The Right to Technology in Education

The Right to Technology in Education

Donovan Plumb (Mount Saint Vincent University, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-147-8.ch019
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Following the lead of geographer, David Harvey (2008), this chapter argues that many contemporary trends in the use of technology in higher education prevent the development of capacities for critical democratic citizenship. Too often, technology is deployed in a top-down fashion to shape student learning. Thus, to enhance the full emergence of students as active, engaged, critical citizens, it is crucial that they be granted access to the right to technology in education.
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“The Right To The City” And “The Right To Technology In Education”

In a recent article, geographer David Harvey (2008) argues that widespread liberal promotion of human rights has done little to address rising social inequalities throughout the world. Harvey is particularly concerned that contemporary trends in urban development are generating social spaces within which democratic decision-making is increasingly difficult. In a vicious circle, declining capacities for democratic participation creates even more opportunities for a powerful few to develop urban contexts that serve their narrow economic and political interests. Harvey contends that a first step towards seriously addressing human rights requires establishing what he calls “the right to the city.” Increasing democratic participation in urban development (both its material and social aspects), Harvey contends, is the only way to generate contexts that can support further democratic participation. For Harvey, struggling for “the right to the city” is a powerful first step towards building a democratic society capable of resisting the imperatives of a runaway global economic system.

Working the same vein as Harvey, I would like to suggest that, just as trends in urban development are making democratic engagement more difficult, many contemporary trends in the use of technology in higher education are restricting opportunities for people to develop capacities for critical democratic citizenship. Just as in the case with urban development, when opportunities for critical learning decline, it reduces democracy in education. This, in turn, results in ever fewer resources for critique. In an escalating downward spiral, teachers and learners lose their capacity to resist an even more destructive intrusion of controlling forms of technology into the learning context. Only by establishing the right to technology in higher education, by reclaiming, refurbishing, and developing techniques for participating in collaborative learning can students and teachers acquire capacities for participating in robust, democratic learning contexts.

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