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The Stories We Were Told about Education Technology (2018)
"It’s been quite a year for education news, not that you’d know that by listening to much of the ed-tech industry (press). Subsidized by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, some publications have repeatedly run overtly and covertly sponsored articles that hawk the future of learning as “personalized,” as focused on “the whole child.” Some of these attempt to stretch a contemporary high-tech vision of social emotional surveillance so it can map onto a strange vision of progressive education, overlooking no doubt how the history of progressive education has so often been intertwined with race science and eugenics.

Meanwhile this year, immigrant, refugee children at the United States border were separated from their parents and kept in cages, deprived of legal counsel, deprived of access to education, deprived in some cases of water.

“Whole child” and cages – it’s hardly the only jarring juxtaposition I could point to.

2018 was another year of #MeToo, when revelations about sexual assault and sexual harassment shook almost every section of society – the media and the tech industries, unsurprisingly, but the education sector as well – higher ed, K–12, and non-profits alike, as well school sports all saw major and devastating reports about cultures and patterns of sexual violence. These behaviors were, once again, part of the hearings and debates about a Supreme Court Justice nominee – a sickening deja vu not only for those of us that remember Anita Hill ’s testimony decades ago but for those of us who have experienced something similar at the hands of powerful people. And on and on and on.

And yet the education/technology industry (press) kept up with its rosy repetition that social equality is surely its priority, a product feature even – that VR, for example, a technology it has for so long promised is “on the horizon,” is poised to help everyone, particularly teachers and students, become more empathetic. Meanwhile, the founder of Oculus Rift is now selling surveillance technology for a virtual border wall between the US and Mexico.

2018 was a year in which public school teachers all over the US rose up in protest over pay, working conditions, and funding, striking in red states like West Virginia, Kentucky, and Oklahoma despite an anti-union ruling by the Supreme Court.

And yet the education/technology industry (press) was wowed by teacher influencers and teacher PD on Instagram, touting the promise for more income via a side-hustle like tutoring rather by structural or institutional agitation. Don’t worry, teachers. Robots won’t replace you, the press repeatedly said. Unsaid: robots will just de-professionalize, outsource, or privatize the work. Or, as the AI makers like to say, robots will make us all work harder (and no doubt, with no unions, cheaper).

2018 was a year of ongoing and increased hate speech and bullying – racism and anti-Semitism – on campuses and online.

And yet the education/technology industry (press) still maintained that blockchain would surely revolutionize the transcript and help insure that no one lies about who they are or what they know. Blockchain would enhance “smart spending” and teach financial literacy, the ed-tech industry (press) insisted, never once mentioning the deep entanglements between anti-Semitism and the alt-right and blockchain (specifically Bitcoin) backers.

2018 was a year in which hate and misinformation, magnified and spread by technology giants, continued to plague the world. Their algorithmic recommendation engines peddled conspiracy theories (to kids, to teens, to adults). “YouTube, the Great Radicalizer” as sociologist Zeynep Tufekci put it in a NYT op-ed.

And yet the education/technology industry (press) still talked about YouTube as the future of education, cheerfully highlighting (that is, spreading) its viral bullshit. Folks still retyped the press releases Google issued and retyped the press releases Facebook issued, lauding these companies’ (and their founders’) efforts to reshape the curriculum and reshape the classroom.

This is the ninth year that I’ve reviewed the stories we’re being told about education technology. Typically, this has been a ten (or more) part series. But I just can’t do it any more. Some people think it’s hilarious that I’m ed-tech’s Cassandra, but it’s not funny at all. It’s depressing, and it’s painful. And no one fucking listens.

If I look back at what I’ve written in previous years, I feel like I’ve already covered everything I could say about 2018. Hell, I’ve already written about the whole notion of the “zombie idea” in ed-tech – that bad ideas never seem to go away, that just get rebranded and repackaged. I’ve written about misinformation and ed-tech (and ed-tech as misinformation). I’ve written about the innovation gospel that makes people pitch dangerously bad ideas like “Uber for education” or “Alexa for babysitting.” I’ve written about the tech industry’s attempts to reshape the school system as its personal job training provider. I’ve written about the promise to “rethink the transcript” and to “revolutionize credentialing.” I’ve written about outsourcing and online education. I’ve written about coding bootcamps as the “new” for-profit higher ed, with all the exploitation that entails. I’ve written about the dangers of data collection and data analysis, about the loss of privacy and the lack of security.

And yet here we are, with Mark Zuckerberg – education philanthropist and investor – blinking before Congress, promising that AI will fix everything, while the biased algorithms keep churning out bias, while the education/technology industry (press) continues to be so blinded by “disruption” it doesn’t notice (or care) what’s happened to desegregation, and with so many data breaches and privacy gaffes that they barely make headlines anymore.

Folks. I’m done.

I’m also writing a book, and frankly that’s where my time and energy is going.

There is some delicious irony, I suppose, in the fact that there isn’t much that’s interesting or “innovative” to talk about in ed-tech, particularly since industry folks want to sell us on the story that tech is moving faster than it’s ever moved before, so fast in fact that the ol’ factory model school system simply cannot keep up.

I’ve always considered these year-in-review articles to be mini-histories of sorts – history of the very, very recent past. Now, instead, I plan to spend my time taking a longer, deeper look at the history of education technology, with particular attention for the next few months, as the title of my book suggests, to teaching machines – to the promises that machines will augment, automate, standardize, and individualize instruction. My focus is on the teaching machines of the mid-twentieth century, but clearly there are echoes – echoes of behaviorism and personalization, namely – still today.

In his 1954 book La Technique (published in English a decade later as The Technological Society), the sociologist Jacques Ellul observes how education had become oriented towards creating technicians, less interested in intellectual development than in personality development – a new “psychopedagogy” that he links to Maria Montessori. “The human brain must be made to conform to the much more advanced brain of the machine,” Ellul writes. “And education will no longer be an unpredictable and exciting adventure in human enlightenment , but an exercise in conformity and apprenticeship to whatever gadgetry is useful in a technical world.” I believe today we call this "social emotional learning" and once again (and so insistently by the ed-tech press and its billionaire backers), Montessori’s name is invoked as the key to preparing students for their place in the technological society.

Despite scant evidence in support of the psychopedagogies of mindsets, mindfulness, wellness, and grit, the ed-tech industry (press) markets these as solutions to racial and gender inequality (among other things), as the psychotechnologies of personalization are now increasingly intertwined not just with surveillance and with behavioral data analytics, but with genomics as well. “Why Progressives Should Embrace the Genetics of Education,” a NYT op-ed piece argued in July, perhaps forgetting that education’s progressives (including Montessori) have been down this path before.

This is the only good grit:

[image of Gritty]

If I were writing a lengthier series on the year in ed-tech, I’d spend much more time talking about the promises made about personalization and social emotional learning. I’ll just note here that the most important “innovator” in this area this year (other than Gritty) was surely the e-cigarette maker Juul, which offered a mindfulness curriculum to schools – offered them the curriculum and $20,000, that is – to talk about vaping. “‘The message: Our thoughts are powerful and can set action in motion,’ the lesson plan states.”

The most important event in ed-tech this year might have occurred on February 14, when a gunman opened fire on his former classmates at Marjory Stone Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killing 17 students and staff and injuring 17 others. (I chose this particular school shooting because of the student activism it unleashed.)

Oh, I know, I know – school shootings and school security aren’t ed-tech, ed-tech evangelists have long tried to insist, an argument I’ve heard far too often. But this year – the worst year on record for school shootings (according to some calculations) – I think that argument started to shift a bit. Perhaps because there’s clearly a lot of money to be made in selling schools “security” products and services: shooting simulation software, facial recognition technology, metal detectors, cameras, social media surveillance software, panic buttons, clear backpacks, bulletproof backpacks, … [more]
audreywatters  education  technology  edtech  2018  surveillance  privacy  personalization  progressive  schools  quantification  gamification  wholechild  montessori  mariamontessori  eugenics  psychology  siliconvalley  history  venturecapital  highereducation  highered  guns  gunviolence  children  youth  teens  shootings  money  influence  policy  politics  society  economics  capitalism  mindfulness  juul  marketing  gritty  innovation  genetics  psychotechnologies  gender  race  racism  sexism  research  socialemotional  psychopedagogy  pedagogy  teaching  howweteach  learning  howwelearn  teachingmachines  nonprofits  nonprofit  media  journalism  access  donaldtrump  bias  algorithms  facebook  amazon  disruption  data  bigdata  security  jacquesellul  sociology  activism  sel  socialemotionallearning 
december 2018 by robertogreco
HEWN, No. 291
"Ed Yong wrote about that viral video of the baby bear and mama bear making their way across a snow-covered cliff. You know the one — the one that some educators have said shows the bear had “grit.” Yong points out that the bears were being filmed by a drone, and the mother would never have made her baby take such a precarious path had it not been for the technological intrusion. Come to think of it, the whole thing — the ignorance and dismissal of trauma, the lack of attention to structural violence, the use of technology to shape behavior — is a perfect analogy for how “grit” gets wielded in schools."
grit  audreywatters  2018  edtech  technology  schools  education  trauma  violence  behavior  psychology  intrusion  surveillance 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Audrey Watters on Twitter: "I'm sorry. But I have a rant about "personalized learning""
"I'm sorry. But I have a rant about "personalized learning"

"Personalized learning" is not new. Know your history. It predates "Silicon Valley" and it pre-dates educational computing and it most certainly pre-dates Khan Academy and it pre-dates Sal Khan.

Even the way in which Sal Khan describes "personalized learning" -- "students move at their own pace" until they've mastered a question or topic -- is very, very old.

Educational psychologists have been building machines to do this -- supposedly to function like a tutor -- for almost 100 years.

The push to "personalize" education *with machines* has been happening for over a century thanks to educational psychology AND of course educational testing. This push is also deeply intertwined with ideas about efficiency and individualism. (& as such it is profoundly American)

Stop acting like "personalized learning" is this brand new thing just because the ed-tech salespeople and ed reformers want you to buy it. Maybe start asking why all these efforts have failed in the past -- with and without machines. Ever heard of the Dalton Plan, for example?

And good god, don't say past efforts failed because computers are so amazing today. School software sucks. People who tell you otherwise are liars.

Also: as democracy seems to be collapsing all around us, perhaps it's not such a fine time to abandoned shared intellectual spaces and shared intellectual understanding, eh? Perhaps we should be talking about more communal, democratic practices and less personalized learning?

Also: stop taking people seriously who talk about the history of school and the only book they seem to have read on the topic is one by John Taylor Gatto. Thanks in advance.

(On the other hand, keep it up. This all makes a perfect Introduction for my book)"
personalization  personalizedlearning  2018  audreywatters  history  education  edtech  siliconvalley  memory  salkhan  khanacademy  psychology  testing  individualism  efficiency  democracy  daltonplan  johntaylorgatto  communalism  lcproject  openstudioproject  sfsh  tcsnmy  collectivism  us 
november 2018 by robertogreco
The History of the Future of High School - VICE
"The problem with American high school education, it seems, is not that students haven’t learned the “right skills.” The problem is that the systemic inequality of the school system has ensured that many students have been unable to participate fully in either the economy or, more fundamentally, in democracy. It’s not that there has been no tinkering, but that those doing the tinkering often have their own interests, rather than students’ interests, in mind."
audreywatters  2018  highschool  education  aptests  publicschools  schooling  change  betsydevos  power  privilege  inequality  democracy  history  larrycuban  davidtyack 
october 2018 by robertogreco
Coming Home: Returning to a Pedagogy of Small – Here to there
"But in this telling of the story, I am the learner. I wanted to thank them, because in that small time and place together they taught me something, or perhaps retaught me something that I already should know: hope is easily restored if we stop chasing a better future and instead notice what just is already. This is a small story of what the pedagogy of small might be. I could perhaps seek to explain how the technologies of domination and self were at play, but that would be both hard work and nonsense; this is a pedagogical story rather than a technological one. What I did was notice. On a different day, when not contrasted by the XPRIZE man, I might have completely missed this story; that would have been my loss. By noticing, I as rewarded with a reminder of just how easily the ideas of large-scale technologies can be replaced with the small, human scale. The XPRIZE man got off the training and there they were ready to take his place. What if we already have all the alternatives that we seek, we just need to notice them and cherish them? I will have more to say about the pedagogy of small. The journey of this homecoming has just begun, a journey back to the people, places and ideas that I love most of all, a journey that is and will happily be intricately connected with a pedagogy of small."
tanyadorey-elias  small  slow  pedagogy  2018  xprize  audreywatters  education  learning  policy  technology  edtech  presence  cv  scale  scaling  canon  noticing  human  howwelearn  unschooling  deschooling 
august 2018 by robertogreco
Invisible Labor and Digital Utopias
"So I’ve been thinking a lot, as I said, about “permissions” and “openness.” I have increasingly come to wonder if “permission-less-ness” as many in “open” movements have theorized this, is built on some unexamined exploitation and extraction of labor – on invisible work, on unvalued work. Whose digital utopia does “openness” represent?"

"I like to remind people that with all this sweeping rhetoric about revolution and transformation, that John Perry Barlow wrote “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace” in 1996 in Davos, Switzerland, at the World Economic Forum. I don’t know about you, but that’s neither a site nor an institution I’ve never really associated with utopia. Indeed, perhaps much of this new technology was never meant to be a utopia for all of us after all."

"When we think about “open” and labor, who do we imagine doing the work? What is the work we imagine being done? Who pays? Who benefits? (And how?)"

"Ignoring racism in the technological imagination does not make it go away."

"What do machines free us from? Not drudgery – not everyone’s drudgery, at least. Not war. Not imperialism. Not gendered expectations of beauty. Not gendered expectations of heroism. Not gendered divisions of labor. Not class-based expectations of servitude. Not class-based expectations of leisure.

And so similarly, what is the digital supposed to liberate us from? What is rendered (further) invisible when we move from the mechanical to the digital, when we cannot see the levers and the wires and the pulleys."
audreywatters  2018  utopia  technology  labor  resistance  permission  open  openness  opensource  exploitation  copyright  creativecommons  johnperrybarlow  freedom  class  leisure  work  servitude  liberation  digital 
may 2018 by robertogreco
HEWN, No. 252
"We are incredibly bound to our mythologies. Of course we are. Mythologies – despite the popular usage of the term wherein “myth” equals “lie” – are our sacred stories. As such, these stories become capital-T true, even when they are so clearly capital-BS bullshit.

The technology industry’s power, I’d argue, is deeply intertwined with its sacred stories. And one of the most influential storytellers of Internet lore died this week: John Perry Barlow, best known as the author of the techno-utopian manifesto “Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace.” Or, depending on your social circles, I suppose, best known as a lyricist for the Grateful Dead. Or, depending on where you’re from, best known as a rancher and Wyoming native. I’ll say, as another Wyoming native, that these three elements of JPB’s life are inseparable: how tech culture envisions itself as “counterculture,” how it imagines its role in “revolution,” how it privileges “the individual” (often code for the lone, white, male hero).

“I can’t help but ask what might have happened had the pioneers of the open web given us a different vision – one that paired the insistence that we must defend cyberspace with a concern for justice, human rights, and open creativity, and not primarily personal liberty. What kind of internet would we have today?” April Glaser asks. We must rethink what has been mythologized, what and who is being mythologized when it comes to this technological world being built for us. Maybe these aren’t our sacred stories after all.

There was another tech hero with a moment of PR glory this week, of course: tech billionaire Elon Musk, whose company SpaceX successfully launched the Falcon Heavy, “the first time a rocket this powerful has been sent into space by a private company rather than a government space agency,” as The New York Times put it. The coverage of the rocket launch was mostly the coverage of Musk’s gimmicky decision to include as payload “a cherry-red Tesla Roadster once driven by SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, blasting tunes from David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’ with a spacesuit-clad ‘Star Man’ dummy strapped in the driver’s seat.” The coverage of Elon Musk’s companies is almost always coverage of Elon Musk. That’s how he wants it, of course. Journalists, as mythmakers, seem happy to oblige."
audreywatters  2018  edtech  technology  elonmusk  johnperrybarlow  myth  mythology  mythmaking  journalism  technosolutionism  pr  aprilglaser  donaldborenstein  spacex  publicgood  wealth  inequality  cyberspace  web  online  society  individualism  libery  justice  socialjustice  power  corporatism 
february 2018 by robertogreco
HEWN, No. 250
"I wrote a book review this week of Brian Dear’s The Friendly Orange Glow: The Untold History of of PLATO System and the Dawn of Cyberculture. My review’s a rumination on how powerful the mythologizing is around tech, around a certain version of the history of technology – “the Silicon Valley narrative,” as I’ve called this elsewhere – so much so that we can hardly imagine that there are other stories to tell, other technologies to build, other practices to adopt, other ways of being, and so on.

I was working on the book review when I heard the news Tuesday evening that the great author Ursula K. Le Guin had passed away, I immediately thought of her essay “The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction” – her thoughts on storytelling about spears and storytelling about bags and what we might glean from a culture (and a genre) that praises the former and denigrates the latter.
If science fiction is the mythology of modern technology, then its myth is tragic. “Technology,” or “modern science” (using the words as they are usually used, in an unexamined shorthand standing for the “hard” sciences and high technology founded upon continuous economic growth), is a heroic undertaking, Herculean, Promethean, conceived as triumph, hence ultimately as tragedy. The fiction embodying this myth will be, and has been, triumphant (Man conquers earth, space, aliens, death, the future, etc.) and tragic (apocalypse, holocaust, then or now).

If, however, one avoids the linear, progressive, Time’s-(killing)-arrow mode of the Techno-Heroic, and redefines technology and science as primarily cultural carrier bag rather than weapon of domination, one pleasant side effect is that science fiction can be seen as a far less rigid, narrow field, not necessarily Promethean or apocalyptic at all, and in fact less a mythological genre than a realistic one.

The problems of technology – and the problems of the storytelling about the computing industry today, which seems to regularly turn to the worst science fiction for inspiration – is bound up in all this. There’s a strong desire to create, crown, and laud the Hero – a tendency that’s going to end pretty badly if we don’t start thinking about care and community (and carrier bags) and dial back this wretched fascination with weapons, destruction, and disruption.

(Something like this, I wonder: “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” by Ursula K. Le Guin.)

Elsewhere in the history of the future of technology: “Sorry, Alexa Is Not a Feminist,” says Ian Bogost. “The People Who Would Survive Nuclear War” by Alexis Madrigal.

There are many reasons to adore Ursula K. Le Guin. And there are many pieces of her writing, of course, one could point to and insist “you must read this. You must.” For me, the attraction was her grounding in cultural anthropology – I met Le Guin at a California Folklore Society almost 20 years ago when I was a graduate student in Folklore Studies – alongside her willingness to challenge the racism and imperialism and expropriation that the field engendered. It was her fierce criticism of capitalism and her commitment to freedom. I’m willing to fight anyone who tries to insist that Sometimes a Great Notion is the great novel of the Pacific Northwest. Really, you should pick almost any Le Guin novel in its stead – Always Coming Home, perhaps. Or The Word for the World is Forest. She was the most important anarchist of our era, I posted on Facebook when I shared the NYT obituary. It was a jab at another Oregon writer who I bet thinks that’s him. But like Kesey, his notion is all wrong.

Fewer Heroes. Better stories about people. Better worlds for people.

Yours in struggle,
audreywatters  ursulaleguin  2018  anarchism  sciencefiction  scifi  technology  edtech  progress  storytelling  care  community  caring  folklore  anarchy  computing  siliconvalley  war  aggression  humanism  briandear  myth  heroes  science  modernscience  hardsciences  economics  growth  fiction  tragedy  apocalypse  holocaust  future  conquest  domination  weapons  destruction  disruption 
january 2018 by robertogreco
The History of Ed-Tech: What Went Wrong?
"There’s a popular origin story about education technology: that, it was first developed and adopted by progressive educators, those interested in “learning by doing” and committed to schools as democratic institutions. Then, something changed in the 1980s (or so): computers became commonplace, and ed-tech became commodified – built and sold by corporations, not by professors or by universities. Thus the responsibility for acquiring classroom technology and for determining how it would be used shifted from a handful of innovative educators (often buying hardware and software with their own money) to school administration; once computers were networked, the responsibility shifted to IT. The purpose of ed-tech shifted as well – from creative computing to keyboarding, from projects to “productivity.” (And I’ll admit. I’m guilty of having repeated some form of this narrative myself.)

[tweet: "What if the decentralized, open web was a historical aberration, an accident between broadcast models, not an ideal that was won then lost?" ]

But what if, to borrow from Ian Bogost, “progressive education technology” – the work of Seymour Papert, for example – was a historical aberration, an accident between broadcast models, not an ideal that was won then lost?

There’s always a danger in nostalgia, when one invents a romanticized past – in this case, a once-upon-a-time when education technology was oriented towards justice and inquiry before it was re-oriented towards test scores and flash cards. But rather than think about “what went wrong,” it might be useful to think about what was wrong all along.

Although Papert was no doubt a pioneer, he wasn’t the first person to recognize the potential for computers in education. And he was hardly alone in the 1960s and 1970s in theorizing or developing educational technologies. There was Patrick Suppes at Stanford, for example, who developed math instruction software for IBM mainframes and who popularized what became known as “computer-assisted instruction.” (Arguably, Papert refers to Suppes’ work in Mindstorms when he refers to “the computer being used to program the child” rather than his own vision of the child programming the computer.)

Indeed, as I’ve argued repeatedly, the history of ed-tech dates at least as far back as the turn of the twentieth century and the foundation of the field of educational psychology. Much of we see in ed-tech today reflects those origins – the work of psychologist Sidney Pressey, the work of psychologist B. F. Skinner, the work of psychologist Edward Thorndike. It reflects those origins because, as historian Ellen Condliffe Lagemann has astutely observed, “One cannot understand the history of education in the United States during the twentieth century unless one realizes that Edward L. Thorndike won and John Dewey lost.”

Ed-tech has always been more Thorndike than Dewey because education has been more Thorndike than Dewey. That means more instructivism than constructionism. That means more multiple choice tests than projects. That means more surveillance than justice.
(How Thorndike's ed-tech is now being rebranded as “personalization” (and by extension, as progressive education) – now that's an interesting story..."

[via: ""Edward L. Thorndike won and John Dewey lost" is pretty much the perfect tl;dr version of the history of education."

