Neil Selwyn will be giving the opening keynote at this week’s Networked Learning Conference in Edinburgh (Monday 7th April). Picking up on the theme of the conference, Neil will be speaking on the topic of ‘Why Its Crucial To Be Critical’ (abstract below). Follow the conference through the hashtag #NLC2014!
Networked learning in 2014 – why its crucial to be critical
Neil’s talk runs with the theme of the conference, and makes an impassioned case for a more critical approach to ‘educational technology’. This first involves tackling a few contentious points – most notably, why is it that so many people working in this area of study reluctant to be genuinely critical? Have educational technologists been seduced by the ‘solutionism’ of contemporary digital culture? Is being critical simply not in the ‘DNA’ of educational technologists – either because of a deep-rooted altruism or perhaps (more cynically) a shallow self-interest?
The talk then moves onto consider what ‘being critical’ might mean for the study of networked learning in the 2010s. We consider, for example, what it means to be critical with a little ‘c’ – i.e. more objective, detached and analytical in our dealings with education and technology. We also consider the benefits of being proudly ‘pessimistic’. We also consider what it means to be critical with a big ‘C’ – i.e. to engage with the tradition of thinking about digital technology and society that has stemmed from the emergence of Critical Theory through the work of the Frankfurt School during the mid twentieth century.
All of these approaches, it is argued, can be used to shed new light on the study of educational technology. This includes, for example, foregrounding issues of power and politics, asking complicated questions rather than searching for uncomplicated answers, and seeking to do something about the inequalities and injustices that infuse the use of technology in education. The talk concludes with considering the practice implications of such a mind-shift – especially the need to be more dis-interested, dis-agreeable and uncertain when it comes to education and technology … but always remembering to do so with humour and good grace.