Week 1: Looking to the past

Image by mbiebusch. Creative Commons license CC:BY:SA
This week there are three sets of resources for you to engage with: 

    1. Popular cultures: a selection of short films which represent - in very different ways - the theme of utopia-dystopia which is our main focus in this block.
    2. Ideas and interpretations: a core reading about ‘technological determinism’, which offers a useful theoretical perspective for understanding how utopic-dystopic visions inform our relationship to technology, and an advanced reading which you can use to go further with this concept.
    3. Perspectives on education: some examples of writing on e-learning, dating from between 1998 and 2002, which show that claims of utopian and dystopian futures for online education have a history.

All of these resources are available on the Week 1 Resources page, along with some discussion questions to get you thinking and perhaps offer some starting points for discussion. The aim this week is to take an historical approach. Looking back at debates that have been formative for the field of online education throws some light on their relationship to popular digital culture, and on debates about the current and future state of digital education. Throughout this first week, ask yourself: what echoes or suggestions of current educational debates can you see and hear in these resources? What has changed?

Many strongly utopian or dystopian arguments seek to explain social, cultural or educational change in primarily technological terms. This is known as ‘technological determinism’, and you will read about this in the ‘ideas and interpretations’ part of this week. This perspective says that technology is not a ‘tool’ - it actually drives change and creates society. Even if you haven’t tried to identify determinist positions before, we predict that, by the end of this week, you will start to see these lines of thinking cropping up in all sorts of places.
Last modified: Wednesday, 21 October 2015, 4:28 PM