Promoting Mr. 'Chips': the construction of the teacher/computer relationship in educational advertising

Selwyn, Neil; Dawes, Lyn and Mercer, Neil (2001). Promoting Mr. 'Chips': the construction of the teacher/computer relationship in educational advertising. Teaching and Teacher Education, 17(1) pp. 3–14.



The £1 billion government drive to integrate information and communications technology (ICT) into UK schools and colleges has been firmly focused on the technological transformation of the teaching profession. In particular, the establishment of a National Grid for Learning (NGfL) remains dependent on the successful ‘selling’ of ICT to teachers; many of whom have previously proved unwilling to use computers. In practice much of this task has been left to IT firms, eager to promote their products to a potentially lucrative educational marketplace. From this basis the present paper takes a detailed examination of educational computing advertising material currently being produced by IT firms in the UK. In particular it concentrates on how advertisements construct both the process of education and the teacher as a potential user of ICT. Four dominant themes emerge from this analysis: ICT as problematic for teachers; ICT as a problem solver for teachers; ICT as a futuristic form of education; and ICT as a traditional form of education. Despite the conflicting, and often contra-factual, nature of these four discourses the paper argues that educational computing advertising is consistent in its disempowering portrayal of the teacher at the expense of both the computer and IT firm. This ‘demotion’ of the teacher is likely to have negative effects on the way that teachers approach ICT as part of their professional routine, running contrary to the underlying aims of the National Grid for Learning initiative.

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