Rejecting instrumental-deterministic CALL: Towards a critical reading of power in online English education

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Downloads (Pure)


As online education expands in the wake of recent global events, concerns over the privileging of dominant languages, cultures and epistemologies gain prominence. Despite the explicit biases and assumptions found within hegemonic learning contexts, however, inquiry within the domain of computer-assisted language learning (CALL) typically manifests via decontextualised interpretations. Consequently, this inquiry aims to contribute to the theoretical expansion of digital education by situating CALL within Feenberg’s critical theory of technology (CTT). In doing so, it intends to answer calls for the engagement of CTT to question instrumental and deterministic accounts of digital English language learning (ELL) and expose the subtle influences that impact the transmission of English within the online space. This inquiry finds that digital ELL obfuscates alternative epistemological and linguistic contexts, with the prevalence of English native speakerism presupposing dominion over subaltern cultures. Practitioners should thus moderate the temptation to draw on ‘euphoric’ conceptualisations of CALL, with specific reference to exaggerated visions of egalitarian participation structures and the across-the-board beneficial impact of digital practices on learner engagement. Finally, not all uses of English hold equal power and status, with graduated degrees of access to technological and linguistic capital driving a circular system of socio-economic reproduction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50-65
JournalPower and Education
Issue number1
Early online date22 Feb 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2022


  • Computer-assisted language learning
  • critical theory of technology
  • English as a foreign language
  • English language learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Rejecting instrumental-deterministic CALL: Towards a critical reading of power in online English education'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this