Slides and abstract for the presentation can be found below.

A video recording of the presentation is also available.



Digital technology is increasingly a pervasive presence in contemporary society. The knowledge and skills required to utilise digital technologies are increasingly seen as necessary for both individuals and organisations, if they wish to become successful participants in and contributors to society. For the individuals and organisations involved in education there is a growing expectation that they are not only required to help learners develop the necessary digital technology knowledge and skills, but that they have the knowledge and skills to effectively use digital technology to fulfill that requirement. Recent history suggests that many individuals and institutions involved in education are struggling to fulfill this expectation (Bigum, 2012; Johnson, Adams Becker, Estrada, & Freeman, 2015; Masters, 2016; Mcleod & Carabott, 2016; OECD, 2015; Willingham, 2016).

There are numerous factors that contribute toward these on-going struggles. However, this talk will propose that ignorance of and the subsequent failure to harness the true nature of digital technology is a significant, under-examined, and in some cases deemed an unimportant factor (Kirschner, 2015). Drawing on a range of literature (Kay, 1984; Mishra & Koehler, 2006; Papert, 1993; Yoo, Boland, Lyytinen, & Majchrzak, 2012; Yoo, Henfridsson, & Lyytinen, 2010) this talk will develop a model for understanding the fundamental properties and unique affordances of digital technology. The talk will illustrate how this model can be used to identify and understand significant shortcomings with existing practice and research at all levels of education. Lastly, the talk will use the model to map out potentially, fruitful areas of future research around questions such as:

  • Why will growing up using digital technology everyday never be sufficient to make you a digital native?
  • Why might 88.5% of teachers and 74% of students in Auburn, Maine prefer laptops over iPads, and what might that say about the value of tablets as computing devices?
  • Why is the Moodle assignment activity so hard to use in my course and why does the provided documentation not help?
  • What’s next after the Learning Management System?
  • Why is the current push to embed the teaching of coding in primary schools likely to fail and what might be done about it?
  • How might an educational institution leverage the fundamental properties and unique affordances of digital technology to be “a leader in physical and digital higher education learning experiences geared to a diverse student constituency“?


Bigum, C. (2012). Schools and computers: Tales of a digital romance. In L. Rowan & C. Bigum (Eds.), Transformative Approaches to New Technologies and student diversity in futures oriented classrooms: Future Proofing Education (pp. 15–28). London: Springer.

Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Estrada, V., & Freeman, A. (2015). NMC Horizon Report: 2015 K-12 Edition. Austin, Texas.

Kay, A. (1984). Computer Software. Scientific American, 251(3), 53–59.

Kirschner, P. a. (2015). Do we need teachers as designers of technology enhanced learning? Instructional Science, 43(2), 309–322.

Masters, G. (2016). Five challenges in Australian School Education.

Mcleod, A., & Carabott, K. (2016). Students struggle with digital skills because their teachers lack confidence. The Conversation. Retrieved May 30, 2016, from

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017–1054.

OECD. (2015). Students, Computers and Learning: Making the Connection. Paris.

Papert, S. (1993). Mindstorms: Children, Computers and Powerful ideas (2nd ed.). New York, New York: Basic Books.

Willingham, D. (2016, May 15). The false promise of tech in schools: Let’s make chagrined admission 2.0. New York Daily News. Retrieved from

Yoo, Y., Boland, R. J., Lyytinen, K., & Majchrzak, A. (2012). Organizing for Innovation in the Digitized World. Organization Science, 23(5), 1398–1408.

Yoo, Y., Henfridsson, O., & Lyytinen, K. (2010). The new organizing logic of digital innovation: An agenda for information systems research. Information Systems Research, 21(4), 724–735.

6 thoughts on “Digital technology ignorance and its implications for learning and teaching

  1. Like! the Simpsons image.

    Interesting research questions at the end. The idea that current push for coding in schools will fail is the elephant in the room. At least in high school it is often an elective, but I’ve seen some dodgy whole-school integration of coding in primary and wonder if it would best serve our kids left as electives taught by teachers with excellent IT skills & knowledge. I actually think giving students the space and time to make & be creative is a better focus and likely has more potential in developing youth who are innovative. I wish I ran a MakerSpace at school but it’s surprising how rigid some curriculum programmes are and how difficult it is to work around it; for now I run ad hoc one lesson MakerSpace inspired classes between units of work.

    I agree that a major problem with Teacher & Ed leadership right now is this blind-follow of media/govt. #codingcounts hype. Their ignorance may very well result in turning kids off to learning IT altogether. Previous to this “coding for every child” mantra there was the eSafety bandwagon which resulted in scare tactics and massive blocking of Internet sites at schools. I talk to senior Year 11 & 12 students often who think their avoidance of all social media and online collaboration sites is good and then I am the first teacher to tell them that all of these sites are commonly used in Business organisations today; ridiculous! How will these young adults manage online collaboration at work? Then there are also many students who use social media etc successfully outside of school and then routinely told at school that creating a PowerPoint presentation is the height of their integrated ICT learning at school. What a mess!

    1. Thinking more about barriers to learning how to program. Have seen mention as having something useful to do with programming mentioned. Harks back to my days teaching intro programming. Converting temperature between metric and imperial wasn’t all that exciting.

      What reasons might a primary school teacher have to use programming in their everyday life? Especially given all the tech they use is not protean?

  2. Hi David,

    Indeed very thought provoking questions to ponder.

    “Why will growing up using digital technology everyday never be sufficient to make you a digital native?”
    Not something I have thought too much about, and an interesting perspective.

    “Why is the Moodle assignment activity so hard to use in my course and why does the provided documentation not help?”
    You should have a go at the Moodle Workshop Activity. Some might consider I have some modest ability with technology. Yet, I’ve attempted to tinker with it twice and both times gave up frustrated. Teachers are more or less compelled to use the Moodle assignment activity. I’d be interested to know how many actually use the workshop activity. Did anyone expose or include teachers and students while designing these functions?

    “What’s next after the Learning Management System?”
    The LMS services the institution primarily, followed by the teachers, and the lowly student gets a bit of a look in (maybe). So moving on from the LMS will depend on the needs of institutions, and maybe teachers. Will have little to do with students.

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