The Ideological Appropriation of Digital Technology in UK Education: Symbolic Violence and the Selling and Buying of the “Transformation Fallacy”

  • Timothy Rudd
Part of the Palgrave Macmillan’s Digital Education and Learning book series (DEAL)


The drive to embed digital technology into schools in recent years has been one of the most significant areas of investment in a shifting educational landscape. In many countries, such substantial investment occurred within a period of perceived prosperity and was often uncritically promoted as the “technological fix” within broader modernization agendas, thereby creating new educational markets and diverting energy, resource, and attention from wider and more fundamental structural and organizational issues. In the United Kingdom, the “New” Labour government’s “third way” politics represented a clear break from the traditional Left and the symbolic appropriation of new technologies conveyed a wider modernizing intent. Their aim of embedding digital technologies 1 in schools between 1997 and 2010 led to substantial investment, supported by rhetoric heralding the transformation of education, a need to develop pupils’ “twenty-first-century learning” skills, and based on an assumption that such action would somehow assure future economic prosperity (DfEE, 1997). Yet despite the significant emphasis, resourcing, growth in interest, activity, and the emergence of various bodies and organizations seeking to promote and embed technology in schools, it could be argued that such bold claims amounted to little more than hyperbole and rhetoric. This chapter critically reflects on these policies and outcomes, arguing that not only did the UK government fail to transform education, but also the outcome and legacy was the accentuation of broader neoliberal frameworks and principles, through the stimulation of an educational technology marketplace, and the embedding and transmission of ideologically informed assumptions about the nature and purpose of education.


Educational Technology Digital Technology Economic Competitiveness Symbolic Violence Unequal Power Relation 
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Copyright information

© Neil Selwyn and Keri Facer 2013

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  • Timothy Rudd

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