EDDL 5101 Week 1 Activity 4: Bates and Watters Reflections for Practice

  1. Describe and discuss one or two elements from the Bates or Watters chapters that allowed you to think deeper about your past or present teaching.

How can educational technology promote or limit the learning process? Both Bates (2015) and Watters (2014) identified external factors that have impacted education, such as massification, industrialization, and funding. The impact of these factors contributes to a need to change teaching methods, yet technological innovation may not be adopted by individuals or institutions. Educational technology has the potential to transform approaches to teaching and learning but can also reproduce ideologies and marginalization in learners’ educational experiences.

Functional Fixedness: The Role of Perception in Adoption of Educational Technology  

How many nontraditional uses for a water bottle can you think of? (Bluewater Sweden, 2020)

Bates (2015) encourages educators to use a framework to assess if a mode of delivery is effective for the learning process and consider how space influences learning. However, without institutional support and resources, innovative educational technology may not be adopted into practice. I wondered if functional fixedness played a role in individual and institutional resistance to adopting innovative educational technology. Functional fixedness is a cognitive bias that limits our ability to creatively solve problems; we fix our perception of an object’s function. For example, I might experience functional fixedness if I only use a water bottle as a beverage container, but not as a storage container for loose screws, a back scratcher, or a weapon when needed. This issue in problem-solving can occur for individuals, but also institutions. For more information on functional fixedness, please review The Decision Lab (2021). Do we overlook the pedagogical applications of a platform due to a fixed perception of its function? How can we overcome functional fixedness when considering educational technology applications in teaching and learning?

Critical Theory: The Role of Education Technology in Socialization to Marginalize or Include Learners

Watters (2014) emphasized the need to identify and critically analyze the historical roots of educational technology to avoid reproducing unaccommodating ideologies embedded in the design and application. Without questioning origins, institutional culture and business interests inherent in educational technology design and applications are reinforced, limiting pedagogical potential and learner agency.

Watters’ (2014) points reminded me of Paulo Freire, and I wondered how educational technology shapes the socialization process, and vise versa. Freire was a Brazilian adult educator and philosopher in the 19th century; he advocated for critical pedagogy in his defining work Pedagogy of the Oppressed which influenced activist movements. Freire advocated that education is a means for the oppressed to transform their conditions. Oppressors need to be aware and reconsider their context and role in oppression. He argued that social inequalities create a culture of silence, leading to an absence critique and detrimental internal and external outcomes for the oppressed (Williams, 1999). How does the delivery of curriculum reproduce cultural capital and social injustices?

In reflection, it seems that the design and application of educational technology has the potential increase inclusion or marginalization. Bill 6 – 2021: Accessible British Columbia Act (Queen’s Printer, 2021) was recently passed to reduce barriers for persons with disabilities. My students, with and without disabilities, have reported to me that practices in educational settings such as using closed captioning has improved their learning experience. However, there are still several equity issues for international students, students with disabilities, Indigenous students living on reservations, and students who live in remote areas for accessing educational technology to participate in learning. Please see How COVID-19 Worsens Canada’s Digital Divide by Stewart (2020) for an example. Therefore, we do need to apply lens from different perspectives (e.g., a social model of disability, critical theory, Indigenization, etc.) to ensure educational technology is inclusive instead of marginalizing.

Reflection Questions

                Functional Fixedness

  • Can you think of examples of functional fixedness in your teaching practice?
  • Do you think functional fixedness plays a role in designing or adopting innovative educational technology at your institution?
  • What are ways you can overcome functional fixedness or encourage others to do so when considering educational technology applications in teaching and learning?

               Critical Theory

  • What ideologies are embedded in platforms that you use and how do they impact learners?
  • How do the educational technology platforms you use shape pedagogical practice?
  • How do the educational technology platforms you use increase accessibility and inclusion?
  • How do the education technology platforms you use reproduce inequities or limit learner agency?

Leave a comment and tell me what you think about functional fixedness and critical theory in reference to educational technology in your experience and practice.


Bates, A. W. (2015). Teaching in a digital age: Guidelines for designing teaching and learning. Vancouver, BC: Tony Bates Associates Ltd. https://opentextbc.ca/teachinginadigitalage/part/chapter-1-fundamental-change-in-education/

Bluewater Sweden. (2000, November 17). Healthy hydration at home [Photograph]. Unsplashed. https://unsplash.com/photos/4Kd3svPFuEI

Queen’s Printer. (2021). Bill 6 – 2021: Accessible British Columbia Act. https://www.bclaws.gov.bc.ca/civix/document/id/bills/billscurrent/2nd42nd:gov06-1

Stewart, B. (2020, September 23). How COVID-19 worsens Canada’s digital divide. CBC News. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/covid-19-highlights-urban-rural-digital-divide-1.5734167

The Decision Lab. (2021). Why do we have trouble thinking outside the box? https://thedecisionlab.com/biases/functional-fixedness/

Watters, A. (2014). The hidden history of ed-tech. In The monsters of educational technology (pp. 7-31). https://s3.amazonaws.com/audreywatters/the-monsters-of-education-technology.pdf#page=7

Williams, L. (1999, November 27). Rage & Hope. http://www.perfectfit.org/CT/index2.html

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