Feenberg: Reason & Experience - Part 2

This was my "questioning" for Feenberg's Between Reason & Experience - Part 2. This post is part of a series from my CMNS 857 Philosophy of Technology seminar with Andrew Feenberg. For more information, see this linked post.

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My question for this week is, I think, quite simple: What implications are there for educational systems given the critical theory of technology? And, beyond “educational systems,” learning in general?

This question seems a cop out considering this is a strand of my own inquiry that I want to explore - this is my career trajectory. More immediately this is my directionality in my writing for this course, informing my fellow doctoral candidates (and Faculty) in education, and my dissertation. However, I would like all the help and input I can get at this stage.

I offer two stories to bound my question(s). First, an observation regarding “backup plans” for integrating technology into the K-12 classroom and second, a summarization and reflection on conversations with colleagues in the Faculty of Education.

Prior to graduate work and while I was teaching middle school, I was tapped to lead training for my fellow staff members on “integrating” technology into their classrooms. After the assumed introduction, demonstration, and question and answer, I would pose to them what I thought was a fairly benign question: “What will be your backup plan when things don’t go as they should?” These were excellent teachers, with years of previous experience - more years than I had been alive. And they were stumped. I had to guide them, step-by-step, back to the origin of the lesson, the guiding questions and topics of study, to help them retrace a path that would be true to the spirit of the lesson, but without technology. I have had too many experiences personally and with others where fill-in-the-blank technology “didn’t work” and we had to roll with it. I assumed I was passing on an effective teaching strategy.

How could it be that the integration of technology rendered pedagogy obsolete? It was not the technology, per se, or was it?

My other doctoral seminar for this term is Contemporary Educational Approaches. Last week, I sat back and listened to a spiralling conversation that lasted for 45 minutes about the influence of technology on students, teachers, and education. My hunch is that critical constructivism of technology may be helpful in giving educators a way of speaking and thinking and writing about technology in education that might be able to transcend the spiral of utopian/dystopian dialogue.

At first my concern about raising this question was about again returning to the level of practice, the pragmatic, everyday life of a teacher in a classroom. However, education as a system is ripe for a discussion of technology and politics informed by a critical theory of technology (CTT). Especially with the increased push in STEM education, online education, and MOOCs and the “fall of Higher Education.” Considering learning as a human capacity, how might CTT influence theories of learning with technology that rely solely on psychological models?

This questions don’t have answers - but they open worlds of possibility that need to be explored, critiqued, and revealed.

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