Technologies of the Self

Our perception of technology in schools

Published: 10 October 2012

The broader definition of technology is often overlooked by educationalists; namely the branch of knowledge that deals with the creation and use of technical means or artifacts and their relationship with the wider society, education systems, governments and the environment. If school leaders considered the broader definition of technology, its overall position and value to support teaching and learning would improve and schools would have a deeper understanding of how technology influences learning. The relationship between human behaviour and technology is an interesting one and it can provide insight into how technologies influence behavioural change; noteably how we learn. Teaching and learning has always involved the interaction with and the transfer of artifacts. Education artifacts include the classroom blackboard, books, paper and pen, interactive whiteboards and the modern mobile computing device. Our relationship with education related artifacts or technologies has always influenced and shaped how we teach and how our students learn. This article explores the broader definition of technology and our perception of technology in schools.

The relationship between learners and the technology that surrounds them should not be underestimated. Technology is becoming ever present. It affects virtually all forms of human behaviour and social interaction. Its presence is felt when we rise in the morning with the alarm call, when we turn on the digital radio or television, when we check our appointments, social media messages or when we update our online status, when communicating with others over a voice or video call, when we check the weather report before leaving home, when planning travel routes and checking traffic updates or when we produce collaborative work that is editted and distributed online. In connected and networked schools the growing presence of technology is changing how teachers and students, teachers and teachers, students and students; and schools and parents perceive and engage with one another.

Technology should be viewed as more than gadgets, it should be seen (perhaps mostly) to do with skills, know-how, the art of doing things, knowledge, behaviour, technique and action. After all, technological advancement is the sum of these parts and the direct result of human interaction. In addition, economic, social, cultural and educational advances are then furthered and made possible by these technological advances. [1] This in turn leads to more advances in technology and the cycle is repeated. With this approach the emphasis moves away from acquiring mechanistic ICT skills and more towards knowledge acquistion and deeper learning. The expectations of school leaders will gradually change as connected devices and services become ubiquitous. The relative value of the gadget will fall because school leaders will expect ubiquitous access to networked services. They will place increasing value on those services that promote the intelligent use of ICT to support their educational agenda within the knowledge and connected society. As networked devices and services become ever present in schools we will also see a progressive move away from traditional pedagogy, practices, norms and cultures across the education sector.

  Technologies of the Self

We have reached a point were it is impossible to divorce and separate technology from the day-to-day practices, rituals and routines within schools. Education leaders can better define and understand technology if they view technology as an indissoluble part of the modern education system. Technology must be placed alongside education policies and budgets, pedagogy and school governance. The language to describe technology in the education setting should not be marginalised and dehumanised; and it should certainly not just focus on identifying and procuring the latest consumer gadget. If education leaders view technology as being intrinsically social perhaps its position to enhance teaching and learning will be enhanced.

The desire to use technology to enrich teaching and learning is growing stronger. It enables learning to become relevant and engaging for all. It is becoming impossible to talk meaningfully about one without talking about the other. The following videos provide a useful insight into the thoughts of teachers and students when discussing the need to promote the use of technology as a tool to support teaching and learning.

Students and teachers discuss how technology is being used in independent schools located in British Columbia's lower mainland to make learning more relevant and engaging. [2]
Pupils from Robin Hood primary school, (Birmingham, UK) produced their version of the 'Engage Me' video to express their desire to use their favourite technologies in their school. Source: The National College for School Leadership. [3]

1. David Rooney, A Contextualising, Socio-Technical Definition of Technology: Learning from Ancient Greece and Foucault. 1992.
2. British Columbia Education Plan - Learning Empowered by Technology.
3. Engage Me! Robin Hood Pupils, Birmingham.