Critical Discourse Analysis: Critically Examining Educational Tools through Discourse Analysis

Module developed by Mario Khreiche and Zhuoru Deng from NYU’s Department of Media, Culture, and Communication

This module introduces learners to critical discourse analysis (CDA) of education technologies (EdTech) that facilitate learning activities, such as video-based platforms and Learning Management Systems (LMS). The module guides learners to attend to the ways that EdTech providers (re)imagine classrooms as multimodal, monitored, and data-intensive spaces. Our interpretive approach is particularly interested in the interplay of images and text that document EdTech providers’ visions of learning. The module serves two main purposes: 

  • First: to foster a critical understanding of the ways that EdTech platforms seek to reshape educational environments, modes of participation, and meanings of learning. 
  • Second: to show how discourse analysis and other interpretive methods, despite their variable and context-dependent nature, are effective tools in anticipating critical implications and potential risks of (classroom) technologies.

Consistent with objectives of CDA (Farrelly 2019), the module might precede more comprehensive research programs that involve, for instance, ethnographic approaches or participant observations.



Exercise Download


Use discourse analysis to investigate a different platform

We recommend that you return to the Holon IQ, select a similar product, and go to its official website. Use the techniques practiced above to investigate. For example, the platforms of Engageli and Class not only provide similar services as Echo360, but their websites feature similar compositions of text, illustrations, videos, and linked articles.

Use a different tool to investigate any platform

Another option would be to select a different digital tool to explore the ways EdTech providers seek to reshape educational environments. You could use interpretive methods including word clouds (, text analysis (Voyant), language coding (Nvivo), and flowcharts (Diagram).


  1. EdTech providers offer more than assisting educational stakeholders and institutions. In many cases, they seek to create and optimize learning environments towards increased production and capture of learning data.
  2. EdTech providers increasingly seek to “datafy” students and their educational activities, thus contributing to new forms of value creation for educational institutions and commercial actors.
  3. EdTech providers seek to reshape educational environments, meanings, and expertise.
  4. Although interpretive methods aren’t easily reducible to replicable steps, they are effective tools in analyzing suggestive qualities of EdTech products as documented on websites (infographics, press releases, corporate blogs, APIs)

Additional Resources


  • The Holon IQ dataset that we suggest for this module contains a growing list of EdTech platforms that fit the parameters of analysis. It should be noted that Holon IQ is a for profit education market intelligence agency closely linked with EdTech investment and financialization.
  • The Edtech Database enables searches across EdTech subfields, regions, and institutions, but you need to create an account to fully access the database.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.