Aagaard (2017). Breaking down barriers: The ambivalent nature of technologies in the classroom.

Aagaard, J. (2017). Breaking down barriers: The ambivalent nature of technologies in the classroom. New Media & Society, 19(7), 1127–1143. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444816631505

[No linear relationships …]

“… ambivalent nature of educational technology.” (p 1127)

[Media transcends time and space …]

“Communication theorists have long argued that new media trouble previous conceptions of time and space, and digital media amplify and extend these spatial fluctuations.” (p 1127)

[Apparent dualism of determinism and instrumentalism …]

“… educational technology is a peculiar field of study in which mutually exclusive discourses on technology manage to coexist. … the field is characterized by an uneasy armistice between technological determinism and instrumentalism.” (p 1128)

[Determinism …]

“The origin of this change is located in the benevolent force of technology, while students and teachers are its passive beneficiaries.” (p 1128)

[Claims of technological neutrality …]

“_Technological instrumentalism_ is the idea that human beings have full control over their actions, while technologies function merely as means to privately chosen ends … This is a classical psychological account in which agency is thought to reside entirely within human beings, while technologies are seen as innocent bystanders, neutral intermediaries.” (p 1128)

[Explaining good and bad technology outcomes …]

“Combined, these discourses lead us to _the paradox of educational technology_: When something good happens, we praise technology; but when something bad happens, we blame the students (occasionally, this blame also extends to their teachers).” (p 1129)

[(Maybe less the scholars and more the administrators and technologists –oki) …]

“Scholars tend to start from the assumption that using educational technology is exclusively beneficial and that the sole challenge facing us is how to best harness its powers.” (p 1129)

[Applications and use of technology versus claimed benefits that may not materialize …]

“… Selwyn’s (2009) critical study of educational technology entails a movement away from so-called ‘state-of-the-art’ research that addresses what _could_ and _should_ happen in an indeterminate future toward ‘state-of-the-actual’ research that explicates what is _actually_ going on here-and-now in [page break] the messy realities of our educational system.” (p 1129-1130)

[Technology as text; defining the educational in educational technology …]

“… posthumanist mediation theories (e.g., Latour, 1994, Verbeek, 2005). … A basic assumption in mediation theories is that technologies do not just carry human intentions from A to B, but influence, shape, and, and translate whichever intentions they are supposed to carry. … I should also interject a note about the terminology of this article: I discuss the use of ‘educational technologies’. Employing this phrase upfront, however, tends to signify something particular, namely that the _technologies_ in question (e.g., laptops) be used solely for educational purposes. As will become evident throughout the article, this is not always the case. It should thus be noted that I use ‘educational technologies’ as a floating signifier whose semiotic purpose is to enroll the article in a particular field of research.” (p 1130)

[“Method and site” …]

[Basic description of method …]

“I initially interviewed six individual teachers about their use of educational technologies. All six teachers kindly agreed to subsequently let me follow their teaching through participant observation (Aagaard & Matthiesen, 2016). … Situated in the back of various classrooms, I quietly participated in a total of 50 lessons in various courses such as marketing, business economics, and English, while gathering an impression of the contextual embedment of technology, which I documented through handwritten fieldnotes (Emerson, Fretz & Shaw, 2011). After six months of observation, I started interviewing students about their use of educational technology (‘how do you use technology in class’, ‘have you ever used it for off-task activity’, ‘when do you typically do this’, etc.). The sole selection criterion for participation in the interviews was _volunteering_. … Each interview lasted for approximately fifteen minutes and 25 students were interviewed in total.” (p 1131)

[“Permeable boundaries and spatial imaginaries” …]

[Bringing ad hoc cultural reference into classroom; comparing to the infusion of music into an oppressive environment …]

“He then managed to locate a grainy video clip from the movie _Let’s Make Love_ (1960), clicked the link, and for the following two minutes and four seconds, the mediated presence of Marilyn Monroe lit up the screen while her rendition of _My Heart Belongs to Daddy_ blared through the speakers. As the video ended, she disappeared from the classroom just as suddenly as she had entered.

“… _The Shawshank Redemption_ (1994) … the protagonist Andy rebels against the lethargy of prison life by locking a prison guard in the bathroom and broadcasting a duet from Mozart’s _The Marriage of Figaro_ (1786) via the prison’s public address system. Another prisoner, Red, narrates the situation: ‘It was like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and made those walls dissolve away, and for the briefest of moments, every last man in Shawshank felt free’.” (p 1134)

[Audience versus classroom; “cultural formation” …]

“For the short duration of time that the ensemble of teacher, computer, smartboard, and speakers brought Marilyn Monroe into the communal space of our classroom there were no students present, only an audience. … grasping this kind of pop cultural movie reference may be considered part of the students’ cultural formation, their _Bildung_.” (p 1134)

[Reference materials at hand …]

“The use of educational technologies allows students to ‘check up’ on the teacher and challenges the traditional educational power structure in which the teacher is the sole gatekeeper of knowledge in the classroom. … democratization of knowledge …” (p 1135)

[Virtual absence …]

“… distraction can be conceptualized as an _inside-out_ movement that takes students away from their immediate educational circumstances. Just as laptops and tablets open up the possibility of bringing the outside world into the classroom, they also constitute a backdoor through which students may occasionally escape. … This distraction can be considered a form of _absence-in-class_, which may in fact have the same negative impacts on school outcomes as the more traditional and formalized absence-from-class (Jonasson, 2011).” (p 1137)

