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Pedagogy: Technological determinism


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

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 - as in the example below.

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

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:

We've seen a golden age of digital technology and innovation ... 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.

Determinism is the philosophical concept that says everything that happens was bound to happen; all events are predestined and we have no choice.

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.


LISTEN to part of an interview with Kentaro Toyama from August 2015

WATCH "This will revolutionize education" (video at right)

article iconREAD


Reflect on what you learned and make some notes for later writing. These prompts may help:

  • I chose this badge because ...
  • This connects to ... [something you already knew about]
  • From my own experience ...


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.
[how to take a screenshot / capture the screen on your device]

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


Based on the material you found, write a reflection of at least 250 words.

Include the following in your reflection:

How your image/article 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 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 ...
  • I expect to ... in order to learn more about ...
  • I chose ... for my activity because ...


Rename your eportfolio's "Pedagogy" page "Technological Determinism".

Check the Apply tab to be sure you have done what is required.

Be sure you are displaying this content on the page (not just a link to a file):

  • Your screen capture
  • Your reflection (include the items highlighted on the previous Reflect tab)

Publish the page.

From your ePortfolio, submit this page for the Technological Determinism Badge assignment. All of the evidence is on the page, so you don't need to upload files as well.


Helpful Resources

ecar document cover

Faculty and Information Technology 2017 - particularly "What Faculty Think about Students & IT"

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provided under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 License.