Bringing politics back in: New technologies, teaching/learning and political power in Chinese classrooms

Abstract for my paper at this year’s CIES conference:

There is a vast global market of information and communication technologies to be used for educational purposes (ICT4E), both inside and beyond formal schooling. Both the products on offer and the large bulk of academic literature and strategic documents concerned with ICT4E tend to look at these technologies as providing simple technical solutions to complex educational problems. Moreover, the utilization of these technologies seems to occur irrespective of social, cultural, or political context.

My presentation argues that we need to take into account the politicization (or re-politicization) of ICT4E within their contexts of production and implementation. Drawing on theoretical approaches particularly developed within science and technology studies, my paper will investigate the social and political ecology in which globally marketed ICT4E become embedded when hitting educational ground. This will be illustrated by looking at the case of ICT4E in China: first, through an analysis of how official documents envision the use of new technologies for educational purposes; second, through an analysis of the Chinese academic debate about using ICT in education; and third, through preliminary results from class room observations that I have conducted at various (urban) Chinese schools over the past two years.

The presentation will show that the global claim and political innocence of ICT4E are more imagined than real but instead are intimately linked to a society’s political visions and social structures. The paper thus locates itself in the more general discussion within comparative education about the global-local nexus of how educational policies and practices get produced, diffused, adopted, and appropriated, however expanding this discussion by the help of additional insights from the area of science and technology studies.

March 15, 2016

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