Thursday 14 April 2011

Critiquing technological progress in Learning

Beck says of technological progress that "it is legitimated social change without democratic political legitimation." Looking at the Googles, Apples and Microsofts of this world and this observation would seem to be borne out. But in some ways, learning technology might be worse. The social change that Google et al want to create is one where they make bigger profits. They tend not to have 'well meaning' political ambitions other than profit. Learning technologists, however, are driven by their ambition for instigating social change and see technology as a way of realising this. They exploit the fact that their interventions slip under the radar of political processes. Until, of course, those politicans see some expediency in aligning themselves with technological innovation. But that's where the problems really begin. The technology gets the social change in by the back-door, without anyone having a say in what happens, then the politicians exploit the fact that the technological change has occured, pretend that this is "the will of the people". Where does that take us then?

But the thing that's going on all the time in this process is the generation of risk. Technologies create risks for teachers and learners. The emerging situation in institutions creates new risks on a broader political and organisational scale. Some of those risks require reorganisation and redefinition of roles, etc. Those roles require new technogies which introduce new risks, new jobs, etc, etc.

What may be achieved is economic stability, but it is at the cost of increased anxiety. At its worst, the cost is increased social alientation and insecurity brought about through the inability to maintain identity amongst all the turbulence. Only an increase in capabilities can counter this, but the processes of increasing capability also serve to introduce new risks.

There's something slightly depressing about all this. But at the same time, I think it's broadly a fair description of how things are. Right now, I'm struggling to see a light at the end of the tunnel. It reminds me of what a treasury official is reported to have said in 2009: "There's only dark at the end of the tunnel!"

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