See also: "Or David Snedden won. People forget about him." ]
audreywatters  ianbogost  johndewey  seymourpapert  edtech  computers  technology  education  ellencondliffe  edwardthorndike  bfskinner  sidneypressey  psychology  management  administration  it  patricksuppes  constructivism  constructionism  progressive  mindstorms  progressiveeducation  standardization  personalization  instructivism  testing  davidsnedden  history 
july 2017 by robertogreco
A Field Guide to 'jobs that don't exist yet' - Long View on Education
"Perhaps most importantly, the Future of Jobs relies on the perspective of CEOs to suggest that Capital has lacked input into the shape and direction of education. Ironically, the first person I found to make the claim about the future of jobs – Devereux C. Josephs – was both Businessman of the Year (1958) and the chair of Eisenhower’s President’s Committee on Education Beyond High School. More tellingly, in his historical context, Josephs was able to imagine a more equitable future where we shared in prosperity rather than competed against the world’s underprivileged on a ‘flat’ field.

The Political Shift that Happened

While the claim is often presented as a new and alarming fact or prediction about the future, Devereux C. Josephs said much the same in 1957 during a Conference on the American High School at the University of Chicago on October 28, less than a month after the Soviets launched Sputnik. If Friedman and his ‘flat’ earth followers were writing then, they would have been up in arms about the technological superiority of the Soviets, just like they now raise the alarm about the rise of India and China. Josephs was a past president of the Carnegie Corporation, and at the time served as Chairman of the Board of the New York Life Insurance Company.

While critics of the American education system erupted after the launch of Sputnik with calls to go back to basics, much as they would again decades later with A Nation at Risk (1983), Josephs was instead a “besieged defender” of education according to Okhee Lee and Michael Salwen. Here’s how Joseph’s talked about the future of work:
“We are too much inclined to think of careers and opportunities as if the oncoming generations were growing up to fill the jobs that are now held by their seniors. This is not true. Our young people will fill many jobs that do not now exist. They will invent products that will need new skills. Old-fashioned mercantilism and the nineteenth-century theory in which one man’s gain was another man’s loss, are being replaced by a dynamism in which the new ideas of a lot of people become the gains for many, many more.”4

Josephs’ claim brims with optimism about a new future, striking a tone which contrasts sharply with the Shift Happens video and its competitive fear of The Other and decline of Empire. We must recognize this shift that happens between then and now as an erasure of politics – a deletion of the opportunity to make a choice about how the abundant wealth created by automation – and perhaps more often by offshoring to cheap labor – would be shared.

The agentless construction in the Shift Happens version – “technologies that haven’t been invented yet” – contrasts with Josephs’ vision where today’s youth invent those technologies. More importantly, Josephs imagines a more equitable socio-technical future, marked not by competition, but where gains are shared. It should go without saying that this has not come to pass. As productivity shot up since the 1950’s, worker compensation has stagnated since around 1973.

In other words, the problem is not that Capital lacks a say in education, but that corporations and the 0.1% are reaping all the rewards and need to explain why. Too often, this explanation comes in the form of the zombie idea of a ‘skills gap’, which persists though it keeps being debunked. What else are CEOs going to say – and the skills gap is almost always based on an opinion survey  – when they are asked to explain stagnating wages?5

Josephs’ essay echoes John Maynard Keynes’ (1930) in his hope that the “average family” by 1977 “may take some of the [economic] gain in the form of leisure”; the dynamism of new ideas should have created gains for ‘many, many more’ people. Instead, the compensation for CEOs soared as the profit was privatized even though most of the risk for innovation was socialized by US government investment through programs such as DARPA.6"

"Audrey Watters has written about how futurists and gurus have figured out that “The best way to invent the future is to issue a press release.” Proponents of the ‘skills agenda’ like the OECD have essentially figured out how to make “the political more pedagogical”, to borrow a phrase from Henry Giroux. In their book, Most Likely to Succeed, Tony Wagner and billionaire Ted Dintersmith warn us that “if you can’t invent (and reinvent) your own job and distinctive competencies, you risk chronic underemployment.” Their movie, of the same title, repeats the hollow claim about ‘jobs that haven’t been invented yet’. Ironically, though Wagner tells us that “knowledge today is a free commodity”, you can only see the film in private screenings.

I don’t want to idealize Josephs, but revisiting his context helps us understand something about the debate about education and the future, not because he was a radical in his times, but because our times are radical.

In an interview at CUNY (2015), Gillian Tett asks Jeffrey Sachs and Paul Krugman what policy initiatives they would propose to deal with globalization, technology, and inequality.9 After Sachs and Krugman propose regulating finance, expanding aid to disadvantaged children, creating a robust social safety net, reforming the tax system to eliminate privilege for the 0.1%, redistributing profits, raising wages, and strengthening the position of labor, Tett recounts a story:
“Back in January I actually moderated quite a similar event in Davos with a group of CEOs and general luminaries very much not just the 1% but probably the 0.1% and I asked them the same question. And what they came back with was education, education, and a bit of digital inclusion.”

Krugman, slightly lost for words, replies: “Arguing that education is the thing is … Gosh… That’s so 1990s… even then it wasn’t really true.”

For CEOs and futurists who say that disruption is the answer to practically everything, arguing that the answer lies in education and skills is actually the least disruptive response to the problems we face. Krugman argues that education emerges as the popular answer because “It’s not intrusive. It doesn’t require that we have higher taxes. It doesn’t require that CEOs have to deal with unions again.” Sachs adds, “Obviously, it’s the easy answer for that group [the 0.1%].”

The kind of complex thinking we deserve about education won’t come in factoids or bullet-point lists of skills of the future. In fact, that kind of complex thinking is already out there, waiting."

"Stay tuned for the tangled history of the claim if you're into that sort of thing..."
benjamindoxtdator  2017  inequality  education  credentialing  productivity  economics  society  statistics  audreywatters  billclinton  democrats  neoliberalism  latecapitalism  capitalism  johndewey  andreasschleicher  kerifacer  lindadarling-hammond  worldeconomicforum  oecd  labor  work  futurism  future  scottmcleod  karlfisch  richardriley  ianjukes  freetrade  competition  andrewold  michaelberman  thomasfriedman  devereuxjosephs  anationatrisk  sputnik  coldwar  okheelee  michaelsalwen  ussr  sovietunion  fear  india  china  russia  johnmaynardkeynes  leisure  robots  robotics  rodneybrooks  doughenwood  jobs  cwrightmills  henrygiroux  paulkrugman  gilliantett  jeffreysachs  policy  politics  globalization  technology  schools  curriculum  teddintersmith  tonywagner  mostlikelytosuccess  success  pedagogy  cathydavidson  jimcarroll  edtech 
july 2017 by robertogreco
Education Technology as 'The New Normal'
"I am feeling incredibly concerned about the direction the world is taking – politically, environmentally, economically, intellectually, institutionally, technologically. Trump. Digital technologies, even education technologies, are implicated in all of this, and if we are not careful, we are going to make things worse."

"We have not severed ourselves from the past through the introduction of computers or computer networks. Our institutions have not been severed from the past because of these. Our cultures have not. (At least not entirely. Not yet.) We have not."

"Technologies, to borrow from the physicist Ursula Franklin, are practices. Technologies are systems. Technology “entails far more than its individual material components,” Franklin wrote. “Technology involves organizations, procedures, symbols, new words, equations, and, most of all, a mindset.”

When I say that education technology is not new, I’m not arguing that technologies do not change over time; or that our institutions, ideas, experiences, societies do not change in part because of technologies. But when we talk about change – when we tell stories about technological change – we must consider how technologies, particularly modern technologies like computers, emerged from a certain history, from certain institutions; how technologies are as likely to re-inscribe traditional practices as to alter them. We must consider how technology operates, in Franklin’s words, as “an agent of power and control.”"

"But the growth of Silicon Valley didn’t really do much to improve the economic well-being of most of us. It didn’t really create jobs, although it did create wealth for a handful of investors and entrepreneurs. It did help further a narrative that our economic precarity was not only “the new normal” but potentially liberatory. The “freelance” economy, we were told, meant we didn’t have to have full-time employment any longer. Just “gigs.” The anti-regulatory practices and libertarian ideology espoused by the CEO of Uber became a model for talking about this “new economy” – that is until Uber (and others) are able to replace freelance workers with robots, of course. “We’re like Uber,” became something other companies, including those in education, would boast, despite Uber’s skullduggery."

"Technologies may well be poised to redefine how we think about learning, intelligence, inquiry, the learner, the teacher, teaching, knowledge, scholarship. But remember: technological “progress” does not necessarily mean “progressive politics.” Silicon Valley’s ways also include individualism, neoliberalism, libertarianism, imperialism, the exclusion of people of color and white women from its workforce. These biases are now part of algorithms and algorithmic decision-making.

Again my fear with our being comfortable or complacent with this “new normal”: Silicon Valley’s ways and Silicon Valley’s technologies are readily subverting the values of democracy and justice.

The values of democracy and justice should be School’s ways. But to be fair, neither democracy nor justice are values that most educational institutions (historically, presently) have truly or fully or consistently lauded or oriented themselves around.

If we want the future to be something other than an exploitative dystopia, I think our task must be to resist the narratives and the practices and the technologies that further inequality.

We cannot do this through through technological solutionism (although technologies are absolutely part of what we need to address and fundamentally rethink). We need to rethink our practices. We have to forgo “personalization.” We must do this through collective action, through community. We do this through action oriented around social and racial justice. We do this through democracy. (And through art.)"
2017  audreywatters  education  individualism  neoliberalism  corporatism  ursulafranklin  control  power  siliconvalley  democracy  socialjustice  justice  race  racism  technosolutionism  solutionism  technology  edtech  labor  teaching  knowledge  scholarship  intelligence  learning  howwelearn  libertarianism  imperialism  exclusion  gender  sexism  bias 
may 2017 by robertogreco
Ed-Tech in a Time of Trump
"The thing is, I’d still be giving the much the same talk, just with a different title. “A Time of Trump” could be “A Time of Neoliberalism” or “A Time of Libertarianism” or “A Time of Algorithmic Discrimination” or “A Time of Economic Precarity.” All of this is – from President Trump to the so-called “new economy” – has been fueled to some extent by digital technologies; and that fuel, despite what I think many who work in and around education technology have long believed – have long hoped – is not necessarily (heck, even remotely) progressive."

"As Donna Haraway argues in her famous “Cyborg Manifesto,” “Feminist cyborg stories have the task of recoding communication and intelligence to subvert command and control.” I want those of us working in and with education technologies to ask if that is the task we’ve actually undertaken. Are our technologies or our stories about technologies feminist? If so, when? If so, how? Do our technologies or our stories work in the interest of justice and equity? Or, rather, have we adopted technologies for teaching and learning that are much more aligned with that military mission of command and control? The mission of the military. The mission of the church. The mission of the university.

I do think that some might hear Haraway’s framing – a call to “recode communication and intelligence” – and insist that that’s exactly what education technologies do and they do so in a progressive reshaping of traditional education institutions and practices. Education technologies facilitate communication, expanding learning networks beyond the classroom. And they boost intelligence – namely, how knowledge is created and shared.
Perhaps they do.

But do our ed-tech practices ever actually recode or subvert command and control? Do (or how do) our digital communication practices differ from those designed by the military? And most importantly, I’d say, does (or how does) our notion of intelligence?"

"This is a punch card, a paper-based method of proto-programming, one of the earliest ways in which machines could be automated. It’s a relic, a piece of “old tech,” if you will, but it’s also a political symbol. Think draft cards. Think the slogan “Do not fold, spindle or mutilate.” Think Mario Savio on the steps of Sproul Hall at UC Berkeley in 1964, insisting angrily that students not be viewed as raw materials in the university machine."

"We need to identify and we need to confront the ideas and the practices that are the lingering legacies of Nazism and fascism. We need to identify and we need to confront them in our technologies. Yes, in our education technologies. Remember: our technologies are ideas; they are practices. Now is the time for an ed-tech antifa, and I cannot believe I have to say that out loud to you.

And so you hear a lot of folks in recent months say “read Hannah Arendt.” And I don’t disagree. Read Arendt. Read The Origins of Totalitarianism. Read her reporting from the Nuremberg Trials.
But also read James Baldwin. Also realize that this politics and practice of surveillance and genocide isn’t just something we can pin on Nazi Germany. It’s actually deeply embedded in the American experience. It is part of this country as a technology."

"Who are the “undesirables” of ed-tech software and education institutions? Those students who are identified as “cheats,” perhaps. When we turn the cameras on, for example with proctoring software, those students whose faces and gestures are viewed – visually, biometrically, algorithmically – as “suspicious.” Those students who are identified as “out of place.” Not in the right major. Not in the right class. Not in the right school. Not in the right country. Those students who are identified – through surveillance and through algorithms – as “at risk.” At risk of failure. At risk of dropping out. At risk of not repaying their student loans. At risk of becoming “radicalized.” At risk of radicalizing others. What about those educators at risk of radicalizing others. Let’s be honest with ourselves, ed-tech in a time of Trump will undermine educators as well as students; it will undermine academic freedom. It’s already happening. Trump’s tweets this morning about Berkeley.

What do schools do with the capabilities of ed-tech as surveillance technology now in the time of a Trump? The proctoring software and learning analytics software and “student success” platforms all market themselves to schools claiming that they can truly “see” what students are up to, that they can predict what students will become. (“How will this student affect our averages?”) These technologies claim they can identify a “problem” student, and the implication, I think, is that then someone at the institution “fixes” her or him. Helps the student graduate. Convinces the student to leave.

But these technologies do not see students. And sadly, we do not see students. This is cultural. This is institutional. We do not see who is struggling. And let’s ask why we think, as the New York Times argued today, we need big data to make sure students graduate. Universities have not developed or maintained practices of compassion. Practices are technologies; technologies are practices. We’ve chosen computers instead of care. (When I say “we” here I mean institutions not individuals within institutions. But I mean some individuals too.) Education has chosen “command, control, intelligence.” Education gathers data about students. It quantifies students. It has adopted a racialized and gendered surveillance system – one that committed to disciplining minds and bodies – through our education technologies, through our education practices.

All along the way, or perhaps somewhere along the way, we have confused surveillance for care.

And that’s my takeaway for folks here today: when you work for a company or an institution that collects or trades data, you’re making it easy to surveil people and the stakes are high. They’re always high for the most vulnerable. By collecting so much data, you’re making it easy to discipline people. You’re making it easy to control people. You’re putting people at risk. You’re putting students at risk.

You can delete the data. You can limit its collection. You can restrict who sees it. You can inform students. You can encourage students to resist. Students have always resisted school surveillance.

But I hope that you also think about the culture of school. What sort of institutions will we have in a time of Trump? Ones that value open inquiry and academic freedom? I swear to you this: more data will not protect you. Not in this world of “alternate facts,” to be sure. Our relationships to one another, however, just might. We must rebuild institutions that value humans’ minds and lives and integrity and safety. And that means, in its current incarnation at least, in this current climate, ed-tech has very very little to offer us."
education  technology  audreywatters  edtech  2017  donaldtrump  neoliberalism  libertarianism  algorithms  neweconomy  economics  precarity  inequality  discrimination  donnaharaway  control  command  ppwer  mariosavio  nazism  fascism  antifa  jamesbaldwin  racism  hannaharendt  totalitarianism  politics 
february 2017 by robertogreco
HEWN, No. 195
"Some have argued that we simply need better “media literacy,” but as danah boyd writes, we need “a cultural change about how we make sense of information, whom we trust, and how we understand our own role in grappling with information.” “Media literacy” as currently practiced and taught, she contends, might be part of the problem.

boyd argues elsewhere that we’re witnessing “the democratization of manipulation.” But that’s always been the goal of marketing and advertising. Edward Bernays and such.

What is striking to me is how much technology journalism – and that’s ed-tech journalism too, let’s be frank – is itself “fake news.” It’s marketing. It’s manipulation. No, it’s not inevitable that robots are going to take all our jobs, or that AI will raise our children, or that everything in our homes will be Internet-connected. This is industry PR, promoting a certain ideology and a certain future, posing as “news.”

No wonder there’s so much bullshit on Facebook. Facebook itself is part of that larger bullshit industry known as Silicon Valley."
audreywatters  medialiteracy  danahboyd  2017  fakenews  advertising  pr  siliconvalley  edtech  technology  technosolutionism  facebook  propaganda  manipulation  marketing  ideology  jelanicobb  misinformation  disinformation  information  crapdetection 
january 2017 by robertogreco
Trumped Up Data
"I’ve started working on my annual review of the year in ed-tech, something I’ve done for the past six years. It’s an intensive project – I will write some 75,000 words between now and the end of December – that forces me to go back through all the events and announcements of the previous twelve months. I don’t do so to make predictions about the future. But rather I look for patterns so that I can better understand how the past might orient us towards certain futures. I listen closely to the stories that we have told ourselves about education and technology, about the various possible futures in which these two systems (these two sets of practices, these two sets of ideologies) are so deeply intertwined. I pay attention to who tells the stories, who shares the stories, who believes the stories. In thinking about the past, I am always thinking about the future; in thinking about the future, we are always talking about the past.

That’s what’s at the core of a slogan like “Make America Great Again,” of course. It invokes a nostalgic longing for a largely invented past as it gestures towards a future that promises “greatness” once again.

Last week – and it feels so long right now – I gave a talk titled “The Best Way to Predict the Future is to Issue a Press Release.” I argued there’s something frighteningly insidious about the ways in which predictions about the future of education and technology are formulated and spread. These predictions are predicated on a destabilization or disruption of our public institutions and an entrenchment of commodification and capitalism.

These predictions don’t have to be believable or right; indeed, they rarely are. But even when wrong, they push the future in a certain direction. And they reveal the shape that the storytellers want the future to take.

In my talk, I called these predictions a form of “truthiness.” I’d add to that, an observation that sociologist Nathan Jurgenson made last night about “factiness”:
On the right, they have what Stephan Colbert called “truthiness,” which we might define as ignoring facts in the name of some larger truth. The facts of Obama’s birthplace mattered less for them than their own racist “truth” of white superiority. Perhaps we need to start articulating a left-wing version of truthiness: let’s call it “factiness.” Factiness is the taste for the feel and aesthetic of “facts,” often at the expense of missing the truth. From silly self-help-y TED talks to bad NPR-style neuroscience science updates to wrapping ourselves in the misleading scientism of Fivethirtyeight statistics, factiness is obsessing over and covering ourselves in fact after fact while still missing bigger truths.

“Factiness” connects to a lot of what we saw in this election, to be sure – this faith, as Jurgenson points out, in polling despite polling being wrong repeatedly, all along. It connects to a lot of what we hear in technology circles too – that we can build intelligent systems that model and adapt and learn and predict complex human behaviors. And that, in turn, is connected to education’s long-standing obsession with data: that we can harness elaborate analytics and measurement tools to identify who’s learning and who’s not.

I don’t believe that answers are found in “data” (that is, in “data” as this pure objective essence of “fact” or “truth”). Rather, I believe answers – muddier and more mutable and not really answers at all – live in stories. It is, after all, in stories where we find what underpins and extends both “truthiness” and “factiness.” Stories are crafted and carried in different ways, no doubt, than “data,” even when they serve the same impulse – to control, to direct.

Stories are everywhere, and yet stories can be incredibly easy to dismiss.
We do not listen.

Sometimes I joke that I’ve been described as “ed-tech’s Cassandra.” Mostly, it’s unfunny – not much of a joke at all considering how things worked out for poor Cassandra. But I do listen closely to the stories being told about the future of education and technology, and all I can do is to caution people that these stories rely on some fairly dystopian motifs and outcomes.

I’m also a folklorist, an ethnographer. I approach education technology with that disciplinary training. I listen to the stories. I observe the practices. I talk to people.

I’m not sure how to move forward after last night’s election results. For now, all I have is this: I want to remind people of the importance of stories – that stories might be better to turn to for understanding the future people want, better than the data we’ve been so obsessed with watching as a proxy for actually talking or listening to them."
audreywatters  2016  data  elections  edtech  truthiness  factiness  listening  nathanjurgenson  ethnography  folklore  storytelling  stories  bigdata  predictions  understanding  truth  stephencolbert 
november 2016 by robertogreco
Disciplining Education Technology
"Why discipline ed-tech?

I cannot help but think here of Michel Foucault and his Surveiller et punir, translated into English, of course, as Discipline and Punish. The book is certainly best known for the theory of Panopticism, Foucault’s history of the development of a disciplinary society through specific mechanisms, movements, technologies, and processes of surveillance. But this disciplinary society isn’t simply a function of an architectural or technological Panopticon. This is always for Foucault about knowledge and power. And importantly, in Discipline and Punish, he traces the rise of academic disciplines in the 18th century alongside the establishment of the modern prison – they share the practices of investigation, intervention, examination, interrogation, control. “The disciplines characterize, classify, specialize; they distribute along a scale, around a norm, hierarchize individuals in relation to one another and, if necessary, disqualify and invalidate.”

Education technology is already a discipline; education technology is already disciplinary. That is its history; that is its design; that is its function.

Education is replete with technologies of discipline. It has been, Foucault argues, since it was formalized in the late eighteenth century. By ranking students, for example, by assigning students to rows, these disciplinary technologies and practices “made the educational space function like a learning machine, but also as a machine for supervising, hierarchizing, rewarding” [emphasis mine].

Can a discipline of education technology challenge or undo or even see its own disciplinary practices, mechanisms, technologies?

Weller suggests that a discipline “creates a body against which criticism can push.” But I’m not sure that that’s the case. It seems more likely that the almost utter lack of criticality in education technology is because of how disciplined the field already is. It works quite hard to re-inscribe its own relevance, its own power – that's what all disciplines do, no doubt; it forecloses contrary ideas – most importantly, the idea that these technologies might not be necessary, that they might in fact be so tightly bound up in practices of surveillance and control that they forestall teaching and learning as practices of freedom and liberation.

The very last thing that education technology needs right now is to become more disciplinary. We need, as I said last week in my keynote at DeL, a radical blasphemy, a greater willingness for undisciplining."
edtech  disciplines  education  criticaleducation  criticism  audreywatters  2016  hierarchy  rewards  supervision  unschooling  deschooling  technology  schools  michelfoucault  foucault 
october 2016 by robertogreco
Why Audrey Watters Thinks Tech Is a Trojan Horse Set to ‘Dismantle’ the Academy - The Chronicle of Higher Education
[audio: ]

"Q. What do you mean when you say there’s a "Silicon Valley narrative," and what do you most want people to understand about it?

