AECT Handbook of Research

Table of Contents

9. Critical Theory and Educational Technology

9.1 Introduction
9.2 Foundations of Critical Theory
9.3 Habermas's Epistemology
9.4 Critical Theory and Technolgy
9.5 Critical Theory and Education
9.6 Critical Theory of Educational Technology
9.7 Topics in Critical Theory of Educational Technology
9.8 Problems with Critical Theories of Education
9.9 Problems with Critical Theories of Educational Technology
9.10 Summary
9.11 Being Critical Educational Technologists
9.12 Why Appropriate Critical Theory?
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It is no surprise that the criticisms outlined above also can be leveled at the critical theories of educational technology. In some instances, the written works and oral presentations of critical theorists in educational technology suffer from cliquishness, contradictoriness, naivety, and so on, and sometimes they fail to show how their ideas are any better or more reasonable than the theories they critique.

Much of the work of the critical educational technologists cited here is abstract and removed from doing the complex economic, social, political, educational, and personal work necessary to change any oppression related to educational technology. Put another way, the work usually does not take place in the lifeworld of learners.

Further, as Buckingham (1991) argues with regard to a critical-theory approach to media education and children, a rationalistic (i.e., critical-theory) approach to educational technology may fail to engage many learners' emotions and cultural experiences. Similarly, Goodman (1992) suggests that we develop various forms of a "language of critical imagery" because critical educators cannot continue to offer understandings at abstract levels.

'Mere could be the claim, too, that forms of critical theory of educational technology are oppressive. Remember that Luke and Gore (1992) argue that critical pedagogists use "technologies of power" to marginalize women.

Finally, critical theorists of educational technology never have analyzed the extent to which they promote ecologically disturbing results. For instance, Landow's (1992) attraction to postmodern possibilities with computers is, in ecological terms, an attraction to using more of the Earth's resources to produce computers and, at the same time, produce more trash. It is bad enough that so few educational technologists ever look into the ways conventional educational technology philosophies, ideologies, and activities promote ecological degradation; but for educational technology critical theorists to omit looking at our own scholarship and the ways it offends ecology is, at best, ironic.

Except, perhaps, in the case of ignoring ecology, critical theorists of educational technology can refute these accusations. Critical theories may be better than others because they are contextualized and democratic. A few critical theorists (e.g., see several authors in DeVaney, 1994) are indeed working directly with the teachers and students affected by technology. Abstract rationalizing might be characteristic of theorists using a Habermasian sort of critical theory, but some postmodernists are evoking considerable concrete work and enthusiasm ("messianic energy"?) in people with whom they work.

Updated August 3, 2001
Copyright © 2001
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