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Education and technology policy discourse in Alberta: a critical analysis Open Access


Other title
philosophy of technology
21st century learning
policy discourse
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Brooks, Charmaine
Supervisor and department
Nocente, Norma (Secondary Education)
Taylor, Alison (Educational Policy Studies)
Examining committee member and department
Fountain, Renée (Teaching and Learning, University of Laval)
Spencer, Brenda (Educational Policy Studies)
Wallin, Jason (Secondary Education)
Smith, David (Secondary Education)
Department of Secondary Education

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
My research is a critical examination of technology policy discourse between four organizational groups: Alberta Education, the Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA), the College of Alberta School Superintendents (CASS) and the Alberta School Councils’ Association (ASCA). I adopt a discursive theoretical position, to examine how education policy promotes a way of thinking about technology by endorsing some values over others and is therefore qualitative. One overarching question and a related sub-question guide my inquiry: 1. What ways of thinking about technology are evident in Alberta’s education policy discourse? • What relationship exists between the ways of thinking about technology in Alberta’s education policy discourse and nodal discourses, specifically, the knowledge-based economy and globalization? The literature base informing my inquiry encompasses three fields of research, the philosophy of technology, education policy and critical organizational discourse. Since my study is based on technology policy in education through an interest in discourse, meaning and power, I employ critical discourse analysis to excavate the common sense notions and assumptions in documents and interview data from the four organizations. Feenberg suggests the various ways of thinking about technology can be summarized into four categories, instrumentalism, determinism, substantivism and critical theory (1999). Feenberg’s model (1999) serves as a lens through which to roughly classify the philosophical positions of the organizations. The findings illustrate technology policy discourse in Alberta is divided along the values axis between the ATA and ASCA taking up substantivist and critical theory positions and Alberta Education moving between instrumentalist or determinist positions. In addition, the data suggests a value-neutral view of technology has dominated the discursive field with significant implications on implementation. Despite the apparent philosophical divide in the ways of thinking about technology in education, the concept of 21st century learning emerged across all four philosophical positions. My findings point to a need for future policy dialogue to adopt a more philosophically inclusive and balanced approach to ensure the potential of technology to support student learning does not go unrealized or continue to narrowly support technical goals.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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