A. This certainly comes from my background of having spent a lot of time thinking about culture. My master’s degree was in folklore, and so that’s very much about ethnography, culture, people, and stories that we tell. I’m also really interested in systems and institutions. I want people to really think about, What is technology doing? I think we really like the story that technology is inevitable, that technology is wrapped up in our notions of progress, and that somehow progress is inevitable itself and is positive. I think that there are lots of ways in which we can scrutinize the way in which technology is changing the world, changing our culture, changing our institutions, that aren’t necessarily about progress. Or to put a political bent on it, about progressive change."

"I think that one of the things that really interests me, and this is connected I would say to the Silicon Valley narrative, is the way in which we talk a lot about personalization through technology. And one of the values, I think, that Americans in particular tend to really privilege is individualism. There’s something really appealing, culturally, for us with this notion that we’re going to have software, and it isn’t just educational software, but we’re going to have software systems that are individualized and personalized to meet our needs. Amazon says it does this. Netflix says it does this. Facebook says it does this.

I think that we as Americans really like the idea that the world is about us as individuals. I think that it’s important to recognize that that’s a cultural value. Individualism is a cultural value. It’s not a natural way of being. But there’s something about the classroom that also involves a collective experience. We learn from one another. It isn’t simply just a matter of things being personalized or individualized to meet our needs. What happens when we decide that we’re going to all be on our individual computing devices working through lessons at our own individual pace? What happens to dialogue? What happens to discussion? What happens to debate? We sort of describe education as these polar opposites — that it’s either a math lecture or it’s this sort of individualized, personalized experience. I think those are sort of extremes on both ends.

But what happens when we do lose the ability to spend time as groups, talking and working through material together? I think university professors see technologies — with the exception of folks who adopt them on their own — as something that’s done to them, that’s imposed upon them, that’s not really their decision to make, that somebody else makes the decision about the technology. Somebody else decides whether the room is going to have a projector, or the computers in the teaching facility have Windows or Macs. I really feel as though technology is something that gets done to the classroom and isn’t really interesting to many, many professors. It seems like an obligatory thing."
audreywatters  technology  education  edtech  learning  community  teaching  howwelearn  howweteach  technosolutionism  2016  siliconvalley  siliconvalleynarrative  highered  highereducation  culture  individualism  personalization  individualization  systemsthinking  inevitability  progress 
may 2016 by robertogreco
'I Love My Label': Resisting the Pre-Packaged Sound in Ed-Tech
"I’ve argued elsewhere, drawing on a phrase by cyborg anthropologist Amber Case, that many of the industry-provided educational technologies we use create and reinforce a “templated self,” restricting the ways in which we present ourselves and perform our identities through their very technical architecture. The learning management system is a fine example of this, particularly with its “permissions” that shape who gets to participate and how, who gets to create, review, assess data and content. Algorithmic profiling now will be layered on top of these templated selves in ed-tech – the results, again: the pre-packaged student.

Indie ed-tech, much like the indie music from which it takes its inspiration, seeks to offer an alternative to the algorithms, the labels, the templates, the profiling, the extraction, the exploitation, the control. It’s a big task – an idealistic one, no doubt. But as the book Our Band Could Be Your Life, which chronicles the American indie music scene of the 1980s (and upon which Jim Groom drew for his talk on indie-ed tech last fall), notes, “Black Flag was among the first bands to suggest that if you didn’t like ‘the system,’ you should simply create one of your own.” If we don’t like ‘the system’ of ed-tech, we should create one of our own.

It’s actually not beyond our reach to do so.

We’re already working in pockets doing just that, with various projects to claim and reclaim and wire and rewire the Web so that it’s more just, more open, less exploitative, and counterintuitively perhaps less “personalized.” “The internet is shit today,” Pirate Bay founder Peter Sunde said last year. “It’s broken. It was probably always broken, but it’s worse than ever.” We can certainly say the same for education technology, with its long history of control, measurement, standardization.

We aren’t going to make it better by becoming corporate rockstars. This fundamental brokenness means we can’t really trust those who call for a “Napster moment” for education or those who hail the coming Internet/industrial revolution for schools. Indie means we don’t need millions of dollars, but it does mean we need community. We need a space to be unpredictable, for knowledge to be emergent not algorithmically fed to us. We need intellectual curiosity and serendipity – we need it from scholars and from students. We don’t need intellectual discovery to be trademarked, to a tab that we click on to be fed the latest industry updates, what the powerful, well-funded people think we should know or think we should become."
2016  audreywatters  edupunk  edtech  independent  indie  internet  online  technology  napster  history  serendipity  messiness  curiosity  control  measurement  standardization  walledgardens  privacy  data  schools  education  highered  highereducation  musicindustry  jimgroom  ambercase  algorithms  bigdata  prediction  machinelearning  machinelistening  echonest  siliconvalley  software 
march 2016 by robertogreco
Identity, Power and Education’s Algorithms — Identity, Education and Power — Medium
"Many Twitter users seemed to balk at letting the company control their social and information networks algorithmically. It’s time we bring the same scrutiny to the algorithms we’re compelling students and teachers to use in the classroom. We must ask: how will an algorithmic education also serve to amplify the voices of the powerful and silence the voices of the marginalized? What does it mean to build ed-tech profiles: who is profiled and how? What patterns do the algorithms see? What do they reinforce? What will become “unseen” as these algorithms are opaque? How do some identities and privileges get hard-coded into these new software systems? And who stands to benefit? How will these algorithmic practices actually work to extend educational inequality?"
twitter  audreywatters  2016  algorithms  education  edtech  socialmedia  socialnetworks  teaching  learning  accessibility  voice  power  marginalization  privilege  software  inequality 
february 2016 by robertogreco
Top Ed-Tech Trends of 2015: The Business of Ed-Tech
"Beyond VC Funding

“US education is a $1.5 trillion industry and growing at 5 percent annually,” McKinsey wrote excitedly this summer. Of course, venture capital is just one source of the money that’s pouring into ed-tech. There’s government funding, of course. There’s personal spending. And there’s lots and lots of “philanthropy.”

The Gates Foundation is perhaps the most famous of these philanthropic organizations, having spent billions of dollars pushing various education initiatives. In October, Bill Gates gave what Education Week observed was “his first major speech on education in seven years,” and indicated his foundation would “double down” on teacher preparation and common academic standards.

The other two giants in education foundations: the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation.

In September, the LA Times obtained a memo written by the Broad Foundation, outlining its $490 million plan to put half of LAUSD students in charter schools. The memo “lays out a strategy for moving forward, including how to raise money, recruit and train teachers, provide outreach to parents and navigate the political battle that will probably ensue.” It cites several large foundations and California multi-millions who could be tapped for more financial support.

[image: @EdSurge tweet: “Melinda Gates is saying that the role of foundations is to direct where government funding goes #GatesEd"]

And this underscores one of the major criticisms of these philanthropic efforts: they are profoundly anti-democratic. As John Cassidy wrote in The New Yorker earlier this month, “people like Zuckerberg and Gates, by virtue of their philanthropic efforts, can have a much bigger say in determining policy outcomes than ordinary citizens can.”

Zuckerberg’s name is next to Gates’ in that sentence because he has signed the “Giving Pledge,” Gates’ and fellow billionaire Warren Buffet’s challenge to the 1% to give away at least half of their wealth. After the birth of his daughter this fall, Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan wrote her a letter (and posted it on Facebook, of course). In covering the contents of the letter, the New York Times got the headline totally wrong: “Mark Zuckerberg Vows to Donate 99% of His Facebook Shares for Charity.” The paper later clarified that it’s not a charity but an LLC – a “$45 billion tax loophole,” some suggested. Headlines from Gawker: “Mark Zuckerberg Will Donate Massive Fortune to Own Blinkered Worldview.” And from Rolin Moe: “You’re Not an Asshole, Mark Zuckerberg. You’re Just Wrong..”

Among the projects that the new Zuckerberg Chan Initiative will fund: “personalized learning” (whatever the hell that means).

Zuckerberg’s interest in such a thing is no doubt connected to investments that he’s already made – in the private school AltSchool, for example. And in September, Facebook announced that it had been working on building software for the Summit charter school chain. “Facebook’s move into education may be unexpected, but it seems to be sincere,” wrote The Verge’s Casey Newton about the collaboration in an article that’s not much more than a “longform expanded version of the Facebook press release.”

Joining Gates and Zuckerberg in venture philanthropy is Laurene Powell Jobs, Steve Jobs’ widow. Her organization, the Emerson Collective, announced a campaign – XQ: The Super School Project – to get folks to “rethink high school.” 5 of the “best ideas” will receive a share of the $50 million Jobs has earmarked for the project. The Emerson Collective also invested in AltSchool and Udacity this year to give you an idea of what “best ideas” might look like.

“I can conceive of no greater mistake… than that of trying to make charity do the work of justice” – William Jewett Tucker"

"All the Best Ed-Tech Narratives Money Can Buy

All this business. All this disruptive innovation. It’s just magnific… Wait, what? Academic research challenging Clayton Christensen’s famous business school concept outlined in The Innovator’s Dilemma and applied to education in Disrupting Class and The Innovative University and invoked by just about every ed-tech entrepreneur and investor ever? Oh yes please.

Jill Lepore had already skewered the idea in The New Yorker last year. I wrote a little something on the topic back in 2013.

But now, as The Chronicle of Education wrote in September,
a new paper, the most extensive test yet of Christensen’s theory, may prove more difficult to dismiss. Andrew A. King, a professor at the Dartmouth College business school, and Baljir Baatartogtokh, a graduate student at the University of British Columbia, spent two years digging into disruption, interviewing scores of experts, trying to determine whether 77 of Christensen’s own examples conformed to his theory, studies involving big names like Ford, McDonald’s, and Google, along with lesser-known makers of blood-glucose meters and blended plastics. Only a tiny minority – 9 percent – fit Christensen’s criteria. Disruption is real but rare, King and Baatartogtokh conclude, which suggests that it’s at best a marginally useful explanation of how innovation happens.

King says he’s not out to take down Christensen, although that may be what he’s done. Instead, he wants to prove a point. “A theory is like a weed,” King says. “Unless it is pruned back by empirical testing, it will grow to fill any void.”

Much like the business of ed-tech…"
philanthropy  philanthrocapitalism  capitalism  siliconvalley  audreywatters  2015  edtech  education  charities  charitableindustrialcomplex  corruption  policy  billgates  gatesfoundation  facebook  markzuckerberg  priscillachan  power  influence  democracy  melindagates  williamjewett  charity  justice  technology  johncassidy  rolinmoe  zuckerbergchaninitiative  broadfoundation  elibroad  altschool  summitcharterschools  udacity  emersoncollective  venturephilanthropy  vc  disruption  disruptiveinnovation  innovation  claytonchristensen  andrewking  baljirbaatartogtokh  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  control  charterschools 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Technology Imperialism, the Californian Ideology, and the Future of Higher Education
"This matters greatly for those of us in education technology in several ways (and not simply because has partnered with edX to offer free online education). Facebook is really just synecdochal here, I should add – just one example of the forces I think are at play, politically, economically, technologically, culturally. These forces matter at the level of infrastructure, technological infrastructure: who controls the networks, who controls the servers, who controls our personal devices, who controls the software that’s installed on them?

And it matters at the level of ideology. Infrastructure is ideological, of course. The new infrastructure – “the Internet” if you will – has a particular political, economic, and cultural bent to it. It is not neutral. Some of this is built upon old infrastructure. In the United States, for example, networks are layered upon networks: waterways provided the outline onto which we mapped the railroads. Railroads provided the outline onto which we mapped the telegraph. The telegraph for the telephone. The telephone for the Internet. Transportation of people, products, ideas across time and space."

"The first two nodes of what would eventually become ARPANET (which in turn would eventually become “the Internet”) were connected in California in 1969 – from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) to SRI International in Menlo Park – from Hollywood to Silicon Valley.
The infrastructure and the ideology of the Internet remain quite Californian."

"Another story from California, one specifically this time about higher education:

It may be that “the beginning of the end of public higher education as we know it” has its roots in an earlier development well before investors and tech entrepreneurs started predicting that we were only a couple of decades away from having only 10 universities in the world, thanks to their MOOCs. The beginning of the end, say Aaron Bady and Mike Konczal: the governorship of Ronald Reagan in the late 1960s, who then vowed he would “clean up that mess in Berkeley.”

At the time, the state had already developed what historian Kenneth Starr has called a “utopia for higher education.” The pinnacle arguably: The Master Plan for Higher Education, signed into law in 1960. The plan was, in essence, a commitment to provide all Californians with access to higher education, something that’s been, as Tressie McMillan Cottom points out in her work, a cornerstone of how Americans have viewed class mobility. The Master Plan was meant to offer three avenues for access to college, a tripartite system where the top 12.5% of high school graduates in the state could attend one of the campuses of the University of California – at Berkeley, for example, or LA – tuition-free. The top one-third were guaranteed a spot at one of the campuses of the California State University system – Cal State, San Francisco State, and so on. Community colleges in the state would accept any students “capable of benefiting from instruction” – that is, both new high school graduates and “non-traditional” students. Upon graduation from community college, those students could then transfer to any Cal State or UC campus in order to finish their Bachelor’s Degree. As Bady and Konczal write,
In theory and to a significant extent in practice, anyone from anywhere in California could, if they worked hard enough, get a bachelor’s degree from one of the best universities in the country (and, therefore, in the world), almost free of charge. The pronounced social and economic mobility of the postwar period would have been unthinkable without institutions of mass higher education, like this one, provided at public expense.

When Reagan took office as Governor of California in 1967, he made it clear: public expenses would be curbed, particularly in the university system. “There are certain intellectual luxuries that perhaps we could do without,” he told reporters. Taxpayers, he said, should not be “subsidizing intellectual curiosity.” The purpose of college, in other words, was not to offer what we’ve long construed as a liberal arts education; the purpose of higher education: to learn “job skills.”

The tech industry is just the latest to latch onto this argument. “Everyone should learn to code,” we now hear.

And as the state of California – and elsewhere – has withdrawn its financial commitment to free or subsidized public higher education, who has stepped in to meet the demands? The for-profit sector.

And the tech industry is latching onto this market as well."

"Tim Draper’s (unconstitutional) plan to split up the state of California would have completely reshaped American politics. It failed, but I think it underscores the sort of transformative vision – “the Silicon Valley narrative,” the “Californian Ideology” – that the tech industry has. This vision is not simply about “the virtual world.”

We in education would be naive, I think, to think that the designs that venture capitalists and technology entrepreneurs have for us would be any less radical than creating a new state, like Draper’s proposed state of Silicon Valley, that would enormously wealthy and politically powerful.

When I hear talk of “unbundling” in education – one of the latest gerunds you’ll hear venture capitalists and ed-tech entrepreneurs invoke, meaning the disassembling of institutions into products and services – I can’t help but think of the “unbundling” that Draper wished to do to my state: carving up land and resources, shifting tax revenue and tax burdens, creating new markets, privatizing public institutions, redistributing power and doing so explicitly not in the service of equity or justice.

Echoes of imperialism. Imperialism’s latest form."
california  californianideology  capitalism  commodification  education  technology  neoliberalism  2015  audreywatters  timdraper  aaronbady  mikekonczal  ronaldreagan  richardbarbrook  andycameron  libertarianism  inequality  infrastructure  privatization  unbundling  markzuckerberg  facebook  evgenymorozov  connectivity  injustice  losangeles  internet  web  online  netneutrality  politics  policy  economics 
october 2015 by robertogreco
I keep coming back to this, and I question everything. | The Reason I Do This
"Audrey Watters @audreywatters: “I think this is one of our major challenges, right? Because it shouldn't be "is this part of the curriculum"...”
4:55 PM - 8 Oct 2015

Will Richardson @willrich45: “The "curriculum" should be discovered (not delivered) based on events and questions that are relevant to "our world." @audreywatters”
4:58 PM - 8 Oct 2015

"This morning my class and I began our day on the carpet, chatting about issues currently presenting themselves in the Canadian election campaign. This was a continuation of yesterday’s conversation and debate, as the kids wanted it to continue. Over the two days we covered the niqab fiasco, marijuana legalization, and the role of Canada’s military. We’re not done, either, as the students have requested that we keep this going. They have a vote coming up, as part of the Student Vote initiative, and they are taking these issues to heart as they try to make a decision on who they want to vote for. They have so many questions, even though they don’t get to vote for “real,” and it’s hard for me to keep up.

I left school feeling sad today, though, because when moments like these happen in my classroom I am reminded of how little autonomy students really have over their own learning. And I start thinking — for the millionth time, I’m sure — about what I wish school actually was: a place where students could come and learn about whatever they want.

Will Richardson says it perfectly in the tweet above. I’ve seen him speak, and I’ve been in email contact with him, and he’s dead serious about this. He — and many others out there, myself included — argues that by definition a curriculum is outdated, due to the fact that it’s being written by adults whose grade school or high school days are long behind them. Sir Ken Robinson adds to that argument that the jobs today’s students will have when they are adults likely haven’t been conceived of yet. And this begs the question: Are we truly preparing them well for the world they will inherit? By basically telling them what they need to learn? It’s an old question, but I keep coming back to it. I can’t help it.

For now, though, I need a work around, and for that I have my friend and colleague Stacey to thank. I’m going to have my students start a passion project, which means that essentially they can learn about whatever they want. The only catch is (because I have to address curriculum) that it must relate to government in Canada in some fashion. Stacey’s students have already begun this venture, and she’s been thrilled with the results so far, especially in the realm of engagement.

Is this enough? No. Richardson would say that I’m still putting limitations on my students, and I agree with him completely. I will never think it fair that, in the information age, kids should be told what to learn about. Fortunately, this mandated government unit relates directly to the current events in their world at the moment, so in that respect it meets Richardson’s criteria. But there’s so much else that doesn’t.

I think I will always keep coming back to this question, because it is at the heart of any change — either big or small — that we teachers make in our classrooms. We’re all teaching because we want what’s best for kids. But what’s best for them now isn’t necessarily what was best for them 10 years ago. Or five. Or even last year. The world is changing quickly. My students tell me that, through their words and actions, almost every day. And they expect me to keep up. They expect us all to."
tomfuke  2015  autonomy  education  teaching  emergentcurriculum  curriculum  relevance  kenrobinson  willrichardson  audreywatters  learning  howwelearn  howweteach  canada 
october 2015 by robertogreco
Ed-Tech Might Make Things Worse... So Now What?
"Indeed, technology might actually make things worse, particularly for disadvantaged students, in part because of the type of tech and how it’s used in their classrooms. The OECD report found, for example, that “drilling” software has a negative effect on performance (that is, to be clear again, performance on the PISA). And yet this type of software, and more broadly computer-based math instruction, is much more commonly used for disadvantaged students.

Much of the press coverage of the OECD’s report latched on to the finding that “overexposure” to technology leads to poor academic performance (as well as to lower levels of well-being). But again, it’s worth asking what that technology usage actually involves. What are students doing when they’re “using computers” in the classroom? Are they “using computers” or is it, rather, that their teachers are? That phrase – “using computers in the classroom” – can mean a lot of things after all. “Using computers” how and “using computers” to what end – that is, what are the goals of increasing the amount of tech in the classroom? (A recent Education Week headline might give us a clue: “Chromebooks’ Rise in U.S. K–12 Schools Fueled by Online Testing.” Simply put: is increased tech usage a reflection of increased testing?)

“One interpretation of these findings,” the report’s executive summary reads, “is that it takes educators time and effort to learn how to use technology in education while staying firmly focused on student learning.” Yes, that is one interpretation, one that fits neatly into a narrative that teachers and schools have failed to “innovate.” But rather than allow the burden of addressing ed-tech’s “effectiveness” to be shifted to educators, let’s ask too why so much of ed-tech remains crap – exploitative and punitive crap that is well-funded by venture capitalists and heavily promoted by ed-tech enthusiasts, I might add. Ed-tech that, as this OECD report suggests, likely makes things worse. We cannot shrug and say “it’s not the technology’s fault.” Because what if it is?

“We expect schools to educate our children to become critical consumers of Internet services and electronic media,” the OECD report says, “helping them to make informed choices and avoid harmful behaviours.” But I think expecting schools to educate children to become consumers is a flawed approach to technology from the very start. (It’s one that surely enriches the ed-tech industry, who by all accounts are the ones most clearly benefitting from widespread adoption of tech in the classroom.) This is a flawed approach to education too, I’d argue – this notion that knowledge is something delivered either by teacher or machine and in turn consumed by students. If there is any agency in this equation at all, it’s the agency to buy, not the agency to build. Most ed-tech has done very little to support students’ agency as creators – not just as creators with digital technology but creators of digital technology.

But the same can be said, unfortunately, for most classrooms, with or without computers. Students are objects in the education system, shaped and molded by institutional and societal expectations. Framing students as “consumers” posits that the only place they gain subject status is when we reduce “learning” to a transaction – and in particular to an exchange of money or, increasingly, of personal data. And if that is the framework guiding ed-tech (its present and its future), it should be no surprise that the results will be profoundly unjust.

To its credit, the OECD report does make the following policy recommendation: “Improve equity in education first.”
In most countries, differences in computer access between advantaged and disadvantaged students shrank between 2009 and 2012; in no country did the gap widen. But results from the PISA computer-based tests show that once the so-called “first digital divide” (access to computers) is bridged, the remaining difference, between socio-economic groups, in the ability to use ICT tools for learning is largely, if not entirely, explained by the difference observed in more traditional academic abilities. So to reduce inequalities in the ability to benefit from digital tools, countries need to improve equity in education first. ****Ensuring that every child attains a baseline level of proficiency in reading and mathematics will do more to create equal opportunities in a digital world than can be achieved by expanding or subsidising access to high-tech devices and services.**** (emphasis added)

It’s easy to dismiss the OECD report because it draws so heavily on the PISA framework – although no doubt that’s a good reason to be critical of “what counts” here as “learning outcomes.” And surely there are benefits to computers beyond what PISA can measure. But can we articulate what those are? And can we articulate what those are without using meaningless cliches like “innovation” and “collaboration” and “future ready”?

I confess, I’ve grown pretty tired of the response that “we must” use tech. It’s a surrender, too often and again, to this idea that we are required to interact, to connect, to think deeply through the confines of a certain kind of technology, of a certain kind of economic and social and institutional arrangement – as consumers of tech, and as the product itself.

