Is educational technology morally bankrupt?

Like with all things, the answer is probably yes and no.

This question came up while I was reading Nichols & Allen-Brown’s 1996 chapter bringing critical theory to bear on educational technology.

Some ways I think educational technology is suspect:

  • Educational technology represents a severe financial investment. Yet, there are still few, if any, clear benefits to student learning with most educational technologies.
  • Those who promote educational technology often stand to benefit in myriad ways from the use of that technology.
  • Implementation of educational technology typically does little to change the ways in which schools function (curriculum or otherwise). School is still something done to kids rather than with them. Yet, when an educational technology program is put into place, we are led to believe that fundamental change is happening.
  • Educational technology initiatives are often not equitably distributed.

Some ways I think educational technology might (or could) improve education:

  • The interconnected nature of the web better reflects how we think.
  • Educational technology could serve to more meaningfully democratize education.
  • When equitably distributed, educational technology may afford closing of various gaps.

Of course neither list is exhaustive and both lists depend much on specific technologies and how those technologies are implemented. Yet, I believe, as Nichols & Allen-Brown seem to, that asking about what damage educational technology might be doing to our schools and our students should happen at least as often as we consider the benefits.

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