Malcolm McLaren on Learning and Technology

Malcolm McLaren, artist, innovator and provocateur, former manager of the once notorious punk rock band The Sex Pistols, passed away on April 8th 2010. One of the last public speeches he gave was to an audience of educators and technologists at a conference series that I curated for more than 7 years.


Whilst looking through my archives I happened once again upon his talk that is in equal parts challenging, biographical and thought-provoking. If you have an hour to spend to watch theentire talk I recommend it but only if you don’t mind language that some consider risqué or adult themed. It is however the last 5 minutes of the talk where I think Malcolm really nails it in regard to the debate around how we use technology for learning.


He says:

“Technology has unquestionably put something else in its place. But it’s not used necessarily correctly. If you can use technology to rediscover the idea of a flaneur, the idea of the romantic notion of learning for learning’s sake, the idea of art of art’s sake not career then maybe. Because information is accessible now, of course, and at extremely low cost, of course. Everyone knows that. We can’t fall into the trap that you can just flit around online. Use the internet and technology to discover new ideas maybe, be a virtual flaneur maybe, debate, go further and deeper maybe.



Don’t take information for granted just because it’s free. One did at school and we learned back in the fifties that the UK was a nation of liars and simply taught a culture of deception. Use technology in the right way, don’t become a slave to it. That is don’t become so reliant on it that you can’t calculate or read a map, because how do you know then to turn left rather than turn right? How do you know how to even spot a lie? Use technology as a tool just like a pencil for learning. It’s not a replacement for applied learning basically, it’s not a replacement either for experience. That’s it.”



gbm-faceGraham Brown-Martin is the founder of Learning Without Frontiers (LWF), a global think tank that brought together renowned educators, technologists and creatives to share provocative and challenging ideas about the future of learning. He left LWF in 2013 to pursue new programmes and ideas to transform the way we learn, teach and live. His book, Learning {Re}imagined was recently published by Bloomsbury/WISE and is available now.