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?
Search this Handbook for:



If learning, teaching, and knowledge are culture bound, ever changing, and morally imbued, then we must admit that the critical theory described in this chapter will probably not exist in its present forms for much longer. Life changes. Current contentiousness and discussions about critical theories, learning, teaching, and knowledge indicate this changeability (see Anyon, 1994; Cherryholmes,, 1994). Other theoretical views will eclipse critical theory; perhaps, as Winkler (1993) suggests, we already have entered an era of "post-theory" where "the day of high theory is dead" (p. A9). American critical theorists might be eclipsed by current French thinkers, who represent a pulling back from the excesses of postmodernism" (McMillen, 1994, p. A7), and who are diverse, leftist, and not very interested in politics. For them, democracy is taken for granted and, unlike some American theorists, they have undergone a process of self-criticism (McMillen, 1994, p. A7).

But whatever critical theory becomes, it will remain with us because people will always be subject to and, so, interested in oppression. Critical theory will always have the potential to open educational technologists to deeply important questions of self and community, the character of technology, freedom, and environmental sustenance. For example, what is implied is that technology may not always be oppressive or harmful, but because it is human, it is bound to be harmful sometimes. In what moral, democratic, educative ways can conscientization about the harmfulness of technology be fostered? How can we use critical approaches to help people understand to the fullest extent possible the ways in which all forms and relations of technology--capital, the military, science, technology, rationalization, education, educational biotechnology (Nichols, 1990, 1994b), and so on--affect the consciousness, conscientiousness, and freedoms of people and the environments in which we live.

Most importantly, perhaps, we need to try continually to understand why we use technologies in education. In struggling with this most important of questions, perhaps we can do justice to, say, that disinterested, slightly sarcastic learner at the back of the classroom who says, "Why do we have to learn this stuff?" That is the same critical question McLaren (1994a) asks, and when we can consistently have honest and open conversations (but not finished ones) with that learner about why, we will be on the road to more meaningful education. It may turn out that this sarcastic learner is less problematic to learning and society than students who naively and quietly accept cultural-technological forces in the classroom without wondering much about them.

Most importantly, it is moral to carry on conversations about the contributions educational technologies make to the problems of education, individuals, communities, and the ecology.

Updated August 3, 2001
Copyright © 2001
The Association for Educational Communications and Technology

1800 North Stonelake Drive, Suite 2
Bloomington, IN 47404

877.677.AECT (toll-free)

AECT Home Membership Information Conferences & Events AECT Publications Post and Search Job Listings