Critical Approaches to Educational Technology

DHUM 74700 (CRN #61142)
Tuesday, 4:15 – 6:15 PM | Room 4422
Prof. Luke Waltzer |
Office Hours: Monday, 4-5pm, or by appointment.

Course Overview

As schools at all levels integrate digital tools into teaching, learning, and administration, educational technology is an increasingly important and contested field. Too frequently educators adopt tools without sufficient concern for their impacts on students, faculty, and staff. Rhetoric in the field tends towards the techno-utopian, fueled by venture capital that’s often more hungry for lucrative user data than it is interested in finding better ways to support students.

Ideally, faculty, staff, and administrators will be critically engaged with developments in educational technology so that they can meaningfully advocate for the ethical deployment of tools on behalf of their institutions and their students. In this course, we will examine the history and current state of educational technology at the primary, secondary, and college and university levels, gaining a deeper understanding of how ed tech tools are conceived of and sold, procured and deployed, and rationalized and resisted. Students will gain hands-on experience with the skills and ways of making and working that educational technologists must possess if they wish to approach their work critically. We will pursue this work by drawing upon connections with the digital humanities, and by applying lessons learned to the specific contexts in which we work or aspire to work. Ultimately, participants in this class will build their capacity to advocate for approaches to educational technology that are purposeful and ethical.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Evaluate educational technology tools from both a pedagogical and ethical perspective;
  • Explain how software tools work to users at a variety of levels of experience;
  • Identify how, when, and why digital tools are necessary to pursue specific pedagogical goals;
  • Develop and present a staged plan for the rollout of a digital project within an educational context;
  • Articulate points of connection and departure between the digital humanities and educational technology;
  • Critically assess how educational technology has been integrated into their desired field of work.

Requirements and Structure

Students in the course should complete the following work during the semester:

Weekly Reading and Discussion:

Students should complete all weekly readings in advance of the class meeting and should take an active part in class discussions.

Blog Posts:

Each student will write a response to the readings for one week of the course, to be posted by Monday morning the day before the class in which those readings will be discussed. That student will also frame and initiate our discussion in class that week.

Each student will write an evaluation of an educational technology platform or tool using ideas drawn from readings and classroom discussion. Details for this assignment will be discussed in class.

Final Project:

Students will develop a final project that intervenes into how their chosen field, or one with which they identify, engages with educational technology. The project can take the form of a white paper, advocacy, a proposal for a tool, a digital project, or a form imagined by the student. The project must synthesize and reference the work of the course, and will be scaffolded over the course of the semester, culminating in a presentation and final artifact.

  • Project context, due February 18
  • Environmental scan/annotated bibliography, due March 17
  • Statement of intervention and justification of project form, due April 21
  • Presentations, May 5th and 12th
  • Final artifact, due May 18


Regular participation in discussions across the range of our face-to-face and online course spaces is essential.

  • Attendance and Participation (25%)
  • Blog posts (25%)
  • Project (50%)
    • Project context 5%
    • Environmental scan/annotated bibliography 5%
    • Intervention 5%
    • Presentation 10%
    • Final artifact 25%