[Observer interference …]

“When my observations led to an awareness of my presence, they interfered with the phenomenon.” (p 1137)

[Not a complete absence from classroom …]

“There are important gender (Kay & Lauricella, 2011), racial (Lee, 2014), and cultural differences (Karpinski et al., 2013) in the use of educational technologies. … [page break] … Whenever a teacher approaches, these students will immediately switch to academic-looking Word documents or the Student Plan so that the teacher does not catch a glimpse of the off-task activities, but this constant alertness means these students never stray quite as far from the perimeters of the classroom as the boys in the back row. When it comes to distraction, the materiality of the classroom matters.” (p 1137-1138)

[“Discussion” …]

[Terminology …]

“… _technofetishism_ (Hasse & Tafdrup, 2013) …” (p 1138)

[Technology in general moves culture in opposing directions …]

“… educational technologies are not susceptible to linear logics of cause and effect, but instead give rise to plural ramifications and simultaneous movements in opposite directions.” (p 1138)

[Promised possibilities …]

“… ‘technologies co-shape our ability to even catch a glimpse of such goals, and therefore also set them as goals’ (Kiran & Verbeek, 2010: 418).” (p 1139)

[Communal versus individual; classroom is an actual social experience, not a virtual one …]

“The outside-in movement is part of a _communal_ experience that requires content curation, while the inside-out movement enacts an _individual_ experience that involves content concealment.” (p 1139)

[Terminology …]

“… _typographical fixity_ (Eisenstein, 1980) of printed pages …” (p 1139)

[Closing laptops?… ]

“… situational prevention of the use of educational technologies and could for instance entail shutting the lids of laptops during certain parts of a lesson (e.g., teachers’ talks or classroom discussions). Such a maneuver obviously implies a brief elimination of both inside-out and outside-in movements, but during my fieldwork I actually saw this type of open/closed policy implemented with some success in the recurring fight against classroom distraction (Aagaard, 2015a). … The open/closed policy is imperfect (I often observed students using smartphones beneath their desks during these sessions) …” (p 1140)

[“Conclusion” …]

[Lines of communication work in two directions (technology is also about communication –oki) …]

“There is no [page break] paradox of educational technology, only educationally ambivalent ramifications that are prompted by the connectivity afforded by educational technologies.” (p 1140-1141)

[The cloistering of learners; defining classroom and social interactions …]

“… the word ‘school’ itself with its etymological roots in Greek _skhole_, which means ‘a holding back, a keeping clear’ and refers to the traditional status of schools as privileged in their seclusion from the rest of society. … purpose in education (Biesta, 2008): What do we want our classroom interaction to be like?” (p 1141)

Selected Notes

  • 3. With regard to sociomaterial lines of attention, it is worth noting that the word ‘screen’ itself means both showing/projecting and hiding/protecting (Introna and Ilharco, 2004).

Selected References

  • Aagaard J (2015a) Drawn to Distraction: A Qualitative Study of Off-Task Use of Educational Technology. Computers & Education 87: 90-97.
  • Aagaard J and Matthiesen N (2016). Methods of Materiality: Participant Observation and Qualitative Research in Psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology 13(1): 33-46.
  • Biesta G (2008) Good Education in an Age of Measurement: On the Need to Reconnect with the Question of Purpose in Education. Educational Assessment, Evaluation and Accountability 21(1): 33-46.
  • Eisenstein E (1980) The Printing Press as an Agent of Change: Communications and Cultural Transformations in Early-Modern Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Emerson R, Fretz R and Shaw L (2011) Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes, 2nd ed. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
  • Hasse C and Tafdrup O (2013) Teknologifetichisme eller teknologiforståelse? [Technological fetishism or technological understanding?] In: Schiølin K and Riis S (eds). Nye spørgsmål om teknikken [New questions concerning technology]. Aarhus: Aarhus Universitetsforlag.
  • Introna L and Ilharco F (2004) The ontological screening of contemporary life: a phenomenological analysis of screens. European Journal of Information Systems 13(3): 221–234.
  • Jonasson C (2011) The Dynamics of Absence Behaviour: Interrelations Between Absence From and Absence In Class. Educational Research 53(1): 17-32.
  • Karpinski A, Kirschner P, Ozer I, Mellott J and Ochwo P (2013) An Exploration of Social Networking Site Use, Multitasking, and Academic Performance Among United States and European University Students. Computers in Human Behavior 29(3): 1182-1192.
  • Kay R and Lauricella S (2011) Gender Differences In the Use of Laptops in Higher Education: A Formative Analysis. Journal of Educational Computing Research 44(3): 361-380.
  • Kiran A and Verbeek PP (2010) Trusting Our Selves to Technology. Knowledge, Technology & Policy 23(3/4): 409-427.
  • Latour B (1994) On Technical Mediation: Philosophy, Sociology, Genealogy. Common Knowledge 3(2): 29-64.
  • Lee EB (2014) Facebook Use and Texting Among African American and Hispanic Teenagers: An Implication for Academic Performance. Journal of Black Studies 45(2): 83-101.
  • Selwyn N (2009) Looking Beyond Learning: Notes Towards the Critical Study of Educational Technology. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning 26(1): 65-73.
  • Verbeek PP (2005) What Things Do: Philosophical Reflections on Technology, Agency, and Design. Penn State: Penn State University Press.
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