Despite the insistence that digital technologies are “the future” and as such must be incorporated somehow into the classroom, “the future” remains an unknown. We cannot say with any certainty that “the future” will include any of the technologies that we use today. Ten, twenty, thirty years from now, we might not have “Google” or “YouTube” or “Blackboard” or even “the World Wide Web” – we certainly will not in their current form. There is no inevitability to technology nor to the direction that “technological progress” might take.

And education technology in and of itself is surely not progressive."
edtech  audreywatters  2015  oecd  technology  teaching  education  pedagogy  pisa  testing  consumption  creation  chromebooks  progressivism  progress  inequality  inequity  schools 
september 2015 by robertogreco
Digital Pedagogy as Empowered Choice | bavatuesdays
"The shift towards the vision of a personal cyberinfrastructure must be accompanied by a shift in pedagogy that is centered around this idea of creative experimentation. I think this might also open up all sorts of questions surrounding the the role of the domain as an individual versus communal space; the benefits of the traditional stream-driven web versus an alternative, federated vision preached by Mike Caulfield with Smallest Federated Wiki; whether the true revolution at the center of digital pedagogy is to surrender any sense of unilateral power in the classroom, etc.

What I like about this line of discussion is that it frames the questions of digital pedagogy around issues of agency that pertain to both ownership of data as well as ownership of one’s education. Digital pedagogy as a pathway to empowered choice. Both of these shifts require a relinquishing of centralized control, deep faith in collaboration, mutual respect, and a vision of education as empowerment. All things I dig, and a conversation that starts to move us away from discussions around open vs closed that seem increasingly overdetermined."
jimgroom  digitl  digitalpedagogy  pedagogy  2015  adomainofone'sown  cyberinfrastructure  mikecaulfield  andrewrikard  audreywatters  kinlane  choice  empowerment  education  technology  ownership  open  lms  decentralization  power  highered  experimentation 
august 2015 by robertogreco
Teaching Machines and Turing Machines: The History of the Future of Labor and Learning
"In all things, all tasks, all jobs, women are expected to perform affective labor – caring, listening, smiling, reassuring, comforting, supporting. This work is not valued; often it is unpaid. But affective labor has become a core part of the teaching profession – even though it is, no doubt, “inefficient.” It is what we expect – stereotypically, perhaps – teachers to do. (We can debate, I think, if it’s what we reward professors for doing. We can interrogate too whether all students receive care and support; some get “no excuses,” depending on race and class.)

What happens to affective teaching labor when it runs up against robots, against automation? Even the tasks that education technology purports to now be able to automate – teaching, testing, grading – are shot through with emotion when done by humans, or at least when done by a person who’s supposed to have a caring, supportive relationship with their students. Grading essays isn’t necessarily burdensome because it’s menial, for example; grading essays is burdensome because it is affective labor; it is emotionally and intellectually exhausting.

This is part of our conundrum: teaching labor is affective not simply intellectual. Affective labor is not valued. Intellectual labor is valued in research. At both the K12 and college level, teaching of content is often seen as menial, routine, and as such replaceable by machine. Intelligent machines will soon handle the task of cultivating human intellect, or so we’re told.

Of course, we should ask what happens when we remove care from education – this is a question about labor and learning. What happens to thinking and writing when robots grade students’ essays, for example. What happens when testing is standardized, automated? What happens when the whole educational process is offloaded to the machines – to “intelligent tutoring systems,” “adaptive learning systems,” or whatever the latest description may be? What sorts of signals are we sending students?

And what sorts of signals are the machines gathering in turn? What are they learning to do?
Often, of course, we do not know the answer to those last two questions, as the code and the algorithms in education technologies (most technologies, truth be told) are hidden from us. We are becoming as law professor Frank Pasquale argues a “black box society.” And the irony is hardly lost on me that one of the promises of massive collection of student data under the guise of education technology and learning analytics is to crack open the “black box” of the human brain.

We still know so little about how the brain works, and yet, we’ve adopted a number of metaphors from our understanding of that organ to explain how computers operate: memory, language, intelligence. Of course, our notion of intelligence – its measurability – has its own history, one wrapped up in eugenics and, of course, testing (and teaching) machines. Machines now both frame and are framed by this question of intelligence, with little reflection on the intellectual and ideological baggage that we carry forward and hard-code into them."

"We’re told by some automation proponents that instead of a future of work, we will find ourselves with a future of leisure. Once the robots replace us, we will have immense personal freedom, so they say – the freedom to pursue “unproductive” tasks, the freedom to do nothing at all even, except I imagine, to continue to buy things.
On one hand that means that we must address questions of unemployment. What will we do without work? How will we make ends meet? How will this affect identity, intellectual development?

Yet despite predictions about the end of work, we are all working more. As games theorist Ian Bogost and others have observed, we seem to be in a period of hyper-employment, where we find ourselves not only working numerous jobs, but working all the time on and for technology platforms. There is no escaping email, no escaping social media. Professionally, personally – no matter what you say in your Twitter bio that your Tweets do not represent the opinions of your employer – we are always working. Computers and AI do not (yet) mark the end of work. Indeed, they may mark the opposite: we are overworked by and for machines (for, to be clear, their corporate owners).

Often, we volunteer to do this work. We are not paid for our status updates on Twitter. We are not compensated for our check-in’s in Foursquare. We don’t get kick-backs for leaving a review on Yelp. We don’t get royalties from our photos on Flickr.

We ask our students to do this volunteer labor too. They are not compensated for the data and content that they generate that is used in turn to feed the algorithms that run TurnItIn, Blackboard, Knewton, Pearson, Google, and the like. Free labor fuels our technologies: Forum moderation on Reddit – done by volunteers. Translation of the courses on Coursera and of the videos on Khan Academy – done by volunteers. The content on pretty much every “Web 2.0” platform – done by volunteers.

We are working all the time; we are working for free.

It’s being framed, as of late, as the “gig economy,” the “freelance economy,” the “sharing economy” – but mostly it’s the service economy that now comes with an app and that’s creeping into our personal not just professional lives thanks to billions of dollars in venture capital. Work is still precarious. It is low-prestige. It remains unpaid or underpaid. It is short-term. It is feminized.

We all do affective labor now, cultivating and caring for our networks. We respond to the machines, the latest version of ELIZA, typing and chatting away hoping that someone or something responds, that someone or something cares. It’s a performance of care, disguising what is the extraction of our personal data."

"Personalization. Automation. Management. The algorithms will be crafted, based on our data, ostensibly to suit us individually, more likely to suit power structures in turn that are increasingly opaque.

Programmatically, the world’s interfaces will be crafted for each of us, individually, alone. As such, I fear, we will lose our capacity to experience collectivity and resist together. I do not know what the future of unions looks like – pretty grim, I fear; but I do know that we must enhance collective action in order to resist a future of technological exploitation, dehumanization, and economic precarity. We must fight at the level of infrastructure – political infrastructure, social infrastructure, and yes technical infrastructure.

It isn’t simply that we need to resist “robots taking our jobs,” but we need to challenge the ideologies, the systems that loath collectivity, care, and creativity, and that champion some sort of Randian individual. And I think the three strands at this event – networks, identity, and praxis – can and should be leveraged to precisely those ends.

A future of teaching humans not teaching machines depends on how we respond, how we design a critical ethos for ed-tech, one that recognizes, for example, the very gendered questions at the heart of the Turing Machine’s imagined capabilities, a parlor game that tricks us into believing that machines can actually love, learn, or care."
2015  audreywatters  education  technology  academia  labor  work  emotionallabor  affect  edtech  history  highered  highereducation  teaching  schools  automation  bfskinner  behaviorism  sexism  howweteach  alanturing  turingtest  frankpasquale  eliza  ai  artificialintelligence  robots  sharingeconomy  power  control  economics  exploitation  edwardthorndike  thomasedison  bobdylan  socialmedia  ianbogost  unemployment  employment  freelancing  gigeconomy  serviceeconomy  caring  care  love  loving  learning  praxis  identity  networks  privacy  algorithms  freedom  danagoldstein  adjuncts  unions  herbertsimon  kevinkelly  arthurcclarke  sebastianthrun  ellenlagemann  sidneypressey  matthewyglesias  karelčapek  productivity  efficiency  bots  chatbots  sherryturkle 
august 2015 by robertogreco
The Web We Need to Give Students — Bright — Medium
"Giving students their own digital domain is a radical act. It gives them the ability to work on the Web and with the Web, to have their scholarship be meaningful and accessible by others. It allows them to demonstrate their learning to others beyond the classroom walls. To own one’s domain gives students an understanding of how Web technologies work. It puts them in a much better position to control their work, their data, their identity online."

[See also:

"All this said, I know this is a broader reality playing out across higher education right now. The late logic of capital has come home to roost in academia: do more with less, lucky to have a job, tenuous tenure, the mission, austerity, budget cuts, everyone’s expendable, etc. But the fact is I firmly believe none of us at UMW are expendable. It really was, is, and will continue to be about the people. So if anyone out there is considering a Domain of One’s Own project, know this, the tech can be very, very cheap. It’s the right people that will be expensive, and for good reason—they determine its success. And success means integrating a digital-based curriculum across a university culture—this takes support, resources, and a concerted effort of talent. If you’re thinking about doing something like this I highly recommend you invest in some excellent people, pay them what they deserve, and trust them to do great things. Major kudos to VCU’s ALT Lab in this regard, they have been creating positions at really competitive salaries. Not sure how Gardner Campbell is doing it, but it lifts us all up." ]
adomainofoneson  audreywatters  education  schools  2015  online  internet  technology  edtech  ownership  jimgroom  web  identity  privacy  data 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Is It Time to Give Up on Computers in Schools?
"This is a version of the talk I gave at ISTE today on a panel titled "Is It Time to Give Up on Computers in Schools?" with Gary Stager, Will Richardson, Martin Levins, David Thornburg, and Wayne D'Orio. It was pretty damn fun.

Take one step into that massive shit-show called the Expo Hall and it’s hard not to agree: “yes, it is time to give up on computers in schools.”

Perhaps, once upon a time, we could believe ed-tech would change things. But as Seymour Papert noted in The Children’s Machine,
Little by little the subversive features of the computer were eroded away: … the computer was now used to reinforce School’s ways. What had started as a subversive instrument of change was neutralized by the system and converted into an instrument of consolidation.

I think we were naive when we ever thought otherwise.

Sure, there are subversive features, but I think the computers also involve neoliberalism, imperialism, libertarianism, and environmental destruction. They now involve high stakes investment by the global 1% – it’s going to be a $60 billion market by 2018, we’re told. Computers are implicated in the systematic de-funding and dismantling of a public school system and a devaluation of human labor. They involve the consolidation of corporate and governmental power. They involve scientific management. They are designed by white men for white men. They re-inscribe inequality.

And so I think it’s time now to recognize that if we want education that is more just and more equitable and more sustainable, that we need to get the ideologies that are hardwired into computers out of the classroom.

In the early days of educational computing, it was often up to innovative, progressive teachers to put a personal computer in their classroom, even paying for the computer out of their own pocket. These were days of experimentation, and as Seymour teaches us, a re-imagining of what these powerful machines could enable students to do.

And then came the network and, again, the mainframe.

You’ll often hear the Internet hailed as one of the greatest inventions of mankind – something that connects us all and that has, thanks to the World Wide Web, enabled the publishing and sharing of ideas at an unprecedented pace and scale.

What “the network” introduced in educational technology was also a more centralized control of computers. No longer was it up to the individual teacher to have a computer in her classroom. It was up to the district, the Central Office, IT. The sorts of hardware and software that was purchased had to meet those needs – the needs and the desire of the administration, not the needs and the desires of innovative educators, and certainly not the needs and desires of students.

The mainframe never went away. And now, virtualized, we call it “the cloud.”

Computers and mainframes and networks are points of control. They are tools of surveillance. Databases and data are how we are disciplined and punished. Quite to the contrary of Seymour’s hopes that computers will liberate learners, this will be how we are monitored and managed. Teachers. Students. Principals. Citizens. All of us.

If we look at the history of computers, we shouldn’t be that surprised. The computers’ origins are as weapons of war: Alan Turing, Bletchley Park, code-breakers and cryptography. IBM in Germany and its development of machines and databases that it sold to the Nazis in order to efficiently collect the identity and whereabouts of Jews.

The latter should give us great pause as we tout programs and policies that collect massive amounts of data – “big data.” The algorithms that computers facilitate drive more and more of our lives. We live in what law professor Frank Pasquale calls “the black box society.” We are tracked by technology; we are tracked by companies; we are tracked by our employers; we are tracked by the government, and “we have no clear idea of just how far much of this information can travel, how it is used, or its consequences.” When we compel the use of ed-tech, we are doing this to our students.

Our access to information is constrained by these algorithms. Our choices, our students’ choices are constrained by these algorithms – and we do not even recognize it, let alone challenge it.

We have convinced ourselves, for example, that we can trust Google with its mission: “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” I call “bullshit.”

Google is at the heart of two things that computer-using educators should care deeply and think much more critically about: the collection of massive amounts of our personal data and the control over our access to knowledge.

Neither of these are neutral. Again, these are driven by ideology and by algorithms.

You’ll hear the ed-tech industry gleefully call this “personalization.” More data collection and analysis, they contend, will mean that the software bends to the student. To the contrary, as Seymour pointed out long ago, instead we find the computer programming the child. If we do not unpack the ideology, if the algorithms are all black-boxed, then “personalization” will be discriminatory. As Tressie McMillan Cottom has argued “a ‘personalized’ platform can never be democratizing when the platform operates in a society defined by inequalities.”

If we want schools to be democratizing, then we need to stop and consider how computers are likely to entrench the very opposite. Unless we stop them.

In the 1960s, the punchcard – an older piece of “ed-tech” – had become a symbol of our dehumanization by computers and by a system – an educational system – that was inflexible, impersonal. We were being reduced to numbers. We were becoming alienated. These new machines were increasing the efficiency of a system that was setting us up for a life of drudgery and that were sending us off to war. We could not be trusted with our data or with our freedoms or with the machines themselves, we were told, as the punchcards cautioned: “Do not fold, spindle, or mutilate.”

Students fought back.

Let me quote here from Mario Savio, speaking on the stairs of Sproul Hall at UC Berkeley in 1964 – over fifty years ago, yes, but I think still one of the most relevant messages for us as we consider the state and the ideology of education technology:
We’re human beings!

There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part; you can’t even passively take part, and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!

We’ve upgraded from punchcards to iPads. But underneath, a dangerous ideology – a reduction to 1s and 0s – remains. And so we need to stop this ed-tech machine."
edtech  education  audreywatters  bias  mariosavio  politics  schools  learning  tressuemcmillancottom  algorithms  seymourpapert  personalization  data  security  privacy  howwteach  howwelearn  subversion  computers  computing  lms  neoliberalism  imperialism  environment  labor  publicschools  funding  networks  cloud  bigdata  google  history 
july 2015 by robertogreco
New Topics in Social Computing: Data and Education by EyebeamNYC
"In this discussion, we will consider how younger generations are growing up with data collection normalized and with increasingly limited opportunities to opt-out. Issues of surveillance, privacy, and consent have particular implications in the context of school systems. As education and technology writer Audrey Watters explains, “many journalists, politicians, entrepreneurs, government officials, researchers, and others … argue that through mining and modeling, we can enhance student learning and predict student success.” Administrators, even working with the best intentions, might exaggerate systemic biases or create other unintended consequences through use of new technologies. We we consider new structural obstacles involving metrics like learning analytics, the labor politics of data, and issues of data privacy and ownership.

Panelists: Sava Saheli Singh, Tressie McMillan Cottom, and Karen Gregory"
savasahelisingh  tressiemcmillancottom  karengregory  education  personalization  race  class  gender  2015  publicschools  testing  privacy  government  audreywatters  politics  policy  surveillance  consent  social  journalism  learning  howwelearn  howweteach  labor  work  citizenship  civics  learninganalytics  technology  edtech  data  society  socialcontract 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Learning Networks, Not Teaching Machines
"But what can we say about the Villemard vision of “a learning network”? Does it meet our standards today, our belief in the ways in which networks can transform teaching and learning? I’d imagine it does not because this particular learning network is centralized. In that way, it is more akin to Edison’s vision of the future of education – where the knowledge is delivered by (and this power resides in) whatever replaces the teacher and the textbook. For both Edison and Villemard here, the students are receptors, not transmitters of knowledge.

When we talk about the potential for “networked learning” today, I think (I hope) we mean something different. The promise: the Internet – and the Web in particular – enable a readable and a writable platform, where a multitude of voices can express themselves as creators not just consumers and not just through text but through a multitude of media – audio, video, still images, code. These new wires have powerful implications for self-organized learning, some argue – a new participatory culture of learning that need not be managed or monitored by formal educational institutions or by traditional sources of information. The new networks, like the Web itself, ostensibly act as this very postmodern sort of technical infrastructure whereby power is decentralized, distributed.

But it’s not decentralized entirely. It’s certainly not distributed evenly. It never has been. Yet there’s that tendency once again to recast the history of technology as equitable if not equalizing – a nostalgia for a “web we lost” – such as when last year Sir Tim Berners-Lee said it was time to “re-decentralize” his invention, the World Wide Web. Berners-Lee noted – rightly so, I’d say – that “for-profit internet monopolies such as search engines and social networks,” along with government surveillance, threaten the Web’s original, open infrastructure.

Ostensibly open.

I’ve been thinking about this faith we’ve put in online networks – this trust that they are open, for example, or that they flatten hierarchies. I’ve been thinking too, as I’ve researched the history of education technology and teaching machines, about other, older networks. Indeed, many of these networks have not gone away. The telephone company or the television cable company is likely now – in the United States at least – your Internet provider as well. We are building our learning networks on these older technologies. We are building them on and with pre-existing and emerging monopolies.

Despite the promise of the Internet and the Web to “democratize education” – we hear the MOOC proponents talk about this a lot – or to offer this new and radically meritocratic form of “networked learning,” we must remember that our technical infrastructure is controlled by a small number of powerful corporations, alongside – in terms of support, censure, and surveillance, the world’s governments. To repeat David Golumbia, “The network map is not the political territory.”

The Internet and the Web do not exist at the end of history. Technology will change. But the geopolitics, the economic forces will change the Internet and the Web as well. Networks change – canals are replaced by railroads; radio stations are replaced by television and now the Internet. The Internet will be likely replaced by something else. And no doubt, we can see already its consolidation and centralization. We can see the battles for who owns the signal. (The FCC plans soon to license off more wireless spectrum for the “Internet of Things” via auction – that is, to the highest bidder.) We can see the battles for who owns, who controls the network.

Education has not historically fared well when it comes to competing with commercial providers – not on the radio, not on the television, nor I’d argue on new computer-based technologies. These networks have triumphed commercially, politically. In turn, they frame what we mean by network – what we expect them to do, who gets to participate in them and how.

There is no inevitability here. And resistance and alternatives are certainly possible. But we must act to shape the future – to shape the technology and the politics that we want to have. We must act to shape the learning networks we want to have – starting, as I originally intended this talk to address – that we do not want the centralized control, the automation, the teaching machines that Villemard envisioned for us a century ago. If, as some argue, learning networks are powerful new ways for us to organize and share as learners, then we must consider how we can build and wield them (or at least, how they are built and wielded). Networks – not just as analogies, but as what is becoming the very real architecture of how we learn and live.

“The network map is not the political territory.” What territory do we maintain for the future of education? Whose network map are we using to find our way?"
audreywatters  2015  networks  networkedlearning  learning  education  schools  pedagogy  monopolies  power  decentralization  television  tv  content  davidgolumbia  maps  mapping  history  villemard  edtech  centralization  control 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Hack Education Weekly Newsletter, No. 115
"Virgil Runnels, Jr. – better known by his wrestling persona “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes – passed away on Thursday. Dave Zirin writes,
Dusty Rhodes was the most public expression about surviving in the Reagan 1980s: a Jonathan Kozol book in tights armed only with a sharp tongue and a bionic elbow. Remembering this Dusty Rhodes matters because the historical amnesia about the Reagan years has been so total. An extremely well-funded right-wing campaign has whitewashed the truth of the era: that Ronald Reagan left a body count of victims due to an indifference as callous as it was calculated. The Reagan backlash spared no one, least of all industrial workers: the people who worked with their hands and sent children to college on a single union wage, without student loans. It sounds like another world, and it was: a world that Reagan’s agenda—with no small help from congressional Democrats—destroyed. Dusty Rhodes was the voice of the person getting crushed under the weight of Reagan and keeping his head held high, dignity not only intact but non-negotiable.

I saw The Mountain Goats play last week, and the band opened the show with Rhodes’ famous “Hard Times” promo. (The Mountain Goats’ latest album focuses on professional wrestling.)

Professional wrestling, like ed-tech I suppose, has become something else since the 1980s. Perhaps it is, as Zirin suggests, partly due to this erasure of stories of survival and resistance in exchange for stories of magic and money. The latter still try to convince everyone it’s “the revolution,” of course. Ed-tech and/as the Reagan Revolution. There's a story idea..."
ronaldreagan  2015  audreywatters  resistance  survival  money  magic  revolution  capitalism  latecapitalism  davedzirin  virgilrunnelsjr  distyrhodes  neoliberalism  1980s  edtech  education  technology 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Virtual Field Trips and Education (Technology) Inequalities
"Field trips are sometimes dismissed as trivial distractions and unnecessarily deviations from the curriculum, but the enrichment they offer is actually quite important, particularly for low-income students who might not otherwise have the opportunities their wealthier peers do to visit museums and the like."

"Other research has found that field trips have a long-lasting impact on students, most of whom can still (like me) recall significant elements from the outings – who was there, what they saw, what they did – even years later"

"But let's be honest: virtual field trips are not field trips. Oh sure, they might provide educational content. They might, as Google’s newly unveiled “Expeditions” cardboard VR tool promises, boast "360° photo spheres, 3D images and video, ambient sounds -- annotated with details, points of interest and questions that make them easy to integrate into curriculum already used in schools." But virtual field trips do not offer physical context; they do not offer social context. Despite invoking the adjective “immersive,” they most definitely are not.

