The Educational Technology Cult Is Alive and Well in the 21st Century

Does anyone else notice how “cult-like” ed tech leaders and supporters can be? They constantly proclaim salvation by technology for every educational ailment that we face. Yet, we’ve been on this “ed-tech binge” since perhaps the mid-1990s with very little to show for it. Why? Perhaps it boils down to a simple fact: whether students learn or not simply depends on the quality of the instructional interactions that teacher has with students during the given instructional time.

Too often, educators have made of “cult of technology” and as social media researcher Siva Vaidhyanathan writes:

“When we make a cult of technology and welcome its immediate rewards and conveniences into our lives without consideration of the long-term costs, we make fools of ourselves.”

Too often, educators uncritically accept the latest tech evangelist’s word regarding the promise of technology. When some other educator comes proclaiming how much this web app changed their lives, their word is uncritically accepted as gospel. I myself have been guilty of that too. The truth is, educational leaders placing their trust in salvation by technology will ultimately be sorely disappointed. We’ve been traveling that road for over 20 years and there really hasn’t been very much substantial change in education.

Educational technology has become a bit cult-like in some ways. Those pushing technology talk a great deal about relevance in teaching and push tech solutions like that is the only way we can make instruction relevant to students. The truth is, no one really knows what will be relevant in the future, and anyone who claims that they do suffers from a level of arrogance and delusion that is dangerous.

It is imperative that we demand those making claims about technology, and any other educational panacea, provide support for their claims. We need not accept what they say as truth just because they are skillful TED talkers or excellent at providing keynotes.  We need to subject any and all claims to a level of critical scrutiny that unmasks blather for what it is. 

Vaidhyanathan, S. (2018). Anti-social media: How Facebook disconnects us and undermines democracy. Oxford University Press: New York, NY.