Re-visioning McLuhan: Electronic communication technologies and schooling

Year: 2002

Author: Lynch, Julianne

Type of paper: Refereed paper

In the 1960's, Marshall McLuhan predicted that schooling, among other things, would be transformed as society embraced electronic communication technologies. McLuhan and other medium theorists provided an evocative but controversial discussion of the effects of technological development on society and its institutions. McLuhan's ideas were widely criticised by his contemporaries, particularly educationalists; however, his ideas are not so radical today and visions similar to those formulated by McLuhan can now be found in mainstream educational literature. Predictions made by medium theorists about the future of schooling are consistent with both the reforms advocated by current-day educationalists and the speculations of technologists.

In this paper, I revisit McLuhan's predictions for the future of education. I then draw parallels between McLuhan's vision and those espoused by contemporary educationalists. I argue that, although McLuhan's predictions have re-emerged, his analysis of the interaction between new technologies and old ways of doing have not re-emerged to the same extent, with many commentators neglecting to take account of the resilience of the institutionalised practices, structures and roles of traditional schooling.