Martin Weller’s 25 Years of Ed-Tech: A Book Club

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Grab Your Glass of Wine, and Pull up a Chair.

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“Ingredients” by jeffsmallwood is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The idea that  Dr. George Veletsianos suggested we look at reading the book 25 Years of Ed Tech by Martin Weller (2020) for our course, as a ‘book club,’ resonated with me. Thus, my takeaways from these first eight chapters are in the form of some statements on what I was thinking as I was reading, as well as some questions I have. I am hoping that some (or all) of my questions might be addressed in the comments section.

First, I’d like to preface that I learned a whole lot in the first 1/3 of this book! It took me a lot longer to read than I anticipated because I kept stopping to research (see rabbit hole list) some part of what Weller was discussing, which to me, means this is a great read so far.

General Statements

I am fascinated with creativity. Sir Tim Berners-Lee is a great example. I am especially entranced with the intersection of the logical-sequential (programming, coding, etc.…) and out of the box thinking required for the creation of new technologies. Berners-Lee lived in that intersection in his design of the four technologies needed for the birth of the web (Weller, 2020).

I am not a formally trained tech person, but I am a formally trained educator. I found this book so far, to be a robust melding of the two perspectives. I imagine each branch will have different takeaways, and I am very glad this cohort has both in our midst!

Questions I have:

In the chapter titled Constructivism (Weller, 2020), I kept waiting for the mention of John Dewey. When he wasn’t mentioned, I looked to the list of references; still no Dewey. My question is this: When discussing education, and pedagogy, does John Dewey always need to be mentioned? Is it time we leave him in the past and look to more recent philosophers of education and learning? Or does John Dewey have a place in developing ed-tech?

In the discussion about learning objects and e-learning standards, did anyone else wonder where the conversation on differentiation or accessibility (in a special-ed sense) was? Did these developers think about various learning needs or learning disabilities?

I will leave it at that. Although there are more questions I have, and I am hopeful those will be answered by the discussion that follows.


Rabbit Hole Readings:

Computer History Timeline

Virtual Teamwork: Mastering the Art and Practice of Online Learning and Corporate Collaboration.  Edited by Robert Ubell (see section “Dewey Goes Online” – free access).

Technology Trends in Special Ed 


Weller, M. (2020). 25 years of ed tech. Athabasca University Press.



10 thoughts on “Martin Weller’s 25 Years of Ed-Tech: A Book Club”

  1. Some really great thoughts, Sandra. I appreciated your questions about accessibility and my brain is now going over some connections between them and your comment on not being a “formally trained tech person.” It is apparent that many of the technology pushes in education begin from those who are formally trained tech people, and many of the tools in those early years (and now) were not designed for education. As you’ll find in the next bit of reading (especially about Second Life), there is definitely a gap in the accessibility side of many of these tools. Was this due to a lack of technology capability at the time, developers not caring enough about accessibility, forgetting that these things are important, or just trying to balance budgets and features? That is a rhetorical question, but it is one I feel I need to ask as I work to create an accessible space for students. What roadblocks do I need to overcome to ensure accessibility in my classes and what tools may enable me to do that?

    1. David,
      Thanks for the response. It is interesting to me that in the ‘beginnings’ of ed-tech, the idea of accessibility for students with differing learning needs wasn’t at the forefront. Technology has been a huge impact on those who are deemed ‘special-ed’ and their ability to accesses educational content and be able to participate. I am going to dive into the next 3rd of the book tonight. Looking forward to it!

  2. Hi Sandra,

    Thanks for you perspective on Weller’s book. I specifically sought out your article as I know you come from an education and psych background, and would likely offer something unique in this regard.
    The accessibility question you bring up is a good one. Do you think, or know, if accessibility was on the radar of ed. tech developers in the 90’s and 2000’s? Or could this have been an after thought? Of course by today’s standards, everything has to be made to accommodate learning equity.

    1. Hey Jonathan!
      So, your question adds to mine, and I am hoping George will have some insight too. I would venture to think that accessibility for special-ed had to have been on many folks’ minds during the big up-swing of ed-tech. Because in reality, some of the earliest ‘ed-tech’ (if we want to get specific here) are things like Braille, closed-captioning, and the like. So when the advent of the web became the playground for educational developers in the early 2000’s, it seems odd to think that SPED would have been an afterthought. I will have to do some more rabbit holeing (I do not think that is an actual verb- but look; now it is!)

  3. Thank you for these reflections, Sandra.
    I can see why you are asking the question about John Dewey, but beyond the broader epistemological question surrounding the politics of citation, I’d like to return the question in the context of Weller’s writing: Is there something missing in the chapter as a result of Dewey’s work not cited? A citation can be a nod (e.g., X came up with idea Y) but can also be much more substantive (e.g., X’s work build on Y’s work in this ways and did ABC). Is there something specific that you are thinking that would have substantively moved the chapter in some ways you were anticipating or hoping?

    1. George,
      I have always felt (and was taught, I suppose) that Dewey laid the groundwork for Constructivism. In 1938, in his book “Experience and Education”, Dewey said:

      There is, I think, no point in the philosophy of progressive education which is sounder than its emphasis upon the importance of the participation of the learner in the formation of the purposes which direct his [sic] activities in the learning process, just as there is no defect in traditional education greater than its failure to secure the active cooperation of the pupil in construction of the purposes involved in his studying. (p.67)

      I often imagine what his thoughts would be on the modern educational pedagogies. Dewey was a proponent of collaboration and learning by doing (Dewey, 1997), so I wonder how he would address the contentions of asynchronous learning, as we see in many online learning environments. I wonder if Weller had incorporated Dewey into the chapter on Constructivism if he might have found some insights that tackle the nay-sayers of online learning? Even old-school lecturers and stereotypical professors have a soft spot for Dewey. I am not an expert on either Dewey or ed-tech, but I would have liked to see Weller address the philosophical aspect of technology and learning. Even if it were to push him aside and call for a new philosophy?

      Dewey, J. (1997). Experience and education. New York: Simon & Schuster.

  4. In this week’s reading, Weller writes about connectivism, which some describe as an digital approach to learning that moved forward pre-Internet theories/paradigms, like constructivism. This might a thread to follow around the idea of a new philosophy…

    In my perspective, many of these theories/paradigms (constructivism included), are independent of synchronicity, pacing, or even modality. But more importantly to your point about whether Dewey may be helpful to counter critiques to online learning, I think it is significant to recognize that critiques aren’t always about the pedagogical efficacy or potential of online learning. While some critiques center around what people imagine online learning to be (e.g., impersonal, not interactive etc), others center on concerns around automation, online learning being a potential vehicle towards commercialization of education, or even simplistic comparisons between in-person and online education.

    1. Thanks, George

      That makes a lot of sense to me. I am trying to get better at removing my educator lens when I am dissecting literature, and recognize that critiques often come from every angle.

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