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Liberating teachers from the dominant theories and the unquestioned mission: Towards ‘disruptive theories’ in technology enhanced learning research

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>12/06/2020
<mark>Journal</mark>Studies in Technology Enhanced Learning
Issue number1
Number of pages29
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


In Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) research, technology is commonly perceived as an innovative tool to “enhance” the quality of pedagogical experiences. The assumptions that the introduction of new technology has brought about a more effective learning paradigm into current classrooms have rarely been challenged by TEL researchers. In this context, teachers are often considered as important actors who are responsible to achieve the urgent mission of TEL, which is to effectively integrate new technology in classrooms. However, this article argues that such blind faith in TEL can have ramifications in actual educational contexts. It is mainly because this blind faith can determine what is possible or impossible for teachers in enacting their pedagogical beliefs, and thus, in imagining alternative educational scenarios for their students. This paper, therefore aims to reveal how dominant theories in the TEL field, largely drawn from the common assumptions of an educational role of technology, produce a set of imperative claims about teachers and their subjectivity in the field of teacher education. By doing so, this research intends to envision new roles of theory in TEL research, arguing that ‘disruptive theory’ can help us to challenge the common, but uncritical assumptions prevailing in TEL and further open unique opportunities for more critical debates. The first part of the paper will conceptualise theory as discourse and describe a methodological approach utilised in this critical literature review project. The second part will critically review different theories in a set of scholarly journal articles (N=33) concerning TEL-related teacher education, highlighting the dominant, but limited ways in which the theories have guided knowledge construction in those articles. Three themes (i.e., building, medicalising, expanding) have been identified as common actions of theories in TEL research through the authors’ open coding process. The third part will point out the taken-for-granted assumptions in which TEL theories are commonly rooted. It continues to discuss alternative and imaginative ways in which theory can inspire TEL research based on three disruptive roles that a TEL theory may take. The disruptive theories are essential to challenge taken-for-granted assumptions with imaginative thoughts which seem to be dormant in TEL research. They may contribute to liberating teachers from the dominant theories and the unquestioned mission and further empowering them to be able to create their own pedagogical possibilities and ultimately, may contribute to freely educating their students.