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Do we need educational software?

April 6th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

In a reply to my post last week on Donald Clark’s article about ePortfolios Ben Werdmuller said “From reflection, to privacy, to institutional feedback and portability, these are all things that the wider web is working on, and it makes no sense at all for the elearning sector to be tackling them on their own – except for the worst kind of closed business motivations.” And I think he is right.

For some time now I have been questioning the idea of educational technology – of technology development specifically focused on education. That is not to say there is no place for research on the use of technology for learning – nor of implementation of insubstantiations of technology specifically in a learning context. But the educational technology community can only be the poorer for developing ideas and applications based on use cases posited in a silo – outside of the rest of the world.

Indeed, I would suggest that the reason this came about was because of a focus on control and management of learning – and thus on replicating and reinforcing institutional practices, rather than supporting the learning process itself. Whilst institutional practice may be quite particular and confined to the educational sector, learning processes take place throughout society. If we start designing for learning, their is nothing in the use cases of those designs which separates them from the home or from work or the wider community.

And if we take our main focus as design for learning, then we have a far greater chance of developing technologies which can transform learning, rather than reinforcing the class and technology divides which inhibit access to education.

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