ETEC 565B: METatheory: New Materialism Meets the History of Educational Media


As every MET student knows particularly keenly, it matters a lot what medium educational communication happens in. This course tells a counter-story to the introductory one that students usually encounter (and that scholars mostly work with and within), which is a (western) history of ideas. That approach has had to be rethought, as we’ve recognized the narrow span of the ideas this story has included.

So we will take a different route to cover the same terrain as well as to venture beyond its usual pathways. This course is more like a history of tools. But more than a history of tools as material “things,” this course will be concerned with understanding the relations of tools to ideas, to people, and to the places and times technologies people used in trying to ‘educate’, the forms of pedagogical communications those tools made possible (and suppressed), and how “knowledge” was – and is – conveyed, understood, and mobilized in peoples’ lives.

As well, this will be a “making” kind of course. First, you will be engaged in regular activities of intellectual production, where you grapple with a set of texts, classic and contemporary, across the spectrum of research traditions and use both traditional and new media forms to extend and communicate your understandings through the course. Second is a whole-class collaborative production. Focussing on the impacts of media and technologies on how educational work (and play) get done, each student will contribute an entry to a digital archive: an educational technology timeline that describes, illustrates, and discusses significant educational artifacts and their associated technologies and techniques. The intent here is to contribute to a more expansive and deeper understanding of what we are choosing, and what we may be losing, in implementing specific educational technologies. The third and final project will be to design and produce an educationally useful tool – this can be part of a lesson, a game or quiz, a way of recording student progress, an online survey, etc. The purpose of this assignment is to involve students as designers and creators, not merely users and consumers, of technologies for education.

In this course, then, we will examine the educative possibilities for new and emergent digital media, asking whether and how what we know and how we know is re-shaped, re-mediated, and invariably altered by education’s technological affordances. Focussing on the design, development, and practical implementation of learning tools, we will explore technologies for education as necessarily constructive, rather than receptive, media.

Learning Objectives

This course and its related assignments, discussions, and activities are directed toward the following learning outcomes:

  • Understand paradigmatic theories of education from its earliest beginnings to the present.
  • Identify, describe, and situate in time and place the main ideas of the architects of those theories, with attention to their concurrent and subsequent educational tools and technologies.
  • Gain sufficient familiarity with the tenets of new materialism to understand and be able to explain, with specific examples, what this perspective contributes to educational technology theory, research, design, and assessment.
  • Complete assignments using a variety of media/forms.
  • Complete and contribute one educational technology ‘case study’ to the class archive.
  • Create a digital artifact that has a clear purpose and a real-world educational use in your own practice (this can be collaborative or solo work).


  • Module 1: Educational Media Ecologies
  • Module 2: Tools of Intellect: From Tradition to Innovation
  • Module 3: Tools and Technologies in Context: People, Places, Paradigms
  • Module 4: Pedagogic Communications
  • Module 5: Technologies of Externalization: From Embodied Knowledge to Virtual Realities
  • Module 6: Prescriptive vs Wholistic Technologies
  • Module 7: Mediation/Re-Mediation
  • Module 8: “Lines of Flight” Over Times and Across Space: Historical and Cultural Trajectories
  • Module 9: Educational Accountability: Technologies of Surveillance; Technologies of Support
  • Module 10: The New Materialist Turn

Readings & Resources

All course materials will be available online via the Library Online Course Reserve (LOCR) linked to the course navigation menu and/or from hyperlinks to freely available videos and articles online.

Examples of required readings and resources

  • Lum, C.M.K. (2000). Introduction: The intellectual roots of media ecology. New Jersey Journal of Communication, 8(1), 1-7.
  • Taylor, P. G. (1996). Pedagogical challenges of open learning: Looking to borderline issues. In E. McWilliam & P.G. Taylor (Eds.), Pedagogy, technology and the body. Peter Lang.
  • Brice-Heath, S. (1993). Re-thinking the sense of the past: The essay as legacy of the epigram. In L. Odell (Ed.), Theory and practice in the teaching of writing: Rethinking the discipline (pp. 105-131). Southern Illinois University Press.
  • Toohey, K. (2018). New materialism and language learning. In Learning English at School (2nd ed.). Multilingual Matters.
  • Franklin, U. (1989, November 7). The real world of technology, part 1 [Radio broadcast]. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
  • Johnson, M. C. (2015). Wands or quills? Lessons in pedagogy from Harry Potter. The CEA Forum, 44(2), 75-91.

Assignments & Assessment

1. Individual Intellectual Productions *includes required readings (%40)

Your job is to complete 8 out of the 10 activities for your intellectual productions. #1, #2, #3, #6, #8 and #10 are required, and two are your choice. Those 8 “intellectual production” activities are to be posted to your own website that you create, and some of those activities you will share with your classmates by linking to the course website.

2. Synchronous Events: Required Group Synchronous Attendance (10%):

  • Whole Group: Syllabus Tour (First week of official class start date) – 5%
  • Whole Group: Presentation and demonstration of Final Project – 5%

3. Collaborative “Tool Timeline” Project: Contributions to Class Website (10%)

4. Final Project: Individual or Collaborative Technology Design/Production (40%)

Individually, or in a small (no more than 4) group of your choice, the final project is to design, develop, and produce a tool for your own educational use, based squarely on your own values, needs, and interests. This “tool” will be a digital resource created and developed using technologies that are available to you. A brief, written (400 word max) overview of the project is required. It is expected that student technology experiences, skills, and access will vary a lot; however, it is also expected that you will build new skills or advance those you have, and as one component of your short project overview, you will be asked to report specifically on what new tech skill/s you needed and how you learned them.

Minor course topic, activity, reading/resource, and assignment details may change from year to year.