Friday, 7 February 2014

Technology is globalizing and colonizing

FECODE, the teachers’ union in Colombia, sponsored six seminars in different cities in Colombia in November 2013, where they asked me to talk about technology, education and critical pedagogy.  Participants in the seminar wrote out questions for discussion following my presentations.  When question time ran out, I agreed to respond to the other questions in writing.  I have combined questions into some specific themes, with this being the third of three.

What actions are possible in responding to technology that is globalizing and colonizing?

ICTs as they have been developed and disbursed are instruments that serve the interests of neo-liberal, global capitalism.

Governments everywhere are driven to want  students to become workers in a global economy. Students using ICTs are seen to be a key component in a global race and thus, the schools are pressed to accommodate these tools into the classroom, regardless of lack of adequate models or proven results.
ICTs have largely been developed in North America and Europe with much of the production of the hardware done in Asia.  These reflect the interests, values and perspectives of the places they have been developed.

All technologies have built into them a social order, according to Langdon Winner.  Marshall McLuhan said that "we shape our technologies, and then our technologies shape us."

For much of the world, there has been no opportunity to shape the technology, but the technology has been disseminated in ways that shape their education system and society.  That has been the colonizing factor of the development of ICTs as they impose new conditions and cultural patterns as a form of imperialism.
So what can be done about the situation? 

It may be that inequality, individualist isolation, cultural damage and economic dependency that result from the global capitalist system could be reversed by abandoning the system and creating an alternative.  In the absence of such a revolutionary change, one strategy may be to find the cracks in the system where it is possible to operate on an alternative set of values--social solidarity, collective action and diversity in cultural development and practices. 

Critical pedagogy and alternative tools

People acting together can build alternatives.  Critical pedagogy in relation to information and communications technology has to make visible to teachers and students the submerged structures  and the implicit social and political meaning embedded within the technology.   Having alternative ways of seeing patterns is an important aspect of critical understanding and creation of alternative products.

In the area of information and communications technology in education, some concrete possibilities include:

Develop teaching resources and approaches that encourage a critical examination by teachers and students of the power relations that are implicit in the technology--its design, patterns of ownership and implicit social relations;

Use open source, free software instead of software produced by Microsoft and other commercial products;

Use online, open journals with free access for publication of research and commentary, rather than academic journals that are in hard copy, produced in the north and with closed editorial control;

Create online textbooks that incorporate appropriate values and perspectives and use these in place of commercially produced textbooks;

Organize groups of teachers working collaboratively to produce teaching materials that are made available electronically;

Maintain an accessible database of free teaching materials developed and shared by teachers.

Even if these are not widely adopted, the existence of alternatives sends an important message that the major global, corporate businesses that have identified Latin America as their new market opportunity (such as the Pearson Corporation, Apple or Microsoft) are not the only approach to utilize information and communications technology in education.

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