"So when Google says, as it did onstage today at its annual developer/marketing event Google IO, that its new tool will “take your students to places a school can’t,” let’s ask more questions and not simply parrot the tech giant’s PR.
Let’s ask why certain students from certain schools can’t go places -- even local places -- anymore (if, indeed, they ever were able to). Let’s consider how equating viewing 3D movies in the classroom with experiential learning off-campus could give even more schools an excuse to cut back further on funding actual field trips. And, please, let’s not conflate providing students a VR viewer made out of cardboard with actually addressing how education technology exacerbates inequalities."
google  inequality  audreywatters  vr  fieldtrips  virtualreality  googleio  googlexpeditions  experience  memory  2015 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Ed-Tech and the Californian Ideology
"There are many elements of that phrase “California ideology” that I find quite compelling. California is the promised land, the end-of-the-road of the US’s westward expansion, the fulfillment of Manifest Destiny, colonization upon colonization, the gold rush, the construction of an invented palm-tree paradise. California includes geographically – ideologically – both Hollywood and Silicon Valley. California is media plus technology, both of which readily export their products (and narratives and ideologies) globally. California built an amazing public higher education system; Governor Reagan, fearing radicalism and intellectualism, began the move to dismantle it. California is always already the future; California rejects and rewrites the past.

California also produces two-thirds of this country’s produce, of course. Over a third of the nation’s farmworkers work in California; 95% of them were born outside the US.

The California ideology ignores race and labor and the water supply; it is sustained by air and fantasy. It is built - historically as today - upon white supremacy and imperialism. But we’re so wrapped up in the marketing, we don’t stop to ask more questions about the source.

How much of education technology reinforces and reinscribes the dominant forces of production and power? Under what circumstances, swayed by which stories, do we not even notice?"
edtech  audreywatters  technology  education  history  californianideology  siliconvalley  policy  politics  ideology  2015  colonization  manifestdestiny  economics  neoliberalism  libertarianism 
may 2015 by robertogreco
“Loving Learning” in Progressive Schools
"Pre-planned “playlists” for learning, cameras recording every move, data driving every decision…little of what AltSchool touts is aligned with progressivism in it’s truest sense, a sense that is captured well in a recent book titled, Loving Learning: How Progressive Education Can Save America’s Schools by Tom Little, the former principal of the Park School in Oakland. Even so, as Little points out, “progressivism” has an image problem when it comes to public perception.
Unfortunately, however, the word “progressive” remains tangled up in the public’s perception with leftist politics, while progressive schools continue to be caricaturized as permissive, “loosey-goosey,” “touchy-feely,” and even “crunchy granola,” to the point that many of the minority of Americans who have heard of Progressive Education consider it passé, at best (Kindle 241).

But as it turns out, the effects of a progressive education may be just what we need given the realities of the connected world.
Abundant research shows that three core classroom strategies invented by progressive educators—namely, letting students pursue their own interests (now commonly referred to as “inquiry-based” education); using a multidisciplinary approach to teaching skills and content; and organizing material into student projects (“project-based learning”)—are extraordinarily effective ways to develop the skills we most need in the new global economy (Kindle 249).

Little identifies six core strategies to progressive schooling that have been passed down from John Dewey, Francis Parker, and other “pioneers” who framed the conversation in the early part of the 20th Century.
1. Attention to children’s emotions as well as their intellects
2. Reliance on students’ interests to guide their learning
3. Curtailment or outright bans on testing, grading, and ranking
4. Involvement of students in real-world endeavors, ranging from going on field trips to managing a farm
5. The study of topics in an integrated way, from a variety of different disciplines
6. Support for children to develop a sense of social justice and become active participants in America’s democracy (Kindle 571).

These would seem to be common sense approaches to learning and education, but they are rarely the focus of venture capitalists and businessmen promoting a new version of schooling. Problematically, however, relatively few in education have enough history or experience with the true progressive approach to manage a persuasive defense. And, as Little suggests, that’s exactly what we need to do, sooner rather than later.
We need to stop tolerating misinformed critics misdefining what we do, and instead, speak out about the benefits we see in our classrooms every day—benefits that should rightly be the legacy of millions of American children. Until we do, Progressive Education will continue to be the buried treasure of American education: the all but exclusive privilege of a tiny minority of our nation’s most wealthy and influential families (Kindle 255).

Before we engage in relevant conversations about classroom learning, we need to have at least a bit of the historic context and vision of progressive schools in our vocabulary. “Loving Learning” is a great place to start to acquire that."
willrichardson  2015  altschool  tomlittle  progressive  education  progressiveschools  learning  teaching  howweteach  howwelearn  audreywatters  progressiveeducation  johndewey  francisparker 
may 2015 by robertogreco
What You Should Know This Week
"AltSchool’s $100 million. Each week, Educating Modern Learners picks one interesting current event – whether it’s news about education, technology, politics, business, science, or culture – and helps put it in context for school leaders, explaining why the news matters and how it might affect teaching and learning (in the short or in the long run). This week (the week of May 4, 2015), Audrey Watters looks at a massive round of funding raised by the “micro-school” startup AltSchool.

"The “micro-school” startup AltSchool announced this week that it has raised $100 million from what ed-tech industry blog Edsurge calls “a host of Silicon Valley’s blue bloods.” Investors include: Founders Fund, Andreessen Horowitz, Silicon Valley Community Foundation (Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan’s donor-advised fund), Emerson Collective (an organization founded by Laurene Powell Jobs, Steve Jobs’ widow), First Round Capital, Learn Capital, John Doerr, Harrison Metal, Jonathan Sackler, Adrian Aoun, and Omidyar Network. The influx of money (which includes debt funding to help the startup build more schools) brings the total raised by AltSchool to $133 million.

The startup runs a chain of private schools (tuition costs around $21,000-$27,000 per year) that boast a high level of technology usage. As Wired describes it: “Students get their own iPad or Chromebook, depending on their age, and their own weekly ‘playlists,’ queues of individual and group activities tailored to the specific strengths and weaknesses of each kid. Meanwhile, AltSchool’s technology tracks each student’s progress – and setback – every step of the way.”

We covered AltSchool last year here at EML [ ], questioning the startup’s claims to be offering a technology-infused “progressive education.”

The press coverage from this week’s funding announcement – many stories repeated the founder, former Google exec Max Ventilla, and his claims the startup is “Montessori 2.0” – do little to assuage any doubts about that.

“Inside the School Silicon Valley Thinks Will Save Education,” gushes Wired [ ].

“Everything is instrumented through technology,” Ventilla told Bloomberg Business [ ].

“We’re working to have a maximal surface area for learning – a school system that’s not only scalable, but doesn’t have the traditional supply constraints, like local administrators,” Ventilla told Buzzfeed [ ].

From NPR [ ]: “This classroom is also outfitted with fisheye-lens cameras, for a 360-degree view at all times, and a sound recorder. And the company is prototyping wearable devices for students with a radio frequency ID tag that can track their movements. Why all the intensive surveillance? Safety and health are two applications, but right now, Ventilla says, it’s mostly R&D. One day, all these data could be continuously analyzed to improve teaching techniques or assess student mastery.”

This last element – the constant surveillance of students – was just one of the things EML took issues with when it covered the startup last year. How can one reconcile that with progressive education? Does a school that surveils every aspect of a child – via audio and video and perhaps additional monitoring devices – trust the child?

The branding of AltSchool as progressive education is something to watch. Its investors are powerful, as is the narrative that the technology press willingly parrots. Schools need fixing. Silicon Valley engineers – not teachers – will fix them. (For what it’s worth, the majority of AltSchools’ employees are not educators; they are, indeed, software engineers.)"
audreywatters  altschool  aurveillance  maxventilla  2015  schools  education  progressive  teaching  learning  schooling  edtech  technology 
may 2015 by robertogreco
The Invented History of 'The Factory Model of Education'
[Follow-up notes here: ]

"Sal Khan is hardly the only one who tells a story of “the factory of model of education” that posits the United States adopted Prussia’s school system in order to create a compliant populace. It’s a story cited by homeschoolers and by libertarians. It’s a story told by John Taylor Gatto in his 2009 book Weapons of Mass Instruction. It’s a story echoed by The New York Times’ David Brooks. Here he is in 2012: “The American education model…was actually copied from the 18th-century Prussian model designed to create docile subjects and factory workers.”

For what it’s worth, Prussia was not highly industrialized when Frederick the Great formalized its education system in the late 1700s. (Very few places in the world were back then.) Training future factory workers, docile or not, was not really the point.

Nevertheless industrialization is often touted as both the model and the rationale for the public education system past and present. And by extension, it’s part of a narrative that now contends that schools are no longer equipped to address the needs of a post-industrial world."

"Despite these accounts offered by Toffler, Brooks, Khan, Gatto, and others, the history of schools doesn’t map so neatly onto the history of factories (and visa versa). As education historian Sherman Dorn has argued, “it makes no sense to talk about either ‘the industrial era’ or the development of public school systems as a single, coherent phase of national history.”"

"As Dorn notes, phrases like “the industrial model of education,” “the factory model of education,” and “the Prussian model of education” are used as a “rhetorical foil” in order make a particular political point – not so much to explain the history of education, as to try to shape its future."

"Many education reformers today denounce the “factory model of education” with an appeal to new machinery and new practices that will supposedly modernize the system. That argument is now and has been for a century the rationale for education technology. As Sidney Pressey, one of the inventors of the earliest “teaching machines” wrote in 1932 predicting "The Coming Industrial Revolution in Education,"
Education is the one major activity in this country which is still in a crude handicraft stage. But the economic depression may here work beneficially, in that it may force the consideration of efficiency and the need for laborsaving devices in education. Education is a large-scale industry; it should use quantity production methods. This does not mean, in any unfortunate sense, the mechanization of education. It does mean freeing the teacher from the drudgeries of her work so that she may do more real teaching, giving the pupil more adequate guidance in his learning. There may well be an “industrial revolution” in education. The ultimate results should be highly beneficial. Perhaps only by such means can universal education be made effective.

Pressey, much like Sal Khan and other education technologists today, believed that teaching machines could personalize and “revolutionize” education by allowing students to move at their own pace through the curriculum. The automation of the menial tasks of instruction would enable education to scale, Pressey – presaging MOOC proponents – asserted.

We tend to not see automation today as mechanization as much as algorithmization – the promise and potential in artificial intelligence and virtualization, as if this magically makes these new systems of standardization and control lighter and liberatory.

And so too we’ve invented a history of “the factory model of education” in order to justify an “upgrade” – to new software and hardware that will do much of the same thing schools have done for generations now, just (supposedly) more efficiently, with control moved out of the hands of labor (teachers) and into the hands of a new class of engineers, out of the realm of the government and into the realm of the market."
factoryschools  education  history  2015  audreywatters  edtech  edreform  mechanization  automation  algorithms  personalization  labor  teaching  howweteach  howwelearn  mooc  moocs  salkhan  sidneypressey  1932  prussia  horacemann  lancastersystem  frederickjohngladman  mikecaulfield  jamescordiner  prussianmodel  frederickengels  shermandorn  alvintoffler  johntaylorgatto  davidbrooksm  monitorialsystem  khanacademy  stevedenning  rickhess  us  policy  change  urgency  futureshock  1970  bellsystem  madrassystem  davidstow  victorcousin  salmankhan 
april 2015 by robertogreco
Men (Still) Explain Technology to Me: Gender and Education Technology | boundary 2
"There’s that very famous New Yorker cartoon: “On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” The cartoon was first published in 1993, and it demonstrates this sense that we have long had that the Internet offers privacy and anonymity, that we can experiment with identities online in ways that are severed from our bodies, from our material selves and that, potentially at least, the internet can allow online participation for those denied it offline.

Perhaps, yes.

But sometimes when folks on the internet discover “you’re a dog,” they do everything in their power to put you back in your place, to remind you of your body. To punish you for being there. To hurt you. To threaten you. To destroy you. Online and offline.

Neither the internet nor computer technology writ large are places where we can escape the materiality of our physical worlds—bodies, institutions, systems—as much as that New Yorker cartoon joked that we might. In fact, I want to argue quite the opposite: that computer and Internet technologies actually re-inscribe our material bodies, the power and the ideology of gender and race and sexual identity and national identity. They purport to be ideology-free and identity-less, but they are not. If identity is unmarked it’s because there’s a presumption of maleness, whiteness, and perhaps even a certain California-ness. As my friend Tressie McMillan Cottom writes, in ed-tech we’re all supposed to be “roaming autodidacts”: happy with school, happy with learning, happy and capable and motivated and well-networked, with functioning computers and WiFi that works.

By and large, all of this reflects who is driving the conversation about, if not the development of these technology. Who is seen as building technologies. Who some think should build them; who some think have always built them.

And that right there is already a process of erasure, a different sort of mansplaining one might say."

"Ironically—bitterly ironically, I’d say, many pieces of software today increasingly promise “personalization,” but in reality, they present us with a very restricted, restrictive set of choices of who we “can be” and how we can interact, both with our own data and content and with other people. Gender, for example, is often a drop down menu where one can choose either “male” or “female.” Software might ask for a first and last name, something that is complicated if you have multiple family names (as some Spanish-speaking people do) or your family name is your first name (as names in China are ordered). Your name is presented how the software engineers and designers deemed fit: sometimes first name, sometimes title and last name, typically with a profile picture. Changing your username—after marriage or divorce, for example—is often incredibly challenging, if not impossible.

You get to interact with others, similarly, based on the processes that the engineers have determined and designed. On Twitter, you cannot direct message people, for example, that do not follow you. All interactions must be 140 characters or less.

This restriction of the presentation and performance of one’s identity online is what “cyborg anthropologist” Amber Case calls the “templated self.” She defines this as “a self or identity that is produced through various participation architectures, the act of producing a virtual or digital representation of self by filling out a user interface with personal information.”

Case provides some examples of templated selves:
Facebook and Twitter are examples of the templated self. The shape of a space affects how one can move, what one does and how one interacts with someone else. It also defines how influential and what constraints there are to that identity. A more flexible, but still templated space is WordPress. A hand-built site is much less templated, as one is free to fully create their digital self in any way possible. Those in Second Life play with and modify templated selves into increasingly unique online identities. MySpace pages are templates, but the lack of constraints can lead to spaces that are considered irritating to others.

As we—all of us, but particularly teachers and students—move to spend more and more time and effort performing our identities online, being forced to use preordained templates constrains us, rather than—as we have often been told about the Internet—lets us be anyone or say anything online. On the Internet no one knows you’re a dog unless the signup process demanded you give proof of your breed. This seems particularly important to keep in mind when we think about students’ identity development. How are their identities being templated?

While Case’s examples point to mostly “social” technologies, education technologies are also “participation architectures.” Similarly they produce and restrict a digital representation of the learner’s self.

Who is building the template? Who is engineering the template? Who is there to demand the template be cracked open? What will the template look like if we’ve chased women and people of color out of programming?"

"One interesting example of this dual approach that combines both social and technical—outside the realm of ed-tech, I recognize—are the tools that Twitter users have built in order to address harassment on the platform. Having grown weary of Twitter’s refusal to address the ways in which it is utilized to harass people (remember, its engineering team is 90% male), a group of feminist developers wrote The Block Bot, an application that lets you block, en masse, a large list of Twitter accounts who are known for being serial harassers. That list of blocked accounts is updated and maintained collaboratively. Similarly, Block Together lets users subscribe to others’ block lists. Good Game Autoblocker, a tool that blocks the “ringleaders” of GamerGate.

That gets, just a bit, at what I think we can do in order to make education technology habitable, sustainable, and healthy. We have to rethink the technology. And not simply as some nostalgia for a “Web we lost,” for example, but as a move forward to a Web we’ve yet to ever see. It isn’t simply, as Isaacson would posit it, rediscovering innovators that have been erased, it’s about rethinking how these erasures happen all throughout technology’s history and continue today—not just in storytelling, but in code.

Educators should want ed-tech that is inclusive and equitable. Perhaps education needs reminding of this: we don’t have to adopt tools that serve business goals or administrative purposes, particularly when they are to the detriment of scholarship and/or student agency—technologies that surveil and control and restrict, for example, under the guise of “safety”—that gets trotted out from time to time—but that have never ever been about students’ needs at all. We don’t have to accept that technology needs to extract value from us. We don’t have to accept that technology puts us at risk. We don’t have to accept that the architecture, the infrastructure of these tools make it easy for harassment to occur without any consequences. We can build different and better technologies. And we can build them with and for communities, communities of scholars and communities of learners. We don’t have to be paternalistic as we do so. We don’t have to “protect students from the Internet,” and rehash all the arguments about stranger danger and predators and pedophiles. But we should recognize that if we want education to be online, if we want education to be immersed in technologies, information, and networks, that we can’t really throw students out there alone. We need to be braver and more compassionate and we need to build that into ed-tech. Like Blockbot or Block Together, this should be a collaborative effort, one that blends our cultural values with technology we build.

Because here’s the thing. The answer to all of this—to harassment online, to the male domination of the technology industry, the Silicon Valley domination of ed-tech—is not silence. And the answer is not to let our concerns be explained away. That is after all, as Rebecca Solnit reminds us, one of the goals of mansplaining: to get us to cower, to hesitate, to doubt ourselves and our stories and our needs, to step back, to shut up. Now more than ever, I think we need to be louder and clearer about what we want education technology to do—for us and with us, not simply to us."
education  gender  technology  edtech  2015  audreywatters  history  agency  ambercase  gamergate  society  power  hierarchy  harassment  siliconvalley  privilege  safety  collaboration  identity  tressiemcmillancottom  erasure  inclusion  inclusivity  templates  inlcusivity 
april 2015 by robertogreco
Audrey Watters Casts a Skeptical Eye on Tech Boosters - The Digital Campus - The Chronicle of Higher Education
"Audrey Watters describes herself as a Cassandra of educational technology, but the comparison is only partially apt.

Like the Greek prophet, Ms. Watters tells people things they often don’t want to hear. Unlike Cassandra, though, her clear-eyed analyses do find an audience. Her Twitter feed has more than 28,000 followers. Her blog, weekly newsletter, and year-end roundups of top tech trends are must-reads for many in higher education and the tech world. She’s in demand as a conference speaker. (She recently published a collection, Monsters of Education Technology, which features 14 of the talks she gave in 2014.)

A self-employed writer, Ms. Watters, 43, speaks with an independent voice. She doesn’t run ads on her site or take money from sponsors. Beholden to no institutions or companies, she’s free to critique them. She supports herself through her writing and speaking and through donations that readers make to her blog, Hack Education.

Animating her work is a conviction that technology needs to be not just used but questioned, its power structures and exclusions challenged, its makers’ narratives not taken for granted. She explained why this matters in a recent talk, "Men (Still) Explain Technology to Me," also posted as an essay on her blog. It’s a tech-infused riff on the phenomenon of "mansplaining" identified by the writer Rebecca Solnit. But Ms. Watters looks beyond gender to explain why the trend is a serious social problem.

"The problem isn’t just that men explain technology to me," she says in the essay. "It isn’t just that a handful of men explain technology to the rest of us. It’s that this explanation tends to foreclose questions we might have about the shape of things."

That matters, she says, "because the tech sector has an increasingly powerful reach in how we live and work and communicate and learn."

Speaking your mind about the powerful, male-dominated tech world can come at a cost, especially if you’re a female commentator. Ms. Watters is no stranger to online harassment. "It’s an issue that’s magnified by the architecture of the technology we use," she says, with platforms like Twitter making it too easy for harassers to do what they do. "It’s been really difficult, and it’s made me rethink a lot of the things about how I work online." She blocks offenders, uses online-security strategies, and calls for anti-harassment policies at conferences and elsewhere. She pushes on.

Ms. Watters brings a rare and necessary skepticism to the omnipresent innovation-and-disruption boosterism that plagues ed tech, says Jim Groom. He’s director of the division of teaching-and-learning technologies at the University of Mary Washington. He calls Ms. Watters "the cultural critic that ed tech has needed for a decade."

"She’s doing a lot of the hard work that a lot of the people in ed tech haven’t," Mr. Groom says. "It’s hard to go up against MOOCs and Silicon Valley."

MOOCs loomed large in Ms. Watters’s 2012 overview of tech trends, which featured a "forgotten history" of the phenomenon’s origins and questioned what kind of future MOOCs would really deliver: "With MOOCs, power might shift to the learner; it’s just as likely that power shifts to the venture capitalists."

Now, in 2015, even as MOOC fever has cooled, she remains skeptical. "Part of the crisis of higher education is that we’ve followed this story that innovation has to come from the private sector," she says. "MOOCs are a great example of that — so much ink spilled over something that’s really not that exciting at all."

Her own eclectic schooling shaped her thinking about education, Ms. Watters says. The child of an American father and an English mother, she went to public school in Wyoming and spent two years in an English boarding school. "It radicalized me in all kinds of ways," she says. "It was very clear to some people there who belonged and who didn’t belong and who had status."

She went to the Johns Hopkins University, dropped out, followed the Grateful Dead, moved home with a child in tow, took traditional and distance-ed courses to earn a B.A. from the University of Wyoming, married an artist, and moved to Oregon in the mid-90s. A job at the University of Oregon led her to graduate school there; she earned a master’s degree in folklore and was working on a dissertation in comparative literature when her husband died of cancer. The lack of support she and her family received from the campus community, she says, along with her sense that higher education in general was mired in bureaucracy and politics, contributed to her decision to quit graduate school.

Ms. Watters, who considers herself a recovering academic, brings the intellectual rigor of a highly trained cultural critic to her work now. She’s completing a book project called "Teaching Machines," a history of learning technologies and a corrective to the ahistorical narrative that now prevails. (The title comes from B.F. Skinner’s attempts, in the 1950s, to create a system of machine-enabled, programmed-learning classrooms.)

"It’s partially a response to what I feel is a dominant ideology out of Silicon Valley — that the past is irrelevant, somehow decadent and useless and needs to be swept aside, and the future is all that matters," she says. "I’ve been struck by how many people in ed tech speak as though the day they decided to do a start-up was the day ed tech began."

Another book project, "Reclaim Your Domain," focuses on more of Ms. Watters’s urgent concerns: data privacy and users’ control (or lack thereof) over the content they create, whether they’re students enrolled in a class, faculty members teaching and publishing online, or tech-using members of the general public.

Tech boosters argue that data collection can deliver a better learning experience as well as deter terrorism and solve health-care problems.

But Ms. Watters points out that too often users don’t know what’s at risk or aren’t given a choice about whether to share their data. For instance, universities need to make sure they’re not signing away the intellectual property of students and faculty members who use a learning-management system, she says. And what happens to users’ data when a start-up folds or gets bought?

