Issues in Digital Technology & Education


Technology / Transformation / Disruptive Pedagogies


Recent educational literature suggests that traditional models of education designed to meet 20th century aims and purposes are no longer adequate to the profound challenges and opportunities facing 21st century learners.

In EDUC 5860, we examine a broad and ever-changing range of social and pedagogical issues arising from the use of digital technologies. This year’s Issues course begins with the premise that meaningful transformations in education today cannot be brought about through ‘radical’ technological innovation alone. Instead, we must consider ‘technical innovation’ in relation to changing sociotechnical ecologies and to pedagogies responsive to these dynamic ecologies/contexts.

Here, even the most dazzling and ‘bleeding-edge’ technical innovations, without novel pedagogies that connect learners/learning with worlds outside of schools (and the media tools and practices that co-constitute these worlds), will not get us very far in critically addressing the challenges of 21st century (educational) landscapes.


While technical innovations are always emerging and in play, educational institutions, historically speaking, tend to adapt them to traditional aims and practices, while corporate purposes fit them to maximize efficiency and ‘value’. The result: a tireless effort to ‘cram’ digital technology into classrooms in order to enhance 20th century instructional methods and assessment systems, thus entrenching business-as-usual instructional practices, routines, and role-relations.

At the same time, online educational sites (like MOOCs) and e-learning authoring software for networked/mobile learning are often made to conform to – or are already (pre)coded to conform to – the narrower teaching objectives and instructional and assessment patterns of the traditional ‘white cube’ classroom.

In these contexts, it is increasingly clear that genuinely transformative orientations to digital technologies in education require more than ‘disruptive innovation’: they require (disruptive) pedogogies that are adequate to emergent sociotechnical landscapes and responsive to the ongoing problem of student disengagement in schools (where the capital/currency of deep learning, today, is deep attention and sustained, affective involvement in rich, meaningful and truly authentic learning tasks).

In these dynamic landscapes, it is argued that 21st century learners need to be re-understood, and re-positioned, as co-makers and critical (re)designers of authentic knowledge, art and culture – digital or otherwise. To these ends, this course will examine a range of innovative pedagogies that seek to maximize the affordances and opportunities of digital technologies and new media ecologies for creative, critical, and authentic learning – and situated making.

The stakes of this discussion go beyond ‘technology education’ to address critical questions about participation, equality, and democracy — and the creative capacity of anyone — in an increasingly networked society.


Course Aims

  • Explore the Issue: theories and novel practices surrounding digital culture and digital technologies for learning focusing on what and how people learn in new media environments and ‘networked’ ecologies.
  • Examine the constraints on, and dynamic models for, ‘system change’ – including informal learning models and transformative projects being carried out in Ontario.
  • Design learning situations that challenge divides, participation gaps, gender gaps, and the problem of ‘transparency’.
  • Critically examine (and engage) the affordances of new media and technologies in education, and connect technology to pedagogical theories: production pedagogies, connected learning, constructionism, critical making & critical coding.
  • Do The Theory: Engage digital technologies – hands-on – and make knowledge, art and culture while enacting theoretical models through situated research, design, and multimodal/multimedia creative production and sharing.
  • Do you have Issues? Bring your issues and research interests into the course.

Required Texts: All materials are available through this website, or in open source publishing online.