspective shortchanges the hard work that educators must undertake to improve and transform education. If educators assume a commercial technology is inevitable, they tend to focus on how schools should adapt to technology, rather than shape the technology to meet curriculum requirements, and teachers' and students' needs (Jones & Czemiewicz, 2010). In their critique of the claim that young people are digital natives who are naturally more able to use technology, with inevitable technology causing changes in students, Jones and Healing (2010) asserted that the digital native argument proceeds from a simplistic view of causality influenced by technological determinism. Kanuka (2008) argued that by examining their philosophy of technology assumptions, thoughtful practitioners with responsibilities for educational technology would be better able to make purposeful and informed decisions in selecting the right technologies for the right reasons.

Although educational technology scholars have emphasized the importance of critically examining philosophy of technology assumptions such as technological determinism, the researcher found that empirical studies within K12 education were lacking. There was a gap in the literature concerning how technological determinist assumptions may influence the actual practice of educational technology leadership. However, philosophy of technology assumptions have been the focus of research outside of K-12 education to examine the influence of assumptions such as technological determinism on technology management and leadership. …

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