Counting on use of technology to enhance learning

Sarah Hayes*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Published conference outputChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


In global policy documents, the language of Technology-Enhanced Learning (TEL) now firmly structures a perception of educational technology which ‘subsumes’ terms like Networked Learning and e-Learning. Embedded in these three words though is a deterministic, economic assumption that technology has now enhanced learning, and will continue to do so. In a market-driven, capitalist society this is a ‘trouble free’, economically focused discourse which suggests there is no need for further debate about what the use of technology achieves in learning. Yet this raises a problem too: if technology achieves goals for human beings, then in education we are now simply counting on ‘use of technology’ to enhance learning. This closes the door on a necessary and ongoing critical pedagogical conversation that reminds us it is people that design learning, not technology. Furthermore, such discourse provides a vehicle for those with either strong hierarchical, or neoliberal agendas to make simplified claims politically, in the name of technology. This chapter is a reflection on our use of language in the educational technology community through a corpus-based Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA). In analytical examples that are ‘loaded’ with economic expectation, we can notice how the policy discourse of TEL narrows conversational space for learning so that people may struggle to recognise their own subjective being in this language. Through the lens of Lieras’s externality, desubjectivisation and closure (Lieras, 1996) we might examine possible effects of this discourse and seek a more emancipatory approach. A return to discussing Networked Learning is suggested, as a first step towards a more multi-directional conversation than TEL, that acknowledges the interrelatedness of technology, language and learning in people’s practice. Secondly, a reconsideration of how we write policy for educational technology is recommended, with a critical focus on how people learn, rather than on what technology is assumed to enhance.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCritical learning in digital networks
EditorsPetar Jandrić, Damir Boras
Place of PublicationCham (CH)
Number of pages22
VolumePart II
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-319-13752-0
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-13751-3
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Publication series

NameResearch in networked learning


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