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ICT and Theory

Introduction

 

My interest in this seminar came from talking to colleagues about their past involvement in ICT as part of the Voices Project, a small project exploring the experiences of colleagues who have been engaged in developing ICT in education over a good part of their professional lives. While colleagues to whom we spoke felt a great deal of appreciation of past research into ICT in UK, several noted there was an 'absence of theory' in the way we looked at ICT. Perhaps this is not surprising, the English intellectual tradition is a pragmatic one and we are suspicious of 'Big Ideas'. But then again are we missing out? If we had better theories for understanding the use of technology we might be able to better see patterns within the very many case studies which have reported on the use of ICT; we might be able to build up a disciplinary base to understand the use of ICT and, in so doing, we might rediscover that ‘there is nothing so practical as a good theory’. We might in the process enjoy the intellectual challenge of theorising on the use of ICT.

Of course, theory can cover a range of meaning from exploring cause and effect in a single study to the more overarching general theories. What kind of theories did they have in mind? Amongst others, colleagues made specific references to social cultural theory; activity theory; communities of practice; action research and to gaining an environmental understanding of ICT (an article by Loi and Dillon develops this idea further). There was frequent reference to the work of Papert whose influence, for better and for worse, was recognised in the way we think about technology in school. (The links, by the way, are to sites of interest not ones specifically recommended by colleagues).

This seminar, then, is about moving the discussion on and asking what do we want theory to do in relation to our research into ICT? Do we share the idea that we have 'under theorised' and, if so, does it matter? If we want to theorise more what is there to help us? Indeed has important work been done in our area and we do not know it? We have asked three colleagues who have thought about theory in relation to their research into ICT to help us think about these and other questions. The seminar is Friday 25 January 2008 10am - 3pm, in the MultiMedia CeNTRE, Insitute of Education, Westwood Campus, University of Warwick. We look forward to seeing you there.

 

Michael Hammond