Section introduction: Dialogic education and digital technology

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The Routledge International Handbook of Research on Dialogic Education, 2019, pp. 389 - 393
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The chapters in this section of the book focus specifically on dialogic education and digital technology. To frame this chapter, it is important to understand why there should be mutual interest among those who are interested in the role of dialogic approaches, and the role of digital technologies in learning. At weakest such shared theorising is important simply because technology is increasingly available (indeed, pervasive) in our everyday lives and classrooms. In this view, technologies are more or less neutral actors to be leveraged as we wish; we should thus understand how to develop dialogic approaches in this emerging context. However, while of course rapid technological change creates an imperative to understand the impact of that change, this narrow perspective is a view that sociocultural researchers and those interested in dialogic approaches would reject. A somewhat stronger claim, then, and one that is made explicitly by Major and Warwick (this section) is that those who are interested in dialogic approaches to learning should be interested in digital technologies with respect to the affordances or possibilities for action that those technologies create for dialogue. A corollary, then, is that those interested in digital technologies should be interested in how they might develop and research tools that create or embody such affordances for dialogue and learning. Within this context, digital tools can be seen as affording opportunity to, for example, make learning visible to students and teachers as an artefact for reflection and improvement, creating sharing space to scrutinise ideas, and showing how ideas evolve over time. Moreover, as Major and Warwick note, we care not only about the action possibilities, but also the enacted affordances for dialogue – i.e., the specific ways in which the action possibilities are implicated in promotion of dialogic interaction for learning, and indeed, as Rasmussen et al note, the ways that new tools provide both new affordances (or possibilities) and obstacles. However, a stronger claim again is that we should be interested in the relationships between dialogic approaches to learning, and digital technologies for learning, because dialogue is both shaped by digital technologies, and helps to shape both the use and emergence of those technologies. That is, to use the language of Major and Warwick, in addition to technology creating affordances for dialogue, dialogue also creates affordances for particular uses of technology; the two are thus in mutually constitutive interaction. Put another way, Kumpulainen, Rajala, and Kajamaa (this section) distinguish material-dialogic spaces in which the focus is (1) about artefacts of digital technologies – i.e., dialogue centred on digital technology; (2) around digital technologies – i.e., dialogue that is in the context of these technologies, a context which is expanded by the very use of those digital technologies, through their affordances for dialogue; and (3) with or through digital technologies, which might be characterised in terms of meaning that is mutually constituted in and through the dialogue and materiality of the digital technologies. Each of these perspectives can be seen in the chapters in this section of the handbook, each with important implications for how we understand and foster dialogue approaches, and digital technologies, for learning.
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