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Can technology deliver on the promise of radical pedagogies?

Published in Latest Posts, Pedagogy & Curriculum by Cristina Costa on January 27, 2015

Flirckr (CC) by Val Kerry

Flirckr (CC) by Val Kerry

I am currently debating on this question as I am teaching a course that aims to introduce students to the concepts and practices behind educational technologies while exploring their impact in and outside the classroom as tools for learning.

 

In addition to this I have been following some discussions online around radical pedagogies and other ideas associated with it. These are often expressed in such daring terms that make me consider its impact on existing educational contexts, especially teachers initiating their career. Terms such as ‘teaching to transgress’, ‘anarchy’ or other ideas similar to Illch’s deschooling have little currency amongst the groups I currently teach. And this is a great eye opener to me. This might be so because such terms probably come across a bit too daring, rather radical or almost drastic in theory to them. In my opinion, however, what these terms lack is actual and current empirical evidence that such rhetoric can replace national curricula and current practice. And in stating this, I am not saying that I don’t share some of the principles contained in such ideals. I can’t deny my tendency to defend the emancipatory capacity (potential) of education. But how emancipation is achieved and by whom needs careful consideration. And so I have been reading up on literature that can help me communicate this in ways that might resonate more with the audiences with whom I work. I found three papers that, for me, flesh out the main points in a rather eloquent fashion. And if in a way, I tacitly knew about it, these readings have brought home several important points.

 

The first one deals with the notion of learning as relational. Murphy and Brown (2012) argue that education should be based on educational dynamics and use Honneth’s work on recognition to support this proposition. They go on to note that

A critical reading of relational pedagogy allows teaching and learning to transverse the division between private and public, and suggests that the interpersonal is political. (p. 651)

And as such the desire for respect and recognition is never removed from the learning process but rather embedded in it. This is a very important point and technology can serve this purpose. What technology offers teachers and learners is a space to materialise learning through the creation of artefacts and user-generated content. The interaction between learners and/or external audiences generate a system of validation of learning, a form of recognition that is likely to create more impact that any successful assessment.

The second paper furthers this idea by fleshing out Honneth’s three modes of recognition: love, rights and respect. Huttinen and Murphy (2012) argue that

a radical pedagogy centred on the power of intersubjective takes seriously the ways in which people relate to each other, both communicatively and affectively (p.151).

This aspect may have little to do with technology itself. Yet, the web as a conduit of communication can mediate the congregation of people who develop affective ties based on their learning interests. This is likely to produce real lasting change regarding how individuals fight against different forms of domination and control. I have experienced this first hand when I joined the webheads in action. The freedom to learn with and from people who cared about the same things and shared similar values transforms not only your practice but who you are and how you relate to those with and from whom you learn. Getting to this stage however depends on one’s initiative. Recognition in this sense is not given; it is rather acquired through individual participation within collective spaces. How we encourage learners to reach this stage on their own accord is still a mystery to me. This is so mainly because I question if such encouragement is not a form of imposition of the ideals I believe in?

The third paper I read was equality refreshing. It talks about a pedagogy of deep listening through a student-teacher relational field. The purpose of deep listening is according to Laryea (2014) is to ‘nurture generative dialogue that opens new doors of learning co-constructively’ (p.17) through narratives of practice with personal meaning. If there is a place that accommodates personal narratives is the web. How we transport that to the learning process and make it meaningful is the key. I have been using blogs as a form of encouraging learners to capture their learning and being recognised for it through peer-reviewing processes.

It seems to me that these three papers are looking at the same thing through complementary ideas and language. These more radical forms of pedagogy are stressing the need to pay a closer attention to the relation between the teacher and the student in devising instances of fair and democratic education. Technology can only deliver on these goals insofar it is used as a channel to achieve such intersubjective exchanges. And this is something worth considering…

 

References:

Huttunen, R., & Murphy, M. (2012). Discourse and Recognition as Normative Grounds for Radical Pedagogy: Habermasian and Honnethian Ethics in the Context of Education. Studies in Philosophy and Education, 31(2), 137–152.

Laryea, K. (2014). A Pedagogy of Deep Listening in E-Learning. Journal of Conscious Evolution, (11), 1–21.

Murphy, M., & Brown, T. (2012). Learning as relational: intersubjectivity and pedagogy in higher education. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 31(5), 643–654.

 

 

About the author /


Cristina is Associate Professor in Digital Education and Society in the Department of Education and Childhood, University of the West of England, Bristol, UK. After completing a degree in Modern Languages and Literatures, Cristina worked as an EFL teacher in the Portuguese Navy. During that period she developed an interest in Learning Technologies and completed an MPhil in Educational Technologies at the University of Lisbon, Portugal. In 2007 she moved to the UK to take up a post in the field of Learning and Research Technologies at the University of Salford. In February 2013 she completed her PhD study on The participatory web in the context of academic research: landscapes of change and conflicts. From March 2013 to March 2018 she worked as a Lecturer in Digital Education at the University of Strathclyde. She was named Learning Technologist of the Year 2010 by the Association for Learning Technology (ALT).

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