Thinking Technologically, a new basic in a post-truth world where machines do more of the thinking for us

“We are not what we know but what we are willing to learn.”

Mary Catherine Bateson

Author: Paul Clapton-Caputo, Principal Consultant: EdTechSA

Author: Paul Clapton-Caputo, Principal Consultant: EdTechSA

A moment of our attention is one of the most precious of commodities we can give anyone today, so first let me say with virtual, disembodied eye contact, thank you for sharing yours with me.

If there was a ‘like’ icon on Bateson’s quote I couldn’t hit it enough times to share with you how significantly it guides my thinking and interactions with people who work to progress technology and/or learning in meaningful ways.

To hear more from this insightful supernova, follow this link: How do you deal with ignorance? I don’t mean how do you shut ignorance out. Rather, how do you deal with an awareness of what you don’t know, and you don’t know how to know, in dealing with a particular problem?

Even though I have some experience and expertise in the area of technology, a problem I am gnawed by is:

What does it mean to think technologically?

This is the question that keeps me awake at night sometimes and finds its way into my head when I am having conversations about teaching and learning and what it means to be successful today.

In this context I am using ‘successful’ to be, for the purpose of this blog, anchored in The Melbourne Declaration 2008-2018 which is currently being reviewed but still holds true as a useful document for our work.

The Declaration is a significant national document for many reasons. Firstly, it was the genesis of the Australian Curriculum and it positions education as a means for social cohesion and the strengthening of democracy.

The Australian Curriculum is considered by some to be too complicated. When actually it reflects, in all its beautiful complexity of learning area disciplines, cross-curricular priorities and general capabilities, an expression of our increased expectations of what it is that constitutes an educational entitlement for children and young people today. As our world becomes increasingly complex, the Australian Curriculum provides a framework to guide our individual and collective work in shaping the learning experiences, and the way learners experience the learning.

In a world of mobility, always-on, fake-news and insta-famous white noise, the classrooms of today face many challenges in achieving one of the stated goals of the Melbourne Declaration which is to develop active and informed citizens who confidently and capably contribute to their worlds.

Digital literacy is fundamentally and unquestionably critical to succeed within, and beyond a classroom context.

Key to being a critical consumer in the digital age, it is important to identify the many types of misleading information that are important to understand and be able to identify when developing digital literacy in children, young people and ourselves.

They may include:

  • Propaganda
    Adopted by governments, corporations and non-profits to manage attitudes, values and knowledge.
    Appeals to emotions.
    Can be beneficial or harmful.


  • Clickbait
    Eye catching, sensational headlines designed to distract.
    Often misleading and content may not reflect the headline.
    Drives ad revenue.


  • Sponsored Content
    Advertising made to look like editorial.
    Potential conflict of interest for genuine news organisations.
    Consumers might not identify content as advertising if it is not clearly labelled.


  • Satire and Hoax
    Social commentary or humour.
    Varies widely in quality and intended meaning may not be apparent.
    Can embarrass people who confuse the content as true.\


  • Error
    Established news organisations sometimes make mistakes.
    Mistakes can hurt the brand, offend and result in litigation.
    Reputable organisations publish apologies.


  • Partisan
    Ideological and includes interpretation of facts but may claim to be impartial.
    Privileges facts that conform to the narrative whilst forgoing others.
    Use of emotional and passionate language.


  • Conspiracy Theory
    Tries to explain simply complex realities as response to fear and uncertainty.
    Not easily falsifiable and evidence that refutes the conspiracy is regarded as further proof of the conspiracy.
    Rejects experts and authority


  • Pseudoscience
    Purveyors of greenwashing, miracle cures, anti-vaccination and climate change denial.
    Misrepresents real scientific studies with exaggerated or false claims.
    Often contradicts experts and established knowledge.


  • Misinformation
    Includes a mix of factual, false or partly false content.
    Intention can be to inform but author may not be aware the content is false.
    False attributions, doctored content and misleading headlines.


  • Bogus
    Entirely fabricated content spread intentionally to disinform.
    Guerrilla marketing tactics; bots, comments and counterfeit branding.
    Motivated by ad revenue, political influence or both.

Any of these can impact in many ways on how children, young people and adults develop as active and informed citizens who confidently and capably contribute to their worlds.

Critical thinking is a vaccination to the harmful impact that comes from passive consumption of ‘24/7, always on, click and go’ content. The belief that democracy means ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge’ Isaac Asimov

What does a digital vaccination look like in a classroom context?

We can begin by increasing the times we ask learners:

  • What do you notice?
  • What are you thinking?
  • Why do you think that?
  • Who has influenced your thinking?
  • What questions do you have?
  • Who does this include, exclude?
  • Is this always the case?
  • How do you know?
  • Who agrees and who disagrees?
  • How would you argue in favour/against your current position?
  • What would it take to change your mind?

and ask questions that promote dialogue, reflection, pausing, consideration and diversity of thought and opinion make questioning behaviours visible. These are daily essentials in a contemporary classroom that begin to address the growing threat of ‘fake news’. We empower learners to be discerning, thoughtful consumers of ideas, evidence and wisdom. But, you already know that.

Is this enough though? Not really, although it is a start. Our truth is our truth until we open ourselves to conversations with ourselves and with others. When we push through the comfort of our way of knowing and certainty to the space of what we might not know, or have not considered. Through to the space of what we are learning, not just what we know.

So, the good news is that what has worked is possibly still valuable and appropriate when it comes to thinking about our views and questioning deeply the credibility of information. The not so good news is we haven’t even touched on deep fakes, the half-life of facts and machine learning as it relates to a post truth reality.

We will save those for another moment of attention in the near future. Thinking Technologically is very much about critical thinking, critical questioning and much, much more. It is about aligning our decisions to what we believe and what we value and what is ethical, sustainable and leads us closer to preferred rather than probably futures. It is, at its foundation, asking ourselves and thinking deeply about the realisation that just because we can, should we? Crisper babies, cognitively enhanced primates, commercialised data, automated weaponry require individual and collective responsibility to contribute meaningfully to public dialogue. A need to Think Technologically.

In the meantime you might want to take a look at the Finnish Toolkit for Digital Literacy via the link and have a look and discussion in your context with your colleagues about the Eavi Media Literacy for Citizenship Infograph that I have used as the source for the 10 identified misleading news points in this blog.

Additional links that may be of interest

Paul Clapton-Caputo
Principal Consultant: EdTechSA

The views expressed are solely those of the author in their private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of any other entity, or role that the author is associated with.