Here’s my take on the technology issue. The subject is vast, so I’ll limit my comments to typical uses of technology in education and how certain types of knowledge are prioritised, using this lens as a proxy for research assumptions and perspectives. I believe that doing so is validated because it isn’t difficult to conceive of research models once the educational uses are outlined.
Qualitative and quantitative perspectives differ in the types of surface information generated (Lund, 2005). Quantitative models test hypotheses by mapping constructs onto variables and manipulating those variables (Moses & Knutsen, 2012). Qualitative research often generates an understanding of those variables through interviews, observations and other methods (Moses & Knutsen, 2012). Lund (2005) argues that the ultimate attention on both types of research means that they should not be as separate as most authors contend. However for many educational technology purposes, the attention needs to be on the variables. Most educational software, and arguably all adaptive systems and testing software, is predicated on the algorithms that undergird the software. In practice, the software can only accept a limited number and type of responses. In this sense, much of educational technology is both behaviourist in principle and shares many of the tenets in quantitative research design.
There are (at least) two other key assumptions in play when using educational technology. Screen-based learning reduces not only the possible response types available but also it eliminates many possible sensory inputs. For example, there is no olfactory learning, a facet of cognition that has repeatedly been linked to memory (Zucco, Herz, & Schaal, 2012). Until educational technology installs motion-sickness free virtual reality headsets and other motion based systems, most uses of technology limit the kinaesthetic aspects of computer learning to very limited physical actions. On a private note here, I’ve been amazed at how engrossed my children can be for hours simply pressing their index finger on an iPad screen. Other senses (beyond the five traditional ones) are likewise neglected.
Lave and Wenger’s (1991) notion of situated learning becomes problematic with educational technology. A hidden curriculum that emerges between master and disciple is lost. Of course, I do not mean to imply that ICT is a negative force in education. Sensitive use of technology allows for many powerful learning opportunities. However, in and of itself, educational technology points to a reductive methodology that is founded upon behaviourist principles. It is hardly neutral at all.
Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Learning in doing (Vol. 95). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Lund, T. (2005). The Qualitative–Quantitative Distinction: Some comments. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 49(2), 115–132. http://doi.org/10.1080/00313830500048790
Moses, J. W., & Knutsen, T. L. (2012). Ways of knowing: Competing methodologies in social and political research (2nd ed.). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Zucco, G. M., Herz, R. S., & Schaal, B. (2012). Olfactory Cognition : From Perception and Memory to Environmental Odours and Neuroscience. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.