The political discourse and material practice of technology enhanced learning

Hayes, S ORCID: 0000-0001-8633-0155 (2015) The political discourse and material practice of technology enhanced learning. PhD thesis, Aston University.

Official URL:


Technology discloses man’s mode of dealing with Nature, the process of production by which he sustains his life, and thereby also lays bare the mode of formation of his social relations, and of the mental conceptions that flow from them (Marx, 1990: 372) My thesis is a Sociological analysis of UK policy discourse for educational technology during the last 15 years. My framework is a dialogue between the Marxist-based critical social theory of Lieras and a corpus-based Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) of UK policy for Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) in higher education. Embedded in TEL is a presupposition: a deterministic assumption that technology has enhanced learning. This conceals a necessary debate that reminds us it is humans that design learning, not technology. By omitting people, TEL provides a vehicle for strong hierarchical or neoliberal, agendas to make simplified claims politically, in the name of technology. My research has two main aims: firstly, I share a replicable, mixed methodological approach for linguistic analysis of the political discourse of TEL. Quantitatively, I examine patterns in my corpus to question forms of ‘use’ around technology that structure a rigid basic argument which ‘enframes’ educational technology (Heidegger, 1977: 38). In a qualitative analysis of findings, I ask to what extent policy discourse evaluates technology in one way, to support a Knowledge Based Economy (KBE) in a political economy of neoliberalism (Jessop 2004, Fairclough 2006). If technology is commodified as an external enhancement, it is expected to provide an ‘exchange value’ for learners (Marx, 1867). I therefore examine more closely what is prioritised and devalued in these texts. Secondly, I disclose a form of austerity in the discourse where technology, as an abstract force, undertakes tasks usually ascribed to humans (Lieras, 1996, Brey, 2003:2). This risks desubjectivisation, loss of power and limits people’s relationships with technology and with each other. A view of technology in political discourse as complete without people closes possibilities for broader dialectical (Fairclough, 2001, 2007) and ‘convivial’ (Illich, 1973) understandings of the intimate, material practice of engaging with technology in education. In opening the ‘black box’ of TEL via CDA I reveal talking points that are otherwise concealed. This allows me as to be reflexive and self-critical through praxis, to confront my own assumptions about what the discourse conceals and what forms of resistance might be required. In so doing, I contribute to ongoing debates about networked learning, providing a context to explore educational technology as a technology, language and learning nexus.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: critical discourse analysis, educational technology, technology enhanced learning, neoliberal policy, exchange value, technology-language-learning nexus
Divisions: School of Education
Date Deposited: 24 Jul 2023 11:30
Last Modified: 24 Jul 2023 11:30
URI / Page ID:
Request a change to this item or report an issue Request a change to this item or report an issue
Update item (repository staff only) Update item (repository staff only)