One of my former (and beloved!) principals, Mr. M, always used the phrase ‘refocus the focus’ when working with our middle school staff as a reminder to remember our purpose and make decisions based on what was best for our students. Weller compared his discussion of the history of educational technology (ed tech) to the evolution of art history. It reminded me of my principal’s advice and emphasized the importance of refocusing the focus from the study of the technology itself to the study of the role played by technology in education.
I found Weller’s examination of wikis, and specifically Wikipedia, to be particularly compelling. He asserted that “the disdain Wikipedia is held in by much of the traditional media is mainly because of the struggle to understand how such a process does not produce nonsense” (p. 40) and the blossoming critical feminist in me wondered if part of this disdain arose from the entrenched misogynistic and patriarchal norms and traditions that so many powerful institutions hold dear. A quick skim through print textbooks in most classrooms, and most notably social studies classrooms, results in the alarming realization that students are likely using resources that are inaccurate, outdated, and do not reflect current values and worldviews. Are we not doing students an incredible disservice to use outdated, and possibly offensive, resources and limit them from accessing the collective intelligence that is readily available on the networked web?
In Weller’s discussion of the emergence of the web, I was struck by his statement that “the Internet acts like a living organism, driven by these social values, and in this both the potential for good and ill was established” (p. 17). This certainly points to the changing, yet still important, role of the teacher and I agree with Weller’s statement that constructivism’s increased learner agency “needs careful support and scaffolding to work effectively” (p. 34). The emergence of e-learning and the rise of constructivist learning theory challenged the traditional model of education. As ed tech continues to play an increasingly central role in education and determines pedagogical change, it will be interesting to see when and where remnants of the traditional, industrial model of education emerge. As Weller states “the implementation of technology makes people evaluate what is core in education itself; which had hitherto been implicit” (p. 24), and I hope we can all heed Mr. M’s advice to refocus the focus and examine the role of technology through the lens of what is in the best interests of students.
Weller, M. (2020). 25 Years of Ed Tech. Athabasca University Press.