Reading: Digital technology and the futures of education – towards ‘non-stupid’ optimism

Facer, K. and Selwyn, N. 2021 Digital technology and the futures of education – towards ‘non-stupid’ optimism. available from

This paper develops a constructively critical perspective on the application of digital technologies in education – what is sometimes referred to as ‘educational technology’ and ‘edtech’, which encompasses the use of digital technologies to support teaching, learning and educational work. In particular, we reflect on what can be taken from the past 40 years of initiatives, interventions and policies that have aimed to mobilise digital technologies to change the day-to-day practices of education for students and teachers. This history (alongside recent experiences of pandemic remote schooling) points to the limitations of technology to transform long-standing patterns of educational opportunities and outcomes. Yet, as enthusiasms for the digitisation of education continue in light of emerging AI and virtual education technologies, the paper lays out some foundations for the development of ‘non-stupid’ optimism about educational technologies. We argue that this requires policy, tech industry and education actors to look beyond the charismaticallure of the ‘techno-fix’, and instead work toward forms of technology use that can support and sustain the longstanding and hard work of addressing the social and material obstacles to educational and social equalities. If we are concerned to create educational practices that work towards the common good and towards sustainable futures, then our first concern must be to attend to the causes of existing injustices, individualisation and unsustainability and to proceed from there. While digital technology can be an adjunct to this wider work, digital technology alone is not capable of creating sustainable educational futures.

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