Recent Projects • From Blogs to Bombs (Mark Pegrum)




Blogs_cover.jpgThis page describes my most recent book about e-learning, From Blogs to Bombs: The Future of Digital Technologies in Education, published by UWA Publishing in November 2009. This page shows the front cover and the blurb from the back cover, as well as giving a more detailed synopsis of the book's content, including details of the 5-lenses model on which it is based. Relevant papers are listed at the end, along with early reviews and commentary. Comments and feedback are very welcome. The book itself can be obtained from:


Blurb

Does the internet enhance education or erode standards? Does it empower kids or endanger them? Does it mean more freedom or more surveillance? The short answer is: all of the above.

Digital technologies – including computing and mobile technologies – are among the most widely discussed subjects of our time, yet the way they affect young people, education and society as a whole is poorly understood. Swamped by competing arguments, many of us have difficulty deciding which experts to listen to or which claims to believe.

This book weaves together the many discussions now taking place. Burying some common fallacies, it sketches out the big picture – we cannot hope to understand the implications of digital technologies unless we acknowledge their technological, pedagogical, social, sociopolitical and even ecological effects. Only then can we make informed decisions about future developments in education and beyond.

Synopsis

It is widely understood that the area of digital technologies in education covers education through digital technologies. However, it must also, crucially, encompass education about digital technologies, and particularly about their social, sociopolitical and ecological consequences.

The key argument of this book is that although digital technologies in education are currently the subject of many discussions, most of these are narrowly focused and simply do not intersect with one other. The main discussions draw on five different sets of lenses: the technological, the pedagogical, the social, the sociopolitical, and the ecological. It is important that we begin to connect up the insights provided by these different discussions. Otherwise, we limit our ability to see the bigger picture and make informed decisions about the future development of e-learning.

Technological discussions focus on the available technologies and how to use them in education. In addition to analysing the ever-expanding range of web 2.0 tools, such discussions deal with broader issues like the convergence of different technologies and the increasingly numerous areas where the virtual and the real overlap. Frequently, there is an exaggerated sense of either awe or fear at the range of developments and the speed of change. Neither of these reactions, though, is very helpful in arriving at a sound evaluation of the technology. The pedagogical discussions which have come to dominate the field in recent years propose, sensibly, that educational rather than technological principles must be our guide. Notwithstanding a widespread espousal of constructivist approaches, there are serious differences of opinion about the educational value of e-learning technologies, which pit politicians against educators, administrators against teachers, and colleagues against each other. There's certainly a need for an examination of this area. Social discussions, largely conducted in the media, raise important issues of a different kind, ranging from the dangers of cyberbullying and loss of privacy to the fragmentation of attention and erosion of social relations. There is an urgent need to cut through the hype and hysteria which often surround these issues and carefully weigh up the social consequences of the new technologies. Sociopolitical discussions focus on questions of discourse and power, asking how our worldviews are mediated by online technology. They situate the struggle over different visions of e-learning with respect to the political, economic and cultural agendas which drive globalisation. We need to consider such issues carefully since, as is gradually becoming apparent, it is not possible to use radically enabling technology to enhance education without having a major impact on the social fabric and, beyond this, on the structures and relations that pertain within and between different societies. Ecological discussions, which are just beginning to figure in the field of e-learning, focus on the biological and medical implications of technological development for human minds and bodies, as well as the ecological implications for the environment and the whole planetary ecosystem.

All the conversations about digital technologies we have had to date are important: the technological, the pedagogical, the social, the sociopolitical, and the ecological. Nevertheless, too many of our discussions have been too narrow, focused through only one lens. Too many have major weaknesses and blind spots, resulting from a failure to look through one or more of the other lenses. We need to use all five lenses in conjunction and join up our discussions of technology, pedagogy, society, sociopolitics and ecology, zeroing in on the points of intersection between the issues they expose. Only in this way can we hope to decide what uses we can and should be making of these technologies, both within educational institutions and outside their walls.

5-lenses model

5_Lenses_-_V4-7.png

5-lenses Model / Version 4.7 (June 2009). Note that this version is slightly simplified compared to recent versions (which can be seen on the History page).

The 5-lenses model shown above attempts to capture some of the key issues which come into view through each of the five lenses. Like all models, it involves a trade-off between detail and depth on the one hand, and clarity of presentation on the other. Inevitably, therefore, it entails a certain amount of simplification, but its main aim is not to simplify our conversations. Quite the opposite, in fact: its aim is to lead us away from simplification, by offering a more complex, nuanced and differentiated picture of the area of electronic technologies in education, and reminding us of the many issues which have a bearing on it.

The model functions simultaneously as an overview of the issues which are addressed in the book. The list of topics covered is far from exhaustive but includes many of the most important ones for educators. Those which feature more prominently in current discussions are presented, in the style of a tag cloud, in larger and darker fonts. Like all tag clouds, this one necessarily represents a personal perspective, a snapshot of digital technologies in education taken from one point of view among the constellation of possible points of view, although it does draw extensively on the views of others working in the field.

The terms employed are largely drawn from common usage, with some referring to developments and others to trends, some to problems and others to fields of study or debate. Some are widely accepted and others are controversial. Some are relatively neutral and others carry positive or negative overtones. Closely related issues often cluster together, with issues at one level inevitably feeding into and articulating with issues at other levels. While some phenomena are shown on lens boundaries, most phenomena can in fact be viewed through multiple lenses, with each lens highlighting particular aspects.

The model is very much a work in progress. Although work is now finished on the book manuscript, I'd still be interested in any feedback you may have on it. Could it be arranged differently? Should individual items be moved? Should some be made more or less prominent? Please feel free to contact me with any comments you may have.

Papers

Pegrum, M. (2008). Essential conversations: 4 visions of CALL. Paper presented at WorldCALL, Fukuoka, Japan, 6-8 August. [handout]

Reviews & Commentary

April 2012 • Palmer, A. Book review: From Blogs to Bombs. TMC Academic Journal, 6(2), 46-47. [link]
August 2010 • Fox, A. From Blogs to Bombs. International Journal of Virtual and Personal Learning Environments, 1(3), pp.83-85.
18 March 2010 Degen, G. Are you 'tech-comfy' or 'tech-savvy'? Notes from the Field. [link]
01 March 2010 • [Anon.] From Blogs to Bombs Education Today, p.44.
March 2010 • Barlow, J. Mark Pegrum's From Blogs to Bombs. The Journal of Education, Community, and Values, 10(2). [link]
18 February 2010 • Yvoedblog. From Blogs to Bombs: A Review. Yvoedblog. [link]
14 February 2010 • Sweeney, P. Review: From Blogs to Bombs by Mark Pegrum Crossed Wires. [link]
13 January 2010 • Buckingham, J. Blogs to Bombs - Summary of "Introduction: Many Lenses" (Mark Pegrum). jamesbuckingham.net [link]
28 August 2009 • Sweeney, P. Don't only draw your own conclusions. Crossed Wires. [link]
October 2009 • Shrubb, S. From Blogs to Bombs. Campus Bookseller + Publisher, p.14.