background writing

What it means to conduct a critical study of technology and schools

INTRODUCTION Ours is a deliberately critical study of schools and technology. But what does this mean in practice? Here are three aspects of our research approach that might not be obvious … and that we need to keep reminding ourselves of as our fieldwork progresses.   #1. Thinking otherwise (rather than against) Being critical of […]

Digital youth in brick & mortar schools

‘Real-life’ studies of school technology use in situ are few and far between. Education researchers tend mostly to focus on case studies of classrooms where noteworthy forms of technology use are being enacted. Such studies are interesting enough, but tell us little of how these situations might be replicated in other classrooms, in different schools, […]

Maker spaced

Over the past forty or so years, educational institutions have been keen to incorporate the latest digital technologies into teaching and learning in efforts to increase student engagement, innovation, and prepare future workers. Presently, Maker Spaces are hyped as holding potential for K-12 schooling with the capacity to enhance opportunities for students to engage with […]

Schools, technology and commercial agendas …

Digital technologies have extended the commercialization of schools into new realms. From Microsoft and Google, through to News Corporation and thousands of far smaller ‘Ed-Tech’ start-ups, digital technologies have positioned for-profit interests at the center of how public schooling is now funded, organized and delivered. This variety of enterprise reflects the fact that schools and […]

Communicative disruptions

Media can be used in various ways, and particular forms of media are shaped by the ways that people use them for communication. New media is always closely intertwined with communication and/or technology, and is an assemblage of some sort. I currently sit in some junior secondary classrooms to observe as a researcher and am […]

Hunting for the ghosts of dead media

<file under dead-tech>   Schools are haunted by ghosts of old technologies – such as the chalkboard, text-book, overhead projector, attendance register and report card. The technical principles of these ‘dead media’ remain even though the technological artefacts might not. As Eugene Thacker (2014, p.129) puts it: “with dead media, the object is no longer in use, but […]

Fighting familiarity in digital school ethnographies

The success of ethnographic fieldwork generally hinges on the development of close connections amongst fieldworkers, research subjects, and the phenomena under study. To stand any chance of acquiring what Malinowski called the ‘native’s point of view’, ethnographers must therefore live with, and live like, the individuals and groups being studied (in Van Maanen, 1988, pp. […]

Digitising student engagement: A logic of learning or a logic of control?

Commonly accepted as an essential prerequisite for academic success, student engagement continues to be a preoccupation of mainstream discourses at all levels of education (e.g., Gourlay, 2015; Coates, 2010; Prensky, 2010; Kuh, 2009). The dominant conception of engagement aligns around cognitive, behavioural, and affective dimensions. Cognitive engagement is the most difficult to pin down, but […]

What use is sociology?

As he moves into his nineties, the work of Zygmunt Bauman remains as prescient as ever. Bauman’s long view on societal shifts in late (or, as he prefers, liquid) modernity has always merited close attention. The succession of slim volumes of edited interviews and conversations with Bauman – such as the recent ‘What Use is […]

“Present, miss!” and (always) online

The structures and constructs of time have always governed how schools operate. Timetables, bells, commencement dates, holidays, schedules, and diaries are all examples of how schools and schooling have been fairly rigid and structured. Schools have been predicated by these particular rhythms of time, i.e. being ‘present’. Teachers regularly state there is not enough ‘time’ […]

Making sense of work and labour in digital schools

The relationship between schools and work is a complex dynamic. On one hand, schools are seen as sites of work for teachers, students, and administrators alike. On the other hand, schools have intimate connections to the larger world of work with the responsibility of preparing future workers, responding to economic imperatives of employability and so […]