A discourse history of technology enhanced learning research (1945-2012)

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This thesis is an archival study which documents the discourse history of research that combines ‘technology’, ‘learning’ and the idea of ‘enhancement’. Over the years this area of research has been known by many names, including ‘Learning Technologies’, ‘e-learning’ and most recently ‘Technology Enhanced Learning’ (TEL). In the space of 70 years (from 1945 to 2015), digital technologies has shifted from the stuff of science fiction, to being woven into the very fabric of how we experience learning, work and everyday life. These significant developments raise two questions “What is Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) Research?” and “Where does it come from?” These questions frame the study. While there has been some analysis of these questions in the TEL literature, certain approaches to knowledge production have dominated these, resulting in constraints on what is possible to imagine as TEL research. This thesis offers an alternative analysis by drawing on the tools and concepts of non-deterministic inquiry from original text by Michel Foucault, and actor network theorists Bruno Latour and John Law. A common thread in this lineage is the mobilisation of conceptual resources to stage empirical accounts in which theory and analysis are inseparable. Building on these influences this thesis is shaped by conceptual resources for exploring how discourse and relational socio-material constructions, make ‘realities’. This thesis makes a contribution to staging new ways of understanding “what TEL research is”, and “where it comes from”. It has contributed to new knowledge in four ways. First, by describing the discourse from engineering and how this is translated into “discourse materialised” in digital technology and learning design. Second, in accounts of “translation effects” where networks beyond the academy awakened to vested interests in funded research and what counts as ‘learning’. Third in describing multiple active discourses around ‘enhancement’ and illustrating how these are regulated by “forms of ordering”. Finally, by speculating on spaces that have been opened up for imagining new ‘realties’ the work in this thesis is positioned as an alternative enactment that interferes with the self-evident.
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