The push for educational technology exists within a broader political, economic, ideological, and technological context. The all-too-common ignorance of this context and the subtleties of learning itself may prove problematic for edtech — and higher education’s future.
The article is a really good one, and points to the broad issues with the disruption-of-education-by-silicon-valley narrative (one which has been championed by Audrey Watters for years, and which also overlaps with the work that Stephen Downes has been doing forever).
I think it’s important to make a distinction between “online courses and commercial MOOCs” and “educational technology”. The billions of dollars that have been funnelled into online courses and platforms to enable them have been largely flushed down a giant toilet. Billionaires have pushed money to drive a narrative that erodes trust and value in institutions that serve a critical role in our society. I think that’s reprehensible. And, they use that money to further push the narrative of radical vulture capitalism – if you can’t make it big, like me the billionaire who did it with totally no support or help from anyone anywhere, then it’s your fault.
Educational technology in general is still a viable and important thing – I view it as “how things are done in 2017” – we need tools to support collaboration, and active learning, and all of the wonderful digital pedagogies stuff that is developing at (and across) institutions. I see educational technologies not as replacing teaching by people who care about learning, or of disrupting institutions that provide for such experiences.
I see good educational technology not as replacing the face-to-face classroom experience, but as enhancing, extending, enabling and amplifying it. But, as Veletsianos and Moe point out, technocentrism is a real problem – we can’t be led by vendors or investors. We need to lead this from a teaching-and-learning perspective, not an enterprise-purchasing one.
One dangerous outcome of technocentric practices and the dismissal of the field’s history is the development of products and services uninformed by lessons of the past. For example, even though MOOCs were pursued to both disrupt and reimagine education, their pervasive pedagogical practices are primarily objectivist, marking a sharp contrast to theories of learning that imagine learning as a collaborative, active, emancipatory, and social endeavor.