Is it the technology? Challenging technological determinism in music education.

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Ruthmann, S. A., Tobias, E. S., Randles, C., & Thibeault, M. (2015). Is it the technology? Challenging technological determinism in music education. In C. Randles (Ed.), Music education: Navigating the future (pp. 122-138). New York, NY: Routledge.

In this co-authored chapter Alex Ruthmann, Clint Randles, Matthew Thibeault, and I provide multiple perspectives on the notion of technological determinism in relation to music education. Simply put, technological determinism is a perspective in which one argues that technology determines or causes what occurs. The aspect of technological determinism I focus on in the chapter  is “the claim…that technology itself exercises causal influence on social practice” (Bimber, 1994, p. 83). Technological determinism rears its head with claims of technology having beneficial or negative effects on music teaching and learning.

Throughout the chapter I situate the issue of technological determinism and possibilities of technology in terms of the musical and learning goal of developing aural skills. I discuss the following themes:

  • Framing the integration of technology from a perspective of mediation to acknowledge interactions between technology and context
  • Addressing potential affordances and constraints of technology
  • Understanding contextual relationships between people and technology
  • Engaging technology from a critical perspective

Other aspects of the chapter include:

  • Ruthmann providing an introduction to the concept of technological determinism and how it might occur in music education
  • Randles discussing the tension between free will and technological determinism
  • Thibeault explaining how technological determinism “makes sense” but is not necessarily “sensible”

As a whole, the chapter provides some nuance to discourse on technology in music education and an opportunity for music educators to reflect on how they situate technology in their curricula and practice.


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