CSSE-SCÉÉ Roundtable: “Culture in the Balance: Risks and Rewards of Technology In Indigenous Language Learning”

As part of the 2017 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences at Ryerson University in Toronto, I will be hosting a round-table presentation and discussion titled “Culture in the Balance: Risks and Rewards of Technology In Indigenous Language Learning.”

This presentation will be part of the CASIE-ACÉÉA track hosted by the CSSE-SCÉÉ. It will take place on Wednesday, May 31, at 9:45 AM in Kerr West (KHW) 271/273 on the Ryerson University campus.

The following is taken from my proposal for the presentation. I would be grateful for comments or questions in advance.

Abstract

In an era defined by information technology, more often than not the question of why is being countered with an answer of why not, and any further dialogue withers. Thoughtful research and reflection of technology’s culturally-appropriate application in teaching and learning may not get adequate consideration — such scrutiny is often perceived as an impediment to the progress that technology is presumed to bring. In this round-table session, the presenter will examine, through a critical lens, the history and research literature surrounding educational technologies in Indigenous language learning and preservation. This examination would consider how neoliberalism and consumerism may be magnified through the acceptance and application of today’s gadgets and apps. These effects may be seen as extending cultural hegemony through the inclusion of values that align with Western, colonial cultural traditions. Technology thus presents a double-edged sword — a tool supporting much-desired Indigenous language sustainability and preservation versus potential cognitive recolonization through cultural homogenization, dehumanization, and the possible erosion of a rich ecology of values and traditions.

Purpose

Information technology has been accepted as valuable to the educational enterprise. Often its introduction in the classroom has been lauded as progressive, even when no proven pedagogical value had been established or shown, frequently at the expense of other considerations (Selwyn, 2011). In the context of continuing Canadian colonialist attitudes, information technology may present additional risks of a “hidden curriculum” that furthers white privilege (Oztok, 2014, p. 185). The revitalization and sustainability of Canadian Indigenous languages is one application to which information technology may bring value. This session is meant to examine the underlying cultural risks that ought to be recognized when such technologies are introduced.

Perspective(s) Or Theoretical Framework

The presenter considers the history of Canadian colonization alongside industrialization, consumerism, Taylorism, neoliberalism, as well as the Western fetishization of progress and technology (Huebener, 2012, p. 12). The rise of mass media and information technology run parallel to these historical developments. A key purpose of education is seen to be emancipatory (Freire, 2000; Giroux, 1997), while the role of Western values and technology has been one of domination and control (Spivak, 1988). Information technology will be examined through the lens of critical theory in which technology is seen as a “form of power” objectifying others (Feenberg, 2010, p. 2).

Methods And/or Techniques

The presenter will have completed a literature review that examines the nexus of information technology, Western neoliberalism, neo-colonization, and incursions of these forces into the classroom and Canadian Indigenous communities. Extant computer-assisted Indigenous language-learning and preservation endeavours will have been assessed. An understanding of the technological trends — from social to mobile, and gamification to e-learning analytics — will be sought.

Data Source(s), Results, Conclusions And/or Interpretations

At this stage, the presenter is formulating research questions and will be considering several options for gathering data.

Educational Importance Of The Study

The educational importance of this study is to provide additional insights of the cultural risks of information technology, especially in the context of non-Western learning communities, such as Canadian Indigenous language learners.

References

  • Feenberg, A. (2010). Critical Theory of Technology. Manuscript. Retrieved from http://www.sfu.ca/~andrewf/books/Critical_Theory_Technology.pdf
  • Freire, P. (2000). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group.
  • Giroux, H. A. (1997). Pedagogy and the Politics of Hope: Theory, Culture, and Schooling: A Critical Reader. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press.
  • Huebener, P. (2012, April). The Cultural and Literary Construction of Time in Canada (Dissertation). McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario. Retrieved from https://macsphere.mcmaster.ca/handle/11375/11993
  • Oztok, M. (2014, January 13). The Hidden Curriculum of Online Learning: Discourses of Whiteness, Social Absence, and Inequity (Dissertation). Retrieved from https://tspace.library.utoronto.ca/handle/1807/43687
  • Selwyn, N. (2011). Making sense of young people, education and digital technology: the role of sociological theory. Oxford Review of Education, 38(1), 81–96. https://doi.org/10.1080/03054985.2011.577949
  • Spivak, G. C. (1988). Can the Subaltern Speak? In C. Nelson & L. Grossberg (Eds.), Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture (pp. 271–313). University of Illinois Press.

Abbreviations

  • CSSE-SCÉÉ — The Canadian Society for the Study of Education / La Société canadienne pour l’étude de l’éducation
  • CASIE-ACÉÉA — Canadian Association for the Study of Indigenous Education / Association canadienne pour l’étude de l’éducation des autochtones
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