"There are lots of places where the battle has to be fought," Ms. Watters says. "The stakes feel pretty high to me right now.""
audreywatters  2015  awesomepeople  edtech  technology  education  policy  independence  independents  criticism  criticalthinking  cassandras  truth  honesty  journalism  power  mansplaining  society  jimgroom  skepticism  mooc  moocs  radicals  culturalcriticism  siliconvalley  technosolutionism 
april 2015 by robertogreco
Ed-Tech's Inequalities
"“Education is the civil rights issue of our time,” you’ll often hear politicians and education reform types say.

"To the contrary, I maintain that civil rights remain the civil rights issue of our generation. When we see, for example, the Supreme Court overturn part of the Voting Rights Act, when we see rampant police violence against marginalized groups, when we see backlash against affirmative action and against Title IX protections, when we see pervasive discrimination – institutionalized – in people’s daily lives, when we see widespread inequalities – socioeconomic stratification based on race, ethnicity, gender, geography – we need to admit: there are things that, as Tressie McMillan Cottom has argued, the “education gospel cannot fix.”

And yet the dominant narrative – the gospel, if you will – about education and, increasingly education technology, is that it absolutely is “the fix.”

Education technology will close the achievement gap; education technology will close the opportunity gap. Education technology will revolutionize; education technology will democratize. Or so we are told. That's the big message at this week's ASU-GSV Summit, where education technology investors and entrepreneurs and politicians have gathered (registration: $2995) to talk about "equity." (Equity and civil rights, that is; not equity as investing in exchange for stock options and a seat on the Board of Directors, I should be clear. Although I'm guessing most of the conversations there were actually about the latter.)

"The rhetoric of “open” and education technology – particularly with regards to MOOCs and OER – needs to be interrogated. “Open access” is not sufficient. Indeed, as research by Justin Reich suggests – he’s also one of the authors of the MOOC study I just cited, incidentally – open educational resources might actually expand educational inequalities. A digital Matthew effect, if you will, where new technologies actually extend the advantages of the already advantaged.

In his research on OER, Reich looked at schools’ uses of wikis – some 180,000 wikis – and measured the opportunities that these provide students “to develop 21st-century skills such as expert thinking, complex communication, and new media literacy.” Among the findings: “Wikis created in schools serving low-income students have fewer opportunities for 21st-century skill development and shorter lifetimes than wikis from schools serving affluent students.” Reich found that students in more affluent schools were more likely to use wikis to collaborate and to build portfolios and presentations to showcase their work, for example.

Reich’s assertion that education technology broadens rather than erases educational inequality is echoed elsewhere. An article published last year in the journal Economic Inquiry, for example, found that “the introduction of home computer technology is associated with modest, but statistically significant and persistent negative impacts on student math and reading test scores.” Importantly, the negative impact was the greatest among low income students, in part the authors suggested because “student computer use is more effectively monitored and channeled toward productive ends in more affluent homes.” That is, students from affluent homes have a different sort of digital literacy and different expectations – themselves and from their parents – about what a computer is for."

"Anyon’s work is critical as it highlights how students’ relationship to “the system of ownership of symbolic and physical capital, to authority and control, and to their own productive activity” are developed differently in working class, middle class, and elite schools. Her work helps us to see too how the traditional practices of school might be reinforced, re-inscribed by technology – not, as some like to argue, magically disrupted, with these hierarchies magically flattened. Menial tasks are still menial if done on a computer. To argue otherwise is ed-tech solutionism – dangerous and wrong.

That’s not to say that education technology changes nothing, or changes little more than moving the analog to the digital. There are profoundly important questions we must ask about the shifts that education technology might bring about, particularly if we have our eye towards justice. How does education technology alter the notion of “work” in school, for example – students’ labor as well as teachers’ labor? Who owns all the content and data that students create when using educational technology? How do technology companies use this data to build their algorithms; how do they use it to build profiles and models? How do they use it to monitor, assess, predict, surveil? Who is surveilled; and who is more apt to be disciplined for what’s uncovered?

If we’re only concerned about the digital divide, we are likely to overlook these questions. We cannot simply ask “Who has access to Internet-connected devices at home?” We need to ask how Internet-connected devices are used – at home and at school?"

"This surveillance is increasingly pervasive, at both the K–12 and at the college level. New education technologies create more data; new education technology regimes – education policy regimes – demand more data."

"The architecture of education technology is not neutral.

Despite all the hype and hope about revolution and access and opportunity that these new technologies are supposed to provide us, they do not negate hierarchy, history, privilege, power. They reflect those. They channel it. They concentrate it, in new ways and in old."

"Education technology simply does not confront systemic inequalities. Or rather, it often substitutes access to a computing device or high speed Internet for institutional or structural change. Education technology routinely fails to address power or privilege. It fails to recognize, let alone examine, its history. It insists instead on stories about meritocracy and magic and claims about “blindness.”

I want to end here on what is a bit of a tangent, I suppose, about blindness – the things in technology we refuse to see.

This is a picture from Baotou in Inner Mongolia. Tim Maughan published a story last week on the BBC website about this artificial lake “filled with a black, barely-liquid, toxic sludge” – the toxic result of mining rare earth minerals, used in our modern computing devices, many of which are assembled – at least in part – in China.

That means this toxic lake is a byproduct of education technology. It grows as our fervor for new devices grows. Can we really say we’re architecting an equitable educational future if we ignore this foundation?

This is the great challenge for those of us in education: to address and not dismiss the toxicity. Adding technology does not scrub it away. To the contrary, we need to recognize where and how and why education technology actually makes things worse."
audreywatters  education  edtech  2015  technology  inequality  equity  mooc  moocs  anantagarwal  edx  dabanks  meritocracy  privilege  siliconvalley  technosolutionism  evgenymorozov  suveillance  natashasinger  pearson  aclu  eff  rocketshipschools  seymourpapert  carpediemschools  arneduncan  civilrights  justinreich  jeananyon  solutionism  charterschools 
april 2015 by robertogreco
Doxxing to Defend Student Privacy
When you’re doxxed, there’s a whistle: you’re now the target. Everything you do; everything you did. It’s fair game now.

Braun and Ravitch and Schneider whistled. They called out a woman for the masses on the Internet to target, to have all the data of her life pulled out, examined aggressively and maliciously. All in the service of protecting students from Pearson. Charles C. Johnson’s whistles call a different crowd, sure, but it’s still a whistle.

Now, thanks to Schneider’ justification that “doxxing is okay,” I wonder if we’ll see a new sort of crowdsourced harassment from these quarters. We’ve already seen folks from that circle go after women of color who worked for the teachers’ unions but who were, because of their demands for racial justice, deemed unruly.

If doxxing is the tactic – and “a primer” sure might indicate that it’s a-okay – then we have much more to do than prepare students how to think through the implications of portfolios or surveillance and discipline. It’s not just “don’t tweet about PARCC,” it’s – gah! – “don’t tweet.”

Seriously, we have to think about what it means when political groups decide to use those social media mechanisms not just to observe and monitor but to destroy their opposition and to stifle dissent. When I wrote my most recent story about privacy and identity development, I admit, I thought I was trying to carve out a space in which I hoped that students were free to be themselves without government or corporate influence. Now, I get to add to that list of organizations students need to protect themselves: the surveillance of well meaning education bloggers, who are willing to shame and doxx in order to sway systems to meet their own personal political machinations.

Congrats. You’re why education can’t have nice things."
audreywatters  2015  doxxing  dianravitch  education  pearson  bobbraun  civility  politics  debate  sexism  mercedesschneider  gamergate  harassment  internet  behavior 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Why We Shouldn't Celebrate Udacity's "Pivot"
"And whether you see today’s Fast Company article as indication of a “pivot” or not, I think it’s a mistake to cheer this moment as Udacity’s admission of failure and as an indication that it intends to move away from university disruption. The startup is, after all, still in partnership with Georgia Tech and AT&T to offer a computer science Master’s Degree. The startup is still working with San Jose State University. And most importantly, Thrun himself is still the name most associated with the MOOCification of higher ed.

And me, I have still more cause for concern, as I am not willing to shrug off lousy educational practices simply because they occur outside the walls of formal education. Many professors have been quite vigilant about criticizing MOOCs foray into higher ed; I think it’s just as important to keep that up if MOOCs want to conquer vocational ed instead. If MOOCs – short videos, multiples choice quizzes, and robo-graders – offer bad pedagogy, then that means they offer bad pedagogy for everyone, everywhere. To ignore bad pedagogy simply because it occurs in settings outside the humanities or outside the college curriculum is elitist and wrong.

Thrun argues in the Fast Company article that Udacity never sought to replace “anything as rich and powerful as what a traditional liberal-arts education would offer you.” (I think that’s what Coursera purports to do.) But I’m curious, for starters, why we wouldn’t want software engineers to have that background. What’s missing from CS curriculum today? Is it simply a matter of content – lessons in Hadoop, for example? I once asked Thrun’s co-founder David Stavens, incidentally, if Udacity planned to offer classes in communication or project management or documentation – three things I think a lot of engineers suck at. The answer was no, making me wonder what sort of career the Udacity classes were actually going to prepare folks for.

This is why the Udacity’s failures at San Jose State are so revealing. San Jose State is, after all, one of the most ethnically diverse campuses in the US. SJSU is near Silicon Valley but decidedly not Stanford, not Berkeley. But we learn, via the Fast Company article, that the SJSU students aren’t the right students for this grand MOOC experiment: “For Thrun, who had been wrestling over who Udacity’s ideal students should be, the results were not a failure; they were clarifying. ‘We were initially torn between collaborating with universities and working outside the world of college,’ Thrun tells me. The San Jose State pilot offered the answer. ‘These were students from difficult neighborhoods, without good access to computers, and with all kinds of challenges in their lives,’ he says. ‘It’s a group for which this medium is not a good fit.’”

Who is the “ideal student” and what is his (I’ll go with the male possessive pronoun here) relationship to a “rich liberal arts education”? What is his relationship to online education? Is it simply that the ideal student is not from the working class or minority population who requires the math remediation classes that Udacity offered via San Jose State? Or is the ideal students not to be found among the working class or minority students who do not require remediation? Seriously, why walk away from this student population? Do Udacity’s “ideal students” already have CS degrees? Are they looking for a career path at a specific corporation? Are they seeking some sort of certification to make them more hirable (there and there alone)? Are these “ideal students” women? Are these ideal students minorities? Are these ideal students US residents? Who defines "ideal"? The companies who now pay for Udacity's job pipeline?

There are plenty of complaints – why, a whole STEM shortage narrative – about our current education system’s failure to train enough people to fill the “jobs of the future.” But what exactly are these jobs? Are they the six-figure ones – the salary for entry level programming jobs in Silicon Valley? Or are we actually taking about lower-paying technical jobs – “spec work” – outsourced elsewhere, outsourced to “others”?

As Mike Caulfield notes in his take on the Fast Company article, Udacity’s move may simply re-inscribe an education pipeline that filters out rather than opening access and supporting more people. We need more students in computer science, so the story goes. But I think we have an obligation to do so with social justice and not mere hagiography in mind.

“At the end of the day, the true value proposition of education is employment,” says Thrun in an incredibly revealing statement. In other words, the purpose of education is to have a job not to make one. To be a worker, not a manager and not an entrepreneur. Let's be honest. This is not the value proposition of Stanford.

So yeah, perhaps it’s easy for many in higher education to shrug and sigh with relief that Thrun has decided to set his sights elsewhere. But if we care about learning – if we care about learners – I think we need to maintain our fierce critiques about MOOCs. Who is the target audience? Who is the “ideal student”? Why is crappy pedagogy okay for “them”? Who owns these students’ data? After all, there are no FERPA protections if you aren’t taking federal dollars. In this framework, it’s all for sale.

And while I’m not a religious person, I have to insist that this is not how I’d pick a godfather -- a moral compass -- for future generations of learners. Thrun is not my idea of an education saint. This whole MOOC thing simply isn't my idea of salvation."
autrey  audreywatters  mooc  moocs  udacity  education  highered  higheredu  2013  sebastianthrun  sjsu  experiments 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Hack Education Weekly Newsletter, No. 101
"Every week, I take all the essays and articles that I’ve bookmarked and sift through them in order to craft this newsletter. I’m always struck by how many weird and ridiculous claims are made about education and technology, both in the “mainstream” and industry press. (I don’t know why this continues to surprise me, and the right response, quite arguably, is to neither link to nor write for [ ] these publications…)

There’s the continuous clarion call for more data collection, more automation, more engineering, more scientific management, and of course more disruptive innovation. These are the narratives loudly trying to shape the future.
Of course, these narratives are intertwined with power and policies. As Alan Jacobs notes [ ], we confuse surveillance with care. We confuse surveillance with self-knowledge, Rob Horning adds [ ]:
I don’t think self-knowledge can be reduced to matters of data possession and retention; it can’t be represented as a substance than someone can have more or less of. Self-knowledge is not a matter of having the most thorough archive of your deeds and the intentions behind them. It is not a quality of memories, or an amount of data. It is not a terrain to which you are entitled to own the most detailed map. Self-knowledge is not a matter of reading your own permanent record.

We confuse individuals’ acts of (self-)documentation with structural change and justice. We confuse the “sharing economy” for the latter as well. According to Evgeny Morozov:
The citizens, who are not yet fully aware of these dilemmas, might eventually realise that the actual choice we are facing today is not between the market and the state, but between politics and non-politics. It’s a choice between a system bereft of any institutional and political imagination – where some permutation of hackers, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists is the default answer to every social problem – and a system, where explicitly political solutions that might question who – citizens, firms, the state – ought to own what, and on what terms, are still part of the conversation.

It doesn’t help that so many of these narratives comes from “a town without history,” as Mike Caulfield observes in “People Have the Star Trek Computer Backwards.”

[See also: ]
audreywatters  alanjacobs  robhorning  evgenymorozov  2015  surveillance  care  education  edtech  mikecaulfield  data  datacollection  management  scientificmanagement  self-knowledge  caring  permanentrecords  permanentrecord  records  justice  socialhustice  hierarchy  patriarchy  siliconvalley  edreform  technosolutionism  politics  policy  control  power  citizenship  civics  legibility  documentation  assessment  accountability  sharingeconomy  jessestommel  innovation  disruption  disruptiveinnovation 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Permanent Recorder – The New Inquiry
"Reducing self-knowledge to matters of data possession and retention like that seems to be the natural bias of a property-oriented society; as consciousness can’t be represented as a substance than someone can have more or less of, therefore it doesn’t count. But self-knowledge may not be a matter of having the most thorough archive of your deeds and the intentions behind them. It is not a quantity of memories, an amount of data. The self is not a terrain to which you are entitled to own the most detailed map. Self-knowledge is not a matter of reading your own permanent record. It is not an edit of our life’s footage."

"But what if we use social media not for self-knowledge but for self-destruction? What if we use social media to complicate the idea that we could ever “know ourselves”? What if we use social media to make ourselves into something unknowable? Maybe we record the footage of our lives to define therein what the essence of our self isn’t. To the degree that identity is a prison, self-knowledge makes the cell’s walls. But self-knowledge could instead be an awareness of how to move beyond those walls.

Not everyone has the opportunity to cast identity aside any more than they have the ability to unilaterally assert self-knowledge as a form of control. We fall into the trap of trying to assert some sort of objectively “better” or more “accurate” identity that reflects our “true self,” which is only so much more data that can be used to control us and remold the identity that is assigned to us socially. The most luxurious and privileged condition may be one in which you get to experience yourself as endlessly surprising — a condition in which you hardly know yourself at all but have complete confidence that others know and respect you as they should."

[Compare to:
also here: ]

[Update: another version of this here:

and compare to
(bookmarked: )

connections made via ]
robhorning  socialmedia  2015  identity  self-knowledge  control  presentationofself  surveillance  capitalism  realitytv  forgetting  facebook  permanentrecord  permanentrecords  alanjacobs  audreywatters 
march 2015 by robertogreco
What You Should Know This Week
"Although e-books, including digital textbooks, have added to new features to make them more attractive to readers – the ability to add highlights, the ability to search the entire corpus – these are secondary to students, who still prefer making their own notes and being able to flip to indexes and Tables of Content. And neither print not digital textbooks have managed to address the big problem that college students face: the rising cost. (That is, digital textbooks tend not to be much cheaper.)

Often we tell a story of technology that posits it’s all inevitable: e-books will mean the end of print; computers will mean the end of paper. But technology development and technology adoption do not necessarily march forward like that. We also assume that younger students – labeled “digital natives” as The Washington Post does in its coverage of Baron’s book – necessarily want more technology because they’re more comfortable and more adept with it.

“My major concern,” Baron told TNR, “as a person in higher education, is that we’re not listening. We’re assuming we’re being helpful by lowering price, by making it more convenient, by helping the environment, but we don’t bother asking our students what they think.”"
audreywatters  teaching  learning  pedagogy  print  digital  books  education  students  studentvoice  2015  listening  input  howweteach  howwelearn  technology  edtech  screens  naomibaron  ebooks 
february 2015 by robertogreco
Grand Rounds: The Beast of the Block (H/T to Audrey Watters)
[This URL links to the comment by Audrey Watters:

"I have a bunch of thoughts here:

1) I support people's decision to block, even if it means they're avoiding disagreements. Like I said in my post, social media is intellectual and emotional work, work we do for free. People should not feel compelled to engage with people, whether they agree or disagree. I think it's unfair to demand others pay attention to us by hopping, un-beckoned, into their feeds. I think it's unfair to demand that people respond to us online. I think it's unfair to @-mention people to bring them into an argument or discussion they weren't in. To do this often involves power and privilege in ways that is unexamined. You say you poke. I get it. I poke. But we need to recognize that constantly being poked is exhausting. Emotionally exhausting.

2) I definitely support Diane Ravitch's decision to block you or me or anyone she chooses to. She has over 100K followers on Twitter, on an unverified account. Verified accounts give users tools to handle the incredible amount of messages that one receives when one has a high number of followers. (I have less than a third of the number, and I tell you, it is overwhelming.) If she needs to take measures to make her feed tolerable, so be it. I have also tussled with her online; she hasn't blocked me, but we don't follow each other and I try not to @-mention her. (I subtweet or use her name, not her handle.) It's not that I don't want to engage with her. It's that I don't really see the point of doing so on Twitter.

3) I don't think you're a troll. I've told you that before. But I do think you can be a sea lion. ( ) "If I see a comment wander by the I disagree with, agree with, wonder about, want to poke at, I'll poke. If someone doesn't want to get poked at for something they said on Twitter, I'm continue to wonder why they said it on Twitter." -- that's pretty classic sea lioning. And I think we all need to be aware of these sorts of interjections and interactions. (You write that you don't know why you were blocked. Maybe it was something other than what you said. Maybe it was how you said it? How often you said it? I don't know, but it seems like it's worth a little introspection.) We presume a lot when we jump into people's mentions unannounced. We can still preach and advocate online without @-mentioning people we disagree when we do so."

[Below are some related tweets that I made prior to seeing Audrey's replies, which are much better than what I said. I had never hear the term ‘sea lion’ before and that's specifically what I was getting at:

“From 2012: “unleashing a temporary tweetmob on people to discourage dissent… gums up the conversational works”

"That post is about retweets, but I think the same applies for .@ replies.
[image of person with bat in hand, gang of buddies just behind]"

"To be more clear, I’m referring especially to the bit that includes the phrase “reasonable disagreement.” "

"and especially with RTs + .@ replies that *initiate* an interaction instead of an individual reply in good faith of beginning a conversation" ]

[Also for comparison (via: and ):

“On gentle pushback.”

and “I don’t know what to do, you guys” or “I’m fed up with political correctness, and the idea that everyone should already be perfect” ]

[These two also relate:
“Ask Not For Whom The Bell Trolls; It Trolls for Thee.” (Lindy West and her troll)

“Win of the Day: Woman Defeats Twitter Troll With Words, Kindness on MLK Day”

“The Newsroom: Santorum on Gay Rights” (Clip from Season 1 Episode 6 via ) ]
audreywatters  comments  twitter  replies  socialmedia  blocking  2015  sealions  interjection  interaction  dianravitch  discussion  argument  dissent  harassment  civility  tone  subtweets  disagreement  privilege  engagement  freddiedeboer  trolls  thenewsroom  lindywest  ijeomaoluo  ryanbrazell 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Why (Not) Wearables
"Students are watched. They are monitored. They are assessed. They are quantified.

Calls for a “quantified student” are connected in part to the “quantified self” movement, whose proponents use various technologies – apps, sensors, and wearables – to monitor aspects of their daily life (most commonly related to health and wellness, tracking things like caloric intake, sleep quality, and physical activity). The notion of the “quantified self” isn’t new – there are merely new devices for tracking, new ways to count “what counts.” “What counts” remains largely the same.

So even if a student gets to track for herself her own data there’s still, again, a very limited sense of “what counts,” based in part on the education system’s existing data demands and measurements. (This is one of the great ironies of disrupting “seat time”: we’re turning to other similarly flawed metrics.)"

"And so education technology opts to track more data. Rarely do we stop to ask to whom all this is being revealed or to what end. If both education and education technology view students as objects – objects to be tracked and monitored and shaped and surveilled – what role can we expect wearables to play?"
surveillance  audreywatters  2015  horizonreport  hype  policy  rfid  wearables  quantification  data  recording  video  googleglass  gps  students  schools  tracking  control  fitbit  edtech  technology  education  altschool 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Convivial Tools in an Age of Surveillance
"What would convivial ed-tech look like?

The answer can’t simply be “like the Web” as the Web is not some sort of safe and open and reliable and accessible and durable place. The answer can’t simply be “like the Web” as though the move from institutions to networks magically scrubs away the accumulation of history and power. The answer can’t simply be “like the Web” as though posting resources, reference services, peer-matching, and skill exchanges — what Illich identified as the core of his “learning webs” — are sufficient tools in the service of equity, freedom, justice, or hell, learning.

“Like the Web” is perhaps a good place to start, don’t get me wrong, particularly if this means students are in control of their own online spaces — its content, its data, its availability, its publicness. “Like the Web” is convivial, or close to it, if students are in control of their privacy, their agency, their networks, their learning. We all need to own our learning — and the analog and the digital representations or exhaust from that. Convivial tools do not reduce that to a transaction — reduce our learning to a transaction, reduce our social interactions to a transaction.

I'm not sure the phrase "safe space" is quite the right one to build alternate, progressive education technologies around, although I do think convivial tools do have to be “safe” insofar as we recognize the importance of each other’s health and well-being. Safe spaces where vulnerability isn’t a weakness for others to exploit. Safe spaces where we are free to explore, but not to the detriment of those around us. As Illich writes, "A convivial society would be the result of social arrangements that guarantee for each member the most ample and free access to the tools of the community and limit this freedom only in favor of another member’s equal freedom.”

