Spring 2020: Critical Approaches to Educational Technology

Please see below the course description for DHUM 74700: Critical Approaches to Educational Technology, Spring 2020.

DHUM 74700: Critical Approaches to Educational Technology
Tuesday, 4:15 – 6:15 PM
Prof. Luke Waltzer

As schools at all levels integrate digital tools into teaching, learning, and administration, educational technology is an increasingly important and contested field. Too frequently educators adopt tools without sufficient concern for their impacts on students, faculty, and staff. Rhetoric in the field tends towards the techno-utopian, fueled by venture capital that’s more hungry for lucrative user data than it is interested in finding better ways to support students.

Ideally, faculty, staff, and administrators will be critically engaged with developments in educational technology so that they can meaningfully advocate for the ethical deployment of tools on behalf of their institutions and their students. In this course, we will examine the history and current state of educational technology at the primary, secondary, and college and university levels, gaining a deeper understanding of how ed tech tools are conceived of and sold, procured and deployed, and rationalized and resisted. Students will gain hands-on experience with the skills and ways of making and working that educational technologists must possess if they wish to approach their work critically. We will pursue this work by drawing upon connections with the digital humanities, and by applying lessons learned in the specific contexts in which we work or aspire to work.

Several areas of inquiry that intersect with the digital humanities have also impacted trends in educational technology, including software studies, writing pedagogy, instructional design, and critical university studies. As with the digital humanities, some–but hardly all–educational technology practitioners critically engage with the fraught political and economic contexts of their work, such as Silicon Valley economic imperatives, the changing landscape of social media, and trends in marketing and digital storytelling. Among digital humanities scholars working in university contexts, a commitment to open tools often translates to an affinity for open pedagogy, a sensitivity to student data policies, and a willingness to challenge the command and control culture prevalent in many IT departments.

There is much to be gained, then, by exploring the connections between these two fields. This course will make those connections explicit while also considering how to extend them to contexts beyond the university by asking the following questions, among others: what do critical approaches to educational technology look like in K-12 settings, where different rules, restrictions, and demands are placed upon faculty, staff, and curricula? How does educational technology foster or stymie opportunities for learners in diverse settings? What are the tools, methods, and literacies that educational technologists must have at their disposal to raise and explore these questions?

Ultimately, participants in this class will build their capacity to advocate for approaches to educational technology that are purposeful and ethical, and applicable across a variety of contexts.