Applying Slow to ICT-rich education: A vision for the ‘long now’

Miriam Tanti

PhD thesis, conferred 2016

In everyday public and policy discourse, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is strongly associated with speed – with rapidly accelerating innovation in products and services, with shortening lifecycles for products and careers, and with unpredictable changes in global flows of capital, goods and risk. This study explores a different set of ideas – ideas associated with Slow – slow food, slow cities, slow design, etc. A motivation behind the study is to reframe the way we think about ICT in Education – to question the strength of the connections between ICT and ‘fast’ and to explore what Slow ideas might look like in alternative conceptions of ICT and Education.

The thesis carries out this exploration by weaving together strands of philosophical and educational inquiry. It explores meanings of Slow in thinking about education, and life more broadly. It uncovers and interprets four themes: Slow as a state of mind; reconceptualising time; valuing process and the connectedness of self, people and place. It uses phenomenology to study lived experiences of Slow and of ICT, in education and beyond. The research reported in the thesis falls into three phases. In the first phase, I interviewed a range of people who are advocates of Slow – to find out more than can be found in their writings alone about what Slow means to them, and to tease out some connections in their thinking about Slow and their thinking about Education and/or ICT. (Only one of these people was formally involved in Education.) The four common themes mentioned above began to appear in my analysis of these interviews.

In Phase Two, I conducted in-depth interviews with people who have recent, in-depth experience of working with ICT in Education. Analysis of these interviews was coupled with philosophical reflections on aspects of Slow to illuminate an ontology of Slow in the educational context. I designed and produced an artefact to capture what was emerging as the essence of Slow – in relation to Education. This artefact – a simple but carefully designed document – was used as a focal point and stimulus for a small group discussion: the centrepiece of Phase Three of the research. This focus group consisted of experienced educators and their reflections on the Slow ideas, my practical aims and their own professional experiences produced some further insights into the challenges of applying Slow ideas in rethinking ICT in Education.

Supervisor: Professor Peter Goodyear