Does technology support, enhance, simulate or act as simulacra in our classrooms?
Published: 07 June 2013
How closely does the internet and the array of networked devices and services simulate the forms and functions in our schools? How effective are learning platforms, learning management systems, digital resources, eBooks or online courses in simulating tried and tested practices in the classroom? Perhaps we have reached a point where it is no longer a question of imitation, nor duplication; rather it has become a question of occasionally or wholly substituting real classroom practices with networked devices and services.  This is a contentious question and an increasing number of educational establishments are seeking to answer it. The growth of virtual schools and colleges and the number of schools, colleges and universities that deliver a proportion of their courses online is a testament to the confidence that education leaders have in networked devices and services to deliver education services to students. Massive Open Online Course providers such as the MIT view online learning as 'a rising tide that will lift all boats. It will not only increase access, it will also improve the quality of education.'  At the present moment in time there are a small number of services that can be said to be a faithful image or copy of classroom practice. Examples include Edmodo, Yammer, the Khan Academy, numerous learning platforms, YouTube, Twitter, FaceBook, Office 365, Google Apps, Amazon Whispercast, iTunesU and more. These services do not mirror everything that takes place in the classroom but they do aid and support a discrete set of functions that naturally and intuitively take place in classrooms across the globe. No single networked device or service is capable of encapsulating the nuances that take place in the classroom and we need to be wary of services that mask or pretend to deliver more than they can promise for teachers and students.
The early inventions of the Internet age are iconographic and rather stylistic representations and in some cases illusions of the classrooms and schools in which they are to be found
These early inventions of the Internet age are iconographic and rather stylistic representations and in some cases illusions of the classrooms and schools in which they are to be found. These technologies are assumptions about how students, teachers and administrators behave and conduct themselves within an education setting and we need to understand that these assumptions tend to have increasingly short shelf lives. There is a litany of technologies and services that prove this point; and dare I say that some of the services that we take for granted such as interactive whiteboards and traditional learning platforms will soon join their ranks. Overtime these technologies will be surpassed and replaced by new assumptions; assumptions that will be based on new technological advancements, reduced manufacturing costs; and by the sociological, political and educational factors of the time.
As always, if these assumptions are to be effective within an education setting, they will need to support the desired outcomes of teachers, students and parents alike. The emphasis that is placed on these assumptions will vary from school to school and as always these will be influenced by the culture, ethos, pedagogy and the availability of resources at each school.
Technology is agnostic. It does not determine how it is used. That depends on the social, cultural, political and economic context in which it is used. But it does have the potential to support, extend and enrich every subject studied in a school. Technology is profoundly democratic and it has the potential to improve the learning experience of everyone who comes into touch with it.
Digital culture can be defined as culture that is either constructed through or mediated by digital technologies
Technology profoundly shapes the self-conception of students and teachers and if extended further, technology has the potential to make schools question their very identity and purpose. It impacts on the way pupils and teachers interact with one another and it directly impacts on their learning, teaching, decision making and subsequently on the actions that they take. The medium of technology and its associated services within the education sector has transformed how subjects are delivered and taught. More importantly, technology will define a new set of roles, responsibilities and relationships for schools that are very different from what they have been used to. Perhaps the medium of technology is no longer the message, schools are no longer mediated by technology; schools and digital technology have dissolved into one another." 
The simulacra within an education setting does not simulate or duplicate pre-existing practices, norms and rituals of the classroom...it represents something new, something altogether alien to schools
In recent years the use of the internet, networked devices and services in classrooms have demonstrated their capacity to challenge traditional education orthodoxies; but have we seen any evidence to suggest that the internet and its array of networked services has begun to redefine educational institutions and their power bases, the services that they provide to the communities around them and how these services are delivered? A school's culture is increasingly influenced by the Internet and the growing number of networked devices and services used by teachers and students. The digital culture within a school can be defined as culture that is either constructed through or mediated by digital technologies. The manner by which schools are becoming subjectified through an increasing presence of networked devices and services in their classrooms is a concern to many school leaders. While many view the integration of technology into the contemporary school setting as a positive move, there is a degree of uncertainty and hence a level of anxiety about the role that technology will come to play in the future; hence the earlier question regarding the simulacra in our classrooms. The simulacra within an education setting does not simulate or duplicate pre-existing practices, norms and rituals of the classroom; rather it presents something new, something altogether alien to school administrators and teachers, something that redefines our perception of schooling.
The manner by which schools are becoming subjectified through an increasing presence of networked devices and services in their classrooms is a concern to many school leaders
Schools and students both derive power from the Internet, networked devices and networked services but not in the same manner. For instance, schools control how students access the Internet and also on what devices - these are governed by the culture and norms of each school; and they attempt to shape and govern IT use in their own image. Schools that overtly limit access to progressive technologies and services limit the ability of pupils to be productive actors in the modern digital world. But not since the introduction of the printing press will a technology have such a profound impact on the educational establishments that surround us. However, we need to be mindful of the fact that there is a handful of global companies that design, shape and distribute the technologies and education services that we all too often take for granted and upon which we rely so heavily on to perform our roles as learners, teachers and administrators in our schools, colleges and universities.