We can’t really privilege “safe” as the crux of “convivial” if we want to push our own boundaries when it comes to curiosity, exploration, and learning. There is risk associated with learning. There’s fear and failure (although I do hate how those are being fetishized in a lot of education discussions these days, I should note.)

Perhaps what we need to build are more compassionate spaces, so that education technology isn’t in the service of surveillance, standardization, assessment, control.

Perhaps we need more brave spaces. Or at least many educators need to be braver in open, public spaces -- not brave to promote their own "brands" but brave in standing with their students. Not "protecting them” from education technology or from the open Web but not leaving them alone, and not opening them to exploitation.

Perhaps what we need to build are more consensus-building not consensus-demanding tools. Mike Caulfield gets at this in a recent keynote about “federated education.” He argues that "Wiki, as it currently stands, is a consensus *engine*. And while that’s great in the later stages of an idea, it can be deadly in those first stages.” Caulfield relates the story of the Wikipedia entry on Kate Middleton’s wedding dress, which, 16 minutes after it was created, "someone – and in this case it probably matters that is was a dude – came and marked the page for deletion as trivial, or as they put it 'A non-notable article incapable of being expanded beyond a stub.’” Debate ensues on the entry’s “talk” page, until finally Jimmy Wales steps in with his vote: a “strong keep,” adding "I hope someone will create lots of articles about lots of famous dresses. I believe that our systemic bias caused by being a predominantly male geek community is worth some reflection in this context.”

Mike Caulfield has recently been exploring a different sort of wiki, also by Ward Cunningham. This one — called the Smallest Federated Wiki — doesn’t demand consensus like Wikipedia does. Not off the bat. Instead, entries — and this can be any sort of text or image or video, it doesn’t have to “look like” an encyclopedia — live on federated servers. Instead of everyone collaborating in one space on one server like a “traditional” wiki, the work is distributed. It can be copied and forked. Ideas can be shared and linked; it can be co-developed and co-edited. But there isn’t one “vote” or one official entry that is necessarily canonical.

Rather than centralized control, conviviality. This distinction between Wikipedia and Smallest Federated Wiki echoes too what Illich argued: that we need to be able to identify when our technologies become manipulative. We need "to provide guidelines for detecting the incipient stages of murderous logic in a tool; and to devise tools and tool systems that optimize the balance of life, thereby maximizing liberty for all."

Of course, we need to recognize, those of us that work in ed-tech and adopt ed-tech and talk about ed-tech and tech writ large, that convivial tools and a convivial society must go hand-in-hand. There isn’t any sort of technological fix to make education better. It’s a political problem, that is, not a technological one. We cannot come up with technologies that address systematic inequalities — those created by and reinscribed by education— unless we are willing to confront those inequalities head on. Those radical education writers of the Sixties and Seventies offered powerful diagnoses about what was wrong with schooling. The progressive education technologists of the Sixties and Seventies imagined ways in which ed-tech could work in the service of dismantling some of the drudgery and exploitation.

But where are we now? Instead we find ourselves with technologies working to make that exploitation and centralization of power even more entrenched. There must be alternatives — both within and without technology, both within and without institutions. Those of us who talk and write and teach ed-tech need to be pursuing those things, and not promoting consumption and furthering institutional and industrial control. In Illich’s words: "The crisis I have described confronts people with a choice between convivial tools and being crushed by machines.""
toolforconviviality  ivanillich  audreywatters  edtech  technology  education  2014  seymourpapert  logo  alankay  dynabook  mikecaufield  wardcunningham  web  internet  online  schools  teaching  progressive  wikipedia  smallestfederatedwiki  wikis  society  politics  policy  decentralization  surveillance  doxxing  gamergate  drm  startups  venturecapital  bigdata  neilpostman  paulofreire  paulgoodman  datapalooza  knewton  computers  computing  mindstorms  control  readwrite  everettreimer  1960s  1970s  jonathankozol  disruption  revolution  consensus  safety  bravery  courage  equity  freedom  justice  learning 
november 2014 by robertogreco
The Future of Education: Programmed or Programmable
"See I don’t want to overreach here and make an argument that the Web is some sort of technological or ed-tech utopia. Despite all the talk about “leveling the playing field” and disrupting old, powerful institutions, the Web replicates many pre-existing inequalities; it exacerbates others; it creates new ones. I think we have to work much harder to make the Web live up to the rhetoric of freedom and equality. That’s a political effort, not simply a technological one.

Let me repeat that, because it has pretty significant implications for ed-tech, which is so often developed and implemented at the whims of political decisions — decisions made by politicians, administrators, decisions influenced by budgets, vendor pitches, and the latest Thomas Friedman New York Times op-ed. Decisions like ending Pell Grants for prisoners, for example.

To transform education and education technology to make it "future-facing” means we do have to address what exactly we think education should look like now and in the future. Do we want programmed instruction? Do we want teaching machines? Do we want videotaped lectures? Do we want content delivery systems? Or do we want education that is more student-centered, more networked-focused. Are we ready to move beyond “content” and even beyond “competencies”? Can we address the ed-tech practices that look more and more like carceral education — surveillance, predictive policing, control?"

See, these are political questions and they are philosophical questions. I don’t think it’s quite as simple as a choice between programmed instruction or the programmable web. And instead of acting as though ed-tech is free of ideology, we need to recognize that it is very much enmeshed in it.
audreywatters  2014  content  contentdelivery  edtech  technology  future  education  adomainofone'sown  politics  policy  democracy  surveillance  ideology  edreform  bfskinner  inequality  freedom  equality  teachingmachines 
november 2014 by robertogreco
Beyond the LMS
"Let’s move beyond the LMS, back to and forward to an independent Web and let’s help our students take full advantage of it."
adomainofone'sown  lms  openweb  web  mooc  moocs  vle  indieweb  online  internet  edtech  education  2014  audreywatters  technology  learning  reclaimhosting 
september 2014 by robertogreco
Ed-Tech's Monsters #ALTC
[video here: ]

"No doubt, we have witnessed in the last few years an explosion in the ed-tech industry and a growing, a renewed interest in ed-tech. Those here at ALT-C know that ed-tech is not new by any means; but there is this sense from many of its newest proponents (particularly in the States) that ed-tech has no history; there is only now and the future.

Ed-tech now, particularly that which is intertwined with venture capital, is boosted by a powerful forms of storytelling: a disruptive innovation mythology, entrepreneurs' hagiography, design fiction, fantasy.

A fantasy that wants to extend its reach into the material world.

Society has been handed a map, if you will, by the technology industry in which we are shown how these brave ed-tech explorers have and will conquer and carve up virtual and physical space.


We are warned of the dragons in dangerous places, the unexplored places, the over explored places, the stagnant, the lands of outmoded ideas — all the places where we should no longer venture. 

Hic Sunt Dracones. There be dragons.

Instead, I’d argue, we need to face our dragons. We need to face our monsters. We need to face the giants. They aren’t simply on the margins; they are, in many ways, central to the narrative."

"I’m in the middle of writing a book called Teaching Machines, a cultural history of the science and politics of ed-tech. An anthropology of ed-tech even, a book that looks at knowledge and power and practices, learning and politics and pedagogy. My book explores the push for efficiency and automation in education: “intelligent tutoring systems,” “artificially intelligent textbooks,” “robo-graders,” and “robo-readers.”

This involves, of course, a nod to “the father of computer science” Alan Turing, who worked at Bletchley Park of course, and his profoundly significant question “Can a machine think?”

I want to ask in turn, “Can a machine teach?”

Then too: What will happen to humans when (if) machines do “think"? What will happen to humans when (if) machines “teach”? What will happen to labor and what happens to learning?

And, what exactly do we mean by those verbs, “think” and “teach”? When we see signs of thinking or teaching in machines, what does that really signal? Is it that our machines are becoming more “intelligent,” more human? Or is it that humans are becoming more mechanical?

Rather than speculate about the future, I want to talk a bit about the past."

"To oppose technology or to fear automation, some like The Economist or venture capitalist Marc Andreessen argue, is to misunderstand how the economy works. (I’d suggest perhaps Luddites understand how the economy works quite well, thank you very much, particularly when it comes to questions of “who owns the machinery” we now must work on. And yes, the economy works well for Marc Andreessen, that’s for sure.)"

"But even without machines, Frankenstein is still read as a cautionary tale about science and about technology; and Shelley’s story has left an indelible impression on us. Its references are scattered throughout popular culture and popular discourse. We frequently use part of the title — “Franken” — to invoke a frightening image of scientific experimentation gone wrong. Frankenfood. Frankenfish. The monster, a monstrosity — a technological crime against nature.

It is telling, very telling, that we often confuse the scientist, Victor Frankenstein, with his creation. We often call the monster Frankenstein.

As the sociologist Bruno Latour has argued, we don’t merely mistake the identity of Frankenstein; we also mistake his crime. It "was not that he invented a creature through some combination of hubris and high technology,” writes Latour, "but rather that he abandoned the creature to itself.”

The creature — again, a giant — insists in the novel that he was not born a monster, but he became monstrous after Frankenstein fled the laboratory in horror when the creature opened his “dull yellow eye,” breathed hard, and convulsed to life.

"Remember that I am thy creature,” he says when he confronts Frankenstein, "I ought to be thy Adam; but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou drivest from joy for no misdeed. Everywhere I see bliss, from which I alone am irrevocably excluded. I was benevolent and good— misery made me a fiend.”

As Latour observes, "Written at the dawn of the great technological revolutions that would define the 19th and 20th centuries, Frankenstein foresees that the gigantic sins that were to be committed would hide a much greater sin. It is not the case that we have failed to care for Creation, but that we have failed to care for our technological creations. We confuse the monster for its creator and blame our sins against Nature upon our creations. But our sin is not that we created technologies but that we failed to love and care for them. It is as if we decided that we were unable to follow through with the education of our children.”

Our “gigantic sin”: we failed to love and care for our technological creations. We must love and educate our children. We must love and care for our machines, lest they become monsters.

Indeed, Frankenstein is also a novel about education. The novel is structured as a series of narratives — Captain Watson’s story — a letter he sends to his sister as he explores the Arctic— which then tells Victor Frankenstein’s story through which we hear the creature tell his own story, along with that of the De Lacey family and the arrival of Safie, “the lovely Arabian." All of these are stories about education: some self-directed learning, some through formal schooling.

While typically Frankenstein is interpreted as a condemnation of science gone awry, the novel can also be read as a condemnation of education gone awry. The novel highlights the dangerous consequences of scientific knowledge, sure, but it also explores how knowledge — gained inadvertently, perhaps, gained surreptitiously, gained without guidance — might be disastrous. Victor Frankenstein, stumbling across the alchemists and then having their work dismissed outright by his father, stoking his curiosity. The creature, learning to speak by watching the De Lacey family, learning to read by watching Safie do the same, his finding and reading Volney's Ruins of Empires and Milton’s Paradise Lost."

"To be clear, my nod to the Luddites or to Frankenstein isn’t about rejecting technology; but it is about rejecting exploitation. It is about rejecting an uncritical and unexamined belief in progress. The problem isn’t that science gives us monsters, it's that we have pretended like it is truth and divorced from responsibility, from love, from politics, from care. The problem isn’t that science gives us monsters, it’s that it does not, despite its insistence, give us “the answer."

And that is problem with ed-tech’s monsters. That is the problem with teaching machines.

In order to automate education, must we see knowledge in a certain way, as certain: atomistic, programmable, deliverable, hierarchical, fixed, measurable, non-negotiable? In order to automate that knowledge, what happens to care?"

"I’ll leave you with one final quotation, from Hannah Arendt who wrote,
"Education is the point at which we decide whether we love the world enough to assume responsibility for it and by the same token save it from that ruin which, except for renewal, except for the coming of the new and young, would be inevitable. And education, too, is where we decide whether we love our children enough not to expel them from our world and leave them to their own devices, nor to strike from their hands their chance of undertaking something new, something unforeseen by us, but to prepare them in advance for the task of renewing a common world.”

Our task, I believe, is to tell the stories and build the society that would place education technology in that same light: “renewing a common world.”

We in ed-tech must face the monsters we have created, I think. These are the monsters in the technologies of war and surveillance a la Bletchley Park. These are the monsters in the technologies of mass production and standardization. These are the monsters in the technologies of behavior modification a la BF Skinner.

These are the monsters ed-tech must face. And we must all consider what we need to do so that we do not create more of them."
audreywatters  edtech  technology  education  schools  data  monsters  dragons  frankenstein  luddites  luddism  neoluddism  alanturing  thomaspynchon  society  bfskinner  standardization  surveillance  massproduction  labor  hannaharendt  brunolatour  work  kevinkelly  technosolutionism  erikbrynjolfsson  lordbyron  maryshelley  ethics  hierarchy  children  responsibility  love  howwelearn  howweteach  teaching  learning  politics  policy  democracy  exploitation  hierarchies  progress  science  scientism  markets  aynrand  liberarianism  projectpigeon  teachingmachines  personalization  individualization  behavior  behaviorism  economics  capitalism  siliconvalley 
september 2014 by robertogreco
Twitter / audreywatters: Efficiency is bullshit. ...
[mentioned here: ]

"Every time I think I agree with "learn to code" efforts as part of a new literacy, I see the invocation of "efficiency" and I barf"

"Efficiency is bullshit. Efficiency is the demand of an industrial system wanting us to bend humanity to the demand of money and machine"
[the one with the thread]

"Fuck you. I am inefficient. Fuck you. I am human."

"I am "inefficient" because I'm a woman. Because I'm a mom. Because I grieve. Because I write poetry, I read novels. Because I'm angry."

"I'm inefficient because I recognize that efficiency is sad and empty and bitter and exploitative."

"@alexismadrigal yes I wrestle with Illich a lot. Who can dismiss institutions (edu specifically). Who relies on them for justice?"
audreywatters  efficiency  edtech  productivity  2014  ivanillich  technology  jaquesellul  labor  education  deschooling  unschooling  socirty  values  inefficiency  exploitation  shrequest1 
july 2014 by robertogreco
The Problem with “Personalization”
"What are the repercussions of radically “personalizing” education through computers? What do we gain? What do we lose?

There’s a very powerful strain of American individualism — and California exceptionalism — that permeates technology: an emphasis on personal responsibility, self-management, autonomy. All that sounds great when and if you frame new technologies in terms of self-directed learning.

But how do we reconcile that individualism with the social and political and community development that schools are also supposed to support? How do we address these strains of individualism and increasingly libertarianism as they permeate the classroom?

What do we do about the communal goals of education, for example — to produce good citizens, if nothing else — if we become maniacally focused on personal goals of education instead? What happens to meaningful moments to collaborate? What happens to discussion? What happens to debate? What happens to the idea that we must work through ideas together — not just in the classroom, but as part of our work and civic responsibilities?

And who gets the “personalized” education delivered through them via adaptive technology? And who gets the “personalization” that we hope a student-centered, progressive education would offer?

This image from a PBS documentary about Rocketship Education haunts me.

The chain of charter schools boasts personalization — “Rocketship uses the most adaptive and personalized programs available, and continues to push Silicon Valley vendors and others to create even more adaptive learning tools,” its website boasts.

So the problem with personalization via adaptive software isn’t simply that “it doesn’t work.” It’s that it might work — work to obliterate meaningful and powerful opportunities for civics, for connection, for community. Work to obliterate agency for students. And work not so much to accelerate learning, but to accelerate educational inequalities."

[Accompanies: "What Should School Leaders Know About Adaptive Learning?" ]

[See also: ]
rocketshipschools  audreywatters  education  personalization  bigdata  legibility  autonomy  personallearning  learning  schools  policy  adaptivelearningtechnology  data  datacollection  adaptivelearning  adaptivetechnology 
june 2014 by robertogreco
Reclaiming Innovation
"Udell notes: "There's a reason I keep finding novel uses for these trailing-edge technologies. I see them not as closed products and services, but rather as toolkits that invite their users to adapt and extend them.""

"Rather than framing everything at the course level, we should be deploying these technologies for the individual."

"Viewed as a whole, the web today bears little resemblance to the innately democratic and decentralized network that seduced and enticed us a decade ago."

"Railing against the academy's failure to embrace a perceived risk can be dismal fun for many of us, but an honest appraisal of our own missteps has to be in the mix."
2014  jimgroom  brianlamb  audreywatters  internet  web  highered  highereducation  it  ict  technology  mooc  moocs  disruption  open  edupunk  lms  openpublishing  publishing  adomainofone'sown  diy  decentralization  anildash  georgesiemens  stephendownes  jonudell  benjaminbratton  vendors  silos  security  privacy  venturecapital  tonyhirst  timberners-lee  bryanalexander  openness  reclaimhosting  indieweb 
june 2014 by robertogreco
The Future of Ed-Tech is a Reclamation Project #DLFAB
"If your education-related lifebits are in your own repository, you are able to audit your education record — to correct incorrect data, to run your own analyses of the things that are meaningful to you as a learner.

You have the ability to control who has access to your lifebits — this is absolutely crucial. With lifebits, you opt in, rather than as now, where we have to opt out of analytics and algorithms. You can decide what is shared publicly or shared privately or what is not shared at all.

You have the technology to help you remember. You retain the ability — and the right — to delete, to forget.

"The technical aspects are somewhat challenging,” Udell wrote in 2007, "but the social and business aspects are even more challenging.”'

"I think one of the most powerful learning technologies humans have ever created is the World Wide Web. Its power doesn’t lie simply in all the “content.” We get too distracted by that. The power of the Web lies in the human connections, in our intellectual and social networks. That schools block the Web and filter the Web and discourage its usage is a terrible shame. That schools fail to help students learn about how the Web works and how they will likely form and perform some digital identity there is a terrible missed opportunity.

Wired Magazine tried to argue back in 2010, “The Web is Dead.” "As much as we love the open, unfettered Web,” wrote then editor Chris Anderson, "we’re abandoning it for simpler, sleeker services that just work. ...Over the past few years, one of the most important shifts in the digital world has been the move from the wide-open Web to semiclosed platforms that use the Internet for transport but not the browser for display.”

But reports of the Web’s death, to paraphrase Mark Twain, are greatly exaggerated. Indeed, despite the interests of many technology companies in funneling our activities into applications that are closed off from the Web — without URLs, without syndication, without data portability, often without privacy protections where all our activities are set to be data-mined — the Web remains. It remains a site of great hope and great promise. It remains easily readable, writable, and hackable. And despite the efforts of the Facebooks and the Blackboards of the world, there’s a push for a return to the Web, the indie Web, many of us fell in love with when we first dialed up to it, when we first escaped AOL.

Today the content we create — we all create, but particularly learners create — is important, even critical I’d suggest to the development of our identities, the protection of our well-being. It is not secure in the hands of startups or big corporations — these companies go away. It is not secure in the hands of schools. Schools are not in the business of long term data storage, and they increasingly outsource their IT to those very startups and big corporations. We must become the holders of our own data, but not so that we bury all of it away from view. We will want to share it with others on our own terms.

We can reclaim the Web and more broadly ed-tech for teaching and learning. But we must reclaim control of the data, content, and knowledge we create. We are not resources to be mined. Learners do not enter our schools and in our libraries to become products for the textbook industry and the testing industry and the technology industry and the ed-tech industry to profit from.

Ed-tech must be not become an extraction effort, and it increasingly is. The future, I think we'll find, will be a reclamation project. Let’s start now to take it back."
2014  audreywatters  web  internet  edtech  content  ownership  adomainofone'sown  privacy  forgetting  memory  archives  data  datamining  business  capitalism  reclaimhosting  indieweb 
may 2014 by robertogreco
Squishy Not Slick - squishy not slick, the edtech futurist version / #thoughtvectors not call centers
"lots of rumblings lately, lots of connections

[most of this will just serve as placeholders until I have more time to fill in the missing pieces]

Is the future of educational technology going to look like a call center? ( )

Rob led me to Gardner Campbell’s talk ( ) [who I just realized is a colleague of some of my favorite people on the internet, @jonbecker and @twoodwar who are working on the #thoughtvectors thing at VCU], in which he explains the point of all this as ”networked transcontextualism,” which is the way to escape “the double bind,” a term from Gregory Bateson. ( )

In the same vein, Audrey Watters says all the right things ( ) [and thanks to Rob for storifying it]

Seymour Papert (,38 ) keeps coming up [Campbell and Watters mention him]

Campbell’s “networked transcontextualism” especially reminded me of what Richard Elmore had to say about all this ( ), that we’re moving from “nested hierarchy” to “networked relationships.”

Then Dan Meyer joined in, saying it with a Neil Diamond analogy. ( )

This is all happens while I’m trying to make Sugata Mitra’s SOLE idea ( ), or something similar, happen in more traditional classrooms, an attempt at finding an alternate path, an escape from the call center version of our edtech future."
lukeneff  audreywatters  2014  gardnercampbell  jonbecker  tomwoodward  gregorybateson  danmeyer  seymourpapert  sugatamitra  sole  transcontextualism  edtech  education  learning  teaching  connections  networks  doublebind  richardelmore  transcontextualization 
may 2014 by robertogreco
Against "Innovation" #CNIE2014
[See also: ]

"One culture values openness and collaboration and inquiry and exploration and experimentation. The other has adopted a couple of those terms and sprinkled them throughout its marketing copy, while promising scale and efficiency and cost-savings benefits. One culture values community, and the other reflects a very powerful strain of American individualism — not to mention California exceptionalism — one that touts personal responsibility, self-management, and autonomy."

"As I read Solnit’s diary about the changes the current tech boom is bringing to San Francisco, I can’t help but think about the changes that the current ed-tech boom might also bring to education, to our schools and colleges and universities. To places that have also been, in certain ways, a "refuge for dissidents, queers, pacifists and experimentalists.”

Global ed-tech investment hit a record high this year: $559 million across 103 funding deals in the the first quarter of the year alone. How does that shape or reshape the education landscape?

In the struggle to build “a great hive,” to borrow Solnit’s phrase, that is a civil society and not just a corporate society, we must consider the role that education has played — or is supposed to play — therein, right? What will all this investment bring about? Innovation? To what end?

When we “innovate” education, particularly when we “innovate education” with technology, which direction are we moving it? Which direction and why?

