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Pedagogy: Technological determinism

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After earning this badge, you will be better able to think critically about popular claims regarding education benefits from using technology.

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Technologies are extensions of human ability. More specifically, electronic tools help us quickly and accurately

  • Communicate across long distances,
  • Manipulate numbers and other data,
  • Store and retrieve large quantities of information, and
  • Compose and revise writing or media.

Q. Will using [fill in any technology] improve learning?

A. Not automatically — certainly not without good pedagogy.

That's the right answer, but it's not always the one we get from people who are trying to sell us technology for teaching and learning.

revolutionary claim by vendor(image from the website of a popular LMS, April 2014)

On top of that, some media outlets seem to feel they must treat each new technology development as a potential solution to all of our challenges.

A well-known Microsoft researcher had this to say about technology as a cure-all:

In the United States, we've seen a golden age of digital technology and innovation over the last four decades. But during that same span of time, the rate of poverty has actually only increased. Inequality has skyrocketed, and social mobility has stagnated. So that suggests that without something else also being tended to, technology by itself simply does not address these problems.

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Part of an interview with Toyama from August 2015

Determinism is the philosophical concept that everything that happens was bound to happen; all events are predestined and we have no choice. Strictly speaking, technological determinism says technology development follows a predictable path, is beyond cultural influence, and has inherent social effects.

For our purposes, technological determinism is the belief that a tool inherently has either a positive or negative effect on learning.

A technology is neither noble nor wise. Humans can use it to deliver foolish, misleading, or offensive results. An "educational" technology will be more effective when paired with a strategy that promotes learning. It is up to us to teach WELL using technology.

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ecar document coverADDITIONAL RESOURCES



This badge is largely about separating hype from substance. Your task at this point is to find a web page about an educational technology (website, device, software program, service, etc) where ...

  • A vendor seems to claim that the product will automatically improve learning OR
  • A vendor frames the product within an appropriate learning strategy OR
  • A news article or video says the product will improve learning, but makes little or no reference to learning strategies.

A few suggestions of places to look:

Make a screen capture of the web page and add it to your Google Drive media folder.
[how to take a screenshot / capture the screen on your device]

In your reflection (below), you will react to what you found.



In your ePortfolio, first rename the "(pedagogy badge)" page "Technological Determinism", then write a reflection of at least 250 words.

Include the following in your reflection:

How your image relates to the topic

A specific reference to something you read or a video you watched for this badge

Connection - relate your learning for this badge to your own teaching & learning, both past experience and future plans

Link - at least one resource, article, website, etc.

These prompts may help:

  • I chose this badge because ...
  • I will be able to use these ideas in ...
  • Now that I know about ... I will do ... differently
  • An aspect of the activity that I really enjoyed was ... because ...
  • I had never tried ... , and it ended up ...
  • This connects to ... [something you already knew about]
  • From my own experience ...
  • I have already used ... to ...
  • I expect to ... in order to learn more about ...
  • I chose ... for my activity because ...

Publish the ePortfolio page for this badge, including:

From your ePortfolio, submit this page for the badge assignment.