Why, just yesterday, an interview was published with Udacity founder Sebastian Thrun, who’s now moving away from the MOOC hype and the promises he and others once made that MOOCs would “democratize education.” Now he says, and I quote, “If you’re affluent, we can do a much better job with you, we can make magic happen." Screw you, I guess, if you're poor.

I’ve gestured towards things so far in this talk that might tell us a bit about the culture of Silicon Valley, about the ideology of Silicon Valley.

But what is the ideology of “innovation.” The idea pre-dates Silicon Valley to be sure."

"See, as I started to gather my thoughts about this talk, as I thought about the problems with Silicon Valley culture and Silicon Valley ideology, I couldn’t help but choke on this idea of “innovation.”

So I’d like to move now to a critique of “innovation,” urge caution in chasing “innovation,” and poke holes, in particular, in the rhetoric surrounding “innovation.” I’d like to challenge how this word gets wielded by the technology industry and by extension by education technologists.

And I do this, I admit in part, because I grow so weary of the word. “Innovation” the noun, “innovative” the adjective, “innovate” the verb — they’re bandied about all over the place, in press releases and marketing copy, in politicians’ speeches, in business school professors’ promises, in economists’ diagnoses, in administrative initiatives. Um, in the theme of this conference and the name of this organization behind it.


What is “innovation”? What do we mean by the term? Who uses it? And how? Where does this concept come from? Where is it taking us?

How is “innovation” deeply ideological and not simply descriptive?"

"The technology innovation insurrection isn’t a political one as much as it is a business one (although surely there are political ramifications of that).

In fact, innovation has been specifically theorized as something that will blunt revolution, or at least that will prevent the collapse of capitalism and the working class revolution that was predicted by Karl Marx.

That's the argument of economist Joseph Schumpeter who argued most famously perhaps in his 1942 book Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy that entrepreneurial innovation was what would sustain the capitalist system — the development of new goods, new companies, new markets that perpetually destroyed the old. He called this constant process of innovation “creative destruction."

"The precise mechanism of the disruption and innovation in Christensen’s theory differs than Schumpeter’s. Schumpeter saw the process of entrepreneurial upheaval as something that was part of capitalism writ large — industries would replace industries. Industries would always and inevitably replace industries.

Schumpeter argued this process of innovation would eventually mean the end of capitalism, albeit by different processes than Marx had predicted. Schumpeter suggested that this constant economic upheaval would eventually cause such a burden that democratic countries would put in place regulations that would impede entrepreneurship. He argued that, in particular, “intellectuals” — namely university professors — would help lead to capitalism’s demise because they would diagnose this turmoil, develop critiques of the upheaval, critiques that would appealing and relevant to those beyond the professorial class.

That the enemy of capitalism in this framework is the intellectual and not the worker explains a great deal about American politics over the past few decades. It probably explains a great deal about the ideology behind a lot of the “disrupting higher education” talk as well."

"“The end of the world as we know it” seems to be a motif in many of the stories that we hear about what “disruptive innovation” will bring us, particularly as we see Christensen’s phrase applied to almost every industry where technology is poised to transform it. The end of the newspaper. The end of the publishing industry. The end of print. The end of RSS. The end of the Post Office. The end of Hollywood. The end of the record album. The end of the record label. The end of the factory. The end of the union. And of course, the end of the university.

The structure to many of these narratives about disruptive innovation is well-known and oft-told, echoed in tales of both a religious and secular sort:

Doom. Suffering. Change. Then paradise."

"Our response to both changing technology and to changing education must involve politics — certainly this is the stage on which businesses already engage, with a fierce and awful lobbying gusto. But see, I worry that we put our faith in “innovation” as a goal in and of itself, we forget this. We confuse “innovation” with “progress” and we confuse “technological progress” with “progress” and we confuse all of that with “progressive politics.” We forget that “innovation" does not give us justice. “Innovation” does not give us equality. “Innovation" does not empower us.

We achieve these things when we build a robust civic society, when we support an engaged citizenry. We achieve these things through organization and collective action. We achieve these things through and with democracy; and we achieve — or we certainly strive to achieve — these things through public education. "
audreywatters  2014  edtech  culture  technology  californianideology  innovation  disruption  highered  highereducation  individualism  google  googleglass  education  schools  learning  ds106  siliconvalley  meritocracy  rebeccasolnit  class  society  poverty  ideology  capitalism  novelty  change  transformation  invention  language  salvation  entrepreneurship  revolution  business  karlmarx  josephschumpeter  johnpatrickleary  claytonchristensen  sustainability  mooc  moocs  markets  destruction  creativedestruction  publiceducation  progress  justice  collectivism  libertarianism 
may 2014 by robertogreco
Open Ed 12 - Gardner Campbell Keynote - Ecologies of Yearning - YouTube
[See also: ]

[See also: and

[References these videos by a student: ]


"In his keynote at the 2012 OpenEd conference, Gardner Campbell, an Associate Professor of English at Virginia Tech, talked about the “Ecologies of Yearning.” (Seriously: watch the video.) Campbell offered a powerful and poetic vision about the future of open learning, but noted too that there are competing visions for that future, particularly from the business and technology sectors. There are competing definitions of “open” as well, and pointing to the way in which “open” is used (and arguably misused) by education technology companies, Campbell’s keynote had a refrain, borrowed from “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”: “That is not it at all. That is not what I meant, at all.”"]

"30:29 Bateson's Hierarchy of learning

30:52 Zero Learning:"receipt of signal". No error possible

31:37 Learning I: "change in specificity of response by correction of errors of choice within a set of alternatives". Palov, etc. Habituation, adaptation.

32:16 Learning II: Learning-to-learn, context recognition, "corrective change in the set of alternatives from which choice is made, or.. in how the sequence of experience is punctuated". Premises are self-validating.

34:23 Learning III: Meta-contextual perspective, imagining and shifting contexts of understanding. "a corrective change in the system of sets of alternatives from which choice is made" Puts self at risk. Questions become explosive.

36:22 Learning IV: change to level III, "probably does not occur in any adult living organisms on this earth"

38:59 "Double bind"

44:49 Habits of being that might be counter-intuitive

51:49 Participant observers constructed Wordles of students' blogs"

[Comment from Céline Keller:

"This is my favorite talk online: Open Ed 12 - Gardner Campbell Keynote - Ecologies of Yearning +Gardner Campbell

This is what I wrote about it 7 month ago:

"Academia is to knowledge what prostitution is to love; close enough on the surface but, to the nonsucker, not exactly the same thing." Nassim Nicholas Taleb

If you care about education and learning don't miss listening to Gardner Campbell!

As described on the #edcmooc resource page:

"(This lecture)...serves as a warning that what we really want - our utopia - is not necessarily to be found in the structures we are putting in place (or finding ourselves within)."
Love it."

I still mean it. This is great, listen."]

[More here: ]
2012  gardnercampbell  nassimtaleb  academia  web  participatory  learning  howwelearn  hierarchyoflearning  love  habituation  adaption  open  openeducation  coursera  gregorybateson  udacity  sebastianthrun  mooc  moocs  georgesiemens  stephendownes  davecormier  carolyeager  aleccouros  jimgroom  audreywatters  edupunk  jalfredprufrock  missingthepoint  highered  edx  highereducation  tseliot  rubrics  control  assessment  quantification  canon  administration  hierarchy  hierarchies  pedagogy  philosophy  doublebind  paranoia  hepephrenia  catatonia  mentalhealth  schizophrenia  life  grades  grading  seymourpapert  ecologiesofyearning  systems  systemsthinking  suppression  context  education  conditioning  pavlov  gamification  freedom  liberation  alankay  human  humans  humanism  agency  moreofthesame  metacontexts  unfinished  ongoing  lifelonglearning  cognition  communication  networkedtranscontextualism  transcontextualism  transcontextualsyndromes  apgartest  virginiaapgar  howweteach  scottmccloud  michaelchorost  georgedyson  opening  openness  orpheus  experience  consciousness  pur 
may 2014 by robertogreco
What Does (and Doesn’t) Progressive Education Plus Technology Look Like? Thoughts on AltSchool
"What Does (and Doesn’t) Progressive Education Plus Technology Look Like? Thoughts on AltSchool
By Audrey Watters

What does it look like when a Silicon Valley engineer decides to reinvent primary school education? Former Google exec Max Ventilla has just raised $33 million to build AltSchool, which he says will be an updated version of Montessori, but a version that relies more heavily on technology R&D. The funding — and the philosophy — prompted EML editor Audrey Watters to ask what does progressive education plus Silicon Valley engineering look like? Does it look like progressive education at all?

In his keynote at the 2012 OpenEd conference, Gardner Campbell, an Associate Professor of English at Virginia Tech, talked about the “Ecologies of Yearning.” (Seriously: watch the video. [ ]) Campbell offered a powerful and poetic vision about the future of open learning, but noted too that there are competing visions for that future, particularly from the business and technology sectors. There are competing definitions of “open” as well, and pointing to the way in which “open” is used (and arguably misused) by education technology companies, Campbell’s keynote had a refrain, borrowed from “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”: “That is not it at all. That is not what I meant, at all.”

“That is not it at all.” I’ve thought of that line again recently when reading about a new school that recently opened in San Francisco. AltSchool, according to headlines in the technology press, seeks to “reinvent” [ ] and “reimagine“ [ ] primary education. “Silicon Valley startup model meets progressive education,” KQED Mindshift describes the startup. [ ]

Progressive education plus progressive technology — that is, technology in the service of inquiry, computing in the hands of the learner, the Web and the world readily available to the student, and the reformulation of school that could come as a result — is something we want to explore here at Educating Modern Learners. But looking at AltSchool, all I hear is T.S. Eliot: ”That is not it at all. That is not what I meant, at all.”

Silicon Valley Startup Model Meets Progressive Education

AltSchool [ ] was founded in 2013 by Max Ventilla, a former Google executive (his Q&A company Aardvark was acquired by Google in 2010, but he’d worked at the tech giant previously too). When he departed Google last year, Techcrunch speculated [ ] that his next project would be education-related, based on a tweet from his wife — a photograph of a pile of education-related books. Embracing the Silicon Valley mantra of “fail fast and pivot,” Ventilla has taken that reading list and jumped headfirst into education, hiring engineers and teachers (as well as Richard Ludlow, the founder of the education video site Academic Earth) and starting a new, for-profit school. (The startup has started the process of becoming a “B corp,” [ ] meaning that profit isn’t its only goal).

It hasn’t officially opened its doors yet, but AltSchool is running a pilot program now with 20 students from age 5 to 12. Tuition currently runs $19,100 per year, but might be lower as the school plans to expand into multiple locations in the fall.

The students at AltSchool are not separated by grade; they’re in one large room that has various activity centers and space for solitary and group work. Mindshift writer Katrina Schwartz, who visited the school, writes [ ] that “There are times in the day when students are working on independent projects and skills tailored to their skill level, interests, and needs. ‘We expose them to a lot of different things and then sit back and observe, listen to what they say, watch what really excites them, and then build on that and ask questions that go deeper,’ [teacher Carolyn] Wilson said.”

“Personalization” and Playlists

There are elements of AltSchool that draw on progressive education, to be sure, and the startup says that it’s focused on helping students “drive their own education through their real-world motivations and interests.”

But the startup draws on a mishmash of educational theories and technologies, many of which undercut the claims of AltSchool being “progressive.” Although it touts the “personalization” of the program, it’s worth questioning here (as is often the case when that buzzword is used in education circles) what that actually means.

Ventilla describes [ ] the school’s “Personalized Learning Plan” as something “developed collaboratively with insights from teachers, family, and students. It prioritizes a set of learning objectives and milestones that are informed by a standards-based curriculum. It also includes goals for academic, social, and emotional development. The PLP maps from AltSchool’s global notion of what children should learn and how students generally learn best, as represented by their Learner Profile.”

And again, from the Mindshift description of the school:
Another borrowed idea applied to AltSchool is the School of One model in New York. Students at AltSchool work from an individual playlist the teacher puts together that’s keyed to his or her interests. The teacher can keep track of student progress on a dashboard, ensure the tasks have been completed, and adjust activities depending on how students are progressing. For example, recently, AltSchool teacher Carolyn Wilson assigned a video about California’s delta to one student, paired with questions about how water moves through the system.
“He moved it to the ‘done’ column, but it wasn’t done, so I told him he was turning me into a screaming monster,” Wilson said. When she checked his work and saw he hadn’t finished, Wilson tagged that assignment with a screaming monster icon and a note to the student telling him to go back and answer the questions and complete a reflection.

As a video filmed during a visit to the school by Techcrunch’s Leena Rao [ ] also highlights, the talk about “personalization” is translated into a “choice” about which assignments to do next, a “choice” of whether to watch a video or complete a digital worksheet.

Although students have access to tablets, their usage of technology hardly seems transformational. The tools are used to deliver content and quizzes and to track students. Indeed, that seems to be the major point of using technology: for data collection and analysis to be used by adults (parents, teachers, school engineers). The tracking doesn’t just happen through the tablets either; the schoolroom is equipped with video cameras [ ]
so that teachers can just press a button to document a moment. Ventilla says that teachers, parents and students who have been able to actually watch a breakthrough moment or a moment of breakdown have been able to help their children learn better. AltSchool has built audio hardware to better record in noisy settings, and video is uploaded to an online CMS that both parents and teachers can access.

Can we reconcile education as surveillance and education as a practice of freedom? I’m not so sure.

A New Model? An Old Model?

AltSchool recently raised [ ] $33 million from Founders Fund, Andreessen Horowitz, First Round Capital, Harrison Metal, John Doerr, Jonathan Sackler, Learn Capital, and Omidyar Network. (It had previously raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding. [ ]) As San Francisco Chronicle writer Jill Tucker remarked [ ] about the $33 million, “In the public school world, that much money would be enough to support a small school district for a year or pay the annual salaries of more than 400 experienced teachers. Ventilla plans to mostly spend it on engineers. The AltSchool computer whizzes will design software and applications that make payroll, hiring, admissions, facilities services, purchasing and other services — typically done by a school district’s central office staff — electronically seamless, Ventilla said.”

“We’re not trying to make existing schools work better. We are trying to actually advance a new model of a school.” – Max Ventilla
“We’re not trying to make existing schools work better,” Ventilla has said in several interviews. [ ] “We are trying to actually advance a new model of a school.”

AltSchool raises so many questions about what progressive education plus technology should or could look like; it certainly shows what I’d argue is the sort of superficial approach to “fixing education” that’s all too common from Silicon Valley technologists. Read a book or two; then start an education company. How hard can it be?

One of the things that I find particularly fascinating (and frightening) about this approach is how little it knows about the history of … [more]
audreywatters  2014  progressive  education  progressiveeducation  altschool  johndewey  gardnercampbell  freedom  surveillance  coercion  control  maxventilla  pedagogy  technology  google  montessori  learning  leadership  californianideology  comments  jalfredprufrock  tseliot 
may 2014 by robertogreco
Should We Automate Education? | EdTech Magazine
"In 1962, Raymond Callahan published Education and the Cult of Efficiency, a historical account of the influence that “scientific management” (also known as “Taylorism,” after its developer, Frederick Taylor) had on American schools in the early 20th century — that is, the push to run schools more like factories, where the productivity of workers was measured, controlled and refined.

Callahan’s main argument was that the pressures on the education system to adopt Taylorism resulted neither in more refined ways to teach nor in better ways to learn, but rather, in an emphasis on cost cutting. Efficiency, he argued, “amounted to an analysis of the budget. … Decisions on what should be taught were not made on educational, but on financial grounds.”

Fifty years later, we remain obsessed with creating a more “efficient” educational system (although ironically, we object to schools based on that very “factory model”). Indeed, this might be one of the major promises that educational technologies make: to deliver a more efficient way to teach and learn, and a more efficient way to manage schooling.

Deciding What We Want From Education

Adaptive learning — computer-based instruction and assessment that allows each student to move at her or his pace — is perhaps the latest in a series of technologies that promise more ­efficient education. The efficiency here comes, in part, from the focus on the individual — personalization — instead of on an entire classroom of students.

But it’s worth noting that adaptive learning isn’t new. “Intelligent tutoring systems” have been under development for decades now. The term “intelligent tutoring” was coined in the 1980s; research into computer-assisted instruction dates to the 1960s; and programmed instruction predates the computer altogether, with Sidney Pressey’s and B. F. Skinner’s “teaching machines” of the 1920s and 1950s, respectively.

“Education must become more efficient,” Skinner insisted. “To this end, curricula must be revised and simplified, and textbooks and classroom techniques improved.”

Rarely do we ask what exactly “efficiency” in education or ed tech ­entails. Does it mean a reduction in ­errors? Faster learning? Reshaping the curriculum based on market demands? Does it mean cutting labor costs — larger classroom sizes, perhaps, or teachers replaced by machines?

We also often fail to ask why efficiency would be something we would value in education at all. Schools shouldn’t be factories. Students aren’t algorithms.

What happens if we prioritize efficiency in education? By doing so, are we simply upgrading the factory model of schooling with newer technologies? What happens to spontaneity and messiness? What happens to contemplation and curiosity?

There’s danger, I’d argue, in relying on teaching machines — on a push for more automation in education. We forget that we’re teaching humans."
audreywatters  automation  education  edtech  learning  children  humanism  humans  efficiency  2014  1962  raymondcallahan  management  taylorism  factoryschools  schools  industrialeducation  schooling  adaptivelearning  bfskinner  sidneypressey  computers  computing  technology  curiosity  messiness  spontaneity  unschooling  deschooling 
april 2014 by robertogreco
Broken (with tweets) · ayjay · Storify
"I tried to bring together some of the best responses here, but Storify's search is br — um., somewhat inconsistent in its results."

[The tweets that sparked the conversation:]

"The vague use of "broken" is really problematic in an age of planned obsolescence. People used to fix broken things; now they're discarded. So to say "the economy is broken" or "higher ed. is broken" can be a way of evading the responsibility to make something better."

"Neither higher ed. nor the economy are broken. They're more like cars that run pretty well but are headed in the wrong direction. My point is: the language of "brokenness" breeds fatalism. Let's try a different and more precise set of descriptors."

Erin: "I think education could use a serious regression rather than innovation or 'disruption.' Too many promises broken."
alanjacobs  storify  audreywatters  erinkissane  language  words  meaning  corruption  compromise  jenniferhoward  ashergelzer-govatos  jrschmitt  justice  education  highered  highereducation  society  economics  fatalism  progress  obsolescence  change  innovation  disruption 
february 2014 by robertogreco
Top Ed-Tech Trends of 2013: MOOCs and Anti-MOOCs

MOOCs expanded greatly in 2013 – expanded their partner institutions, expanded their course offerings, expanded their investment dollars, grew the number of students enrolled, and so on. But there were lots of questions along the way: who’s succeeding in MOOCs; how will MOOCs make money; how will MOOCs affect higher education; and how will MOOCs affect open education?"

"I started this (too goddamned long) review on MOOCs by invoking the Gartner Hype Cycle. And a nod here is due to Rolin Moe who’s writing his dissertation on MOOCs and who’s been very clear that the Gartner Hype Cycle is the wrong tool and wrong framework to use to talk about ed-tech. Moe writes that,
“If 2012 was The Year of the MOOC, one would expect 2013 to begin the MOOC’s path into trough of disillusionment. And to be fair, the MOOC has encountered more criticism from a wider array of thinkers and researchers since The Year of the MOOC. But the hype continues to soar. Education continues to be broken. MOOCs continue to focus on their model successes. And history’s biggest backer of education is maneuvering to make the MOOC more than a flash in the pan.”

Indeed. Despite all the criticisms and all the skepticism and all the failures and all the back-tracking and all the protests and all the pivots, MOOCs march onward. Many schools and many states are exploring MOOCs for credit. Many people, including the President, see MOOCs as a way to reduce college costs. Many see MOOCs as an experiment – a big data experiment, natch – that will uncover all sorts of insights into how we learn.

Despite the efforts of those of us who’d want to use more precise terminology, MOOCs and online education have been conflated. And online education doesn’t map neatly to Gartner’s Hype Cycle. We’ve been doing it for a long time now; and we are likely to continue doing so.

Moreover, if we view MOOCs as just part of a Gartner Hype Cycle – whether we position 2013 at the peak or in the trough or somewhere in between – it means we’re likely collapsing the history of ed-tech into a nifty business school narrative that ignores much of the past in order to make a prediction about investments in the future. As Edsurge likes to say, "Kaching!"

Where does I. A. Richards’ “Failed MOOC” of the 1950s fit in to this story?. How does David Noble’s 1998 book Digital Diploma Mills, which as David Wiley argued earlier this year, “reads as if it were researched and written about the current phenomenon called “MOOCs”?

And so once again, 2013 may have been more about ed-tech “zombie ideas,” if you will, than hype cycles. And MOOCs, although they've had a monstrous year, are surely not dead yet."
audreywatters  mooc  moocs  2013  edtech  onlineeducation  highered  highereducation  history 
december 2013 by robertogreco
Sebastian Thrun and Udacity: Distance learning is unsuccessful for most students.
"It is more than galling that Thrun blames students for the failure of a medium that was invented to serve them, instead of blaming the medium that, in the storied history of the “correspondence” course (“TV/VCR repair”!), has never worked. For him, MOOCs don’t fail to educate the less privileged because the massive online model is itself a poor tool. No, apparently students fail MOOCs because those students have the gall to be poor, so let’s give up on them and move on to the corporate world, where we don’t have to be accountable to the hoi polloi anymore, or even have to look at them, because gross.

Successful education needs personal interaction and accountability, period. This is, in fact, the same reason students feel annoyed, alienated, and anonymous in large lecture halls and thus justified in sexting and playing World of Warcraft during class—and why the answer is not the MOOC, but the tiny, for-credit, in-person seminar that has neither a sexy acronym nor a potential for huge corporate partnerships.

Granted, Thrun’s hasty retreat from a full university takeover is delightful for advocates of actual education, and his new vocational focus seems like a great idea for its participants at first glance. But here’s the other problem, which is perhaps even more pernicious: The single thing MOOCs unequivocally do better than traditional educational methods is play to the distinct advantages of the advantaged. Congratulations?

As Audrey Watters and Mike Caulfield have both argued, Thrun’s new venture will still probably have a 93 percent attrition rate, and that attrition rate does not actually seem to bother its creator. For Thrun has implied that MOOC failures are chaff being separated from wheat, the herd being thinned in a meritocracy, a “feature” rather than a bug in the system, as Caulfield has put it.

And just as with university MOOCs, those 7 percent who make it are going to be the same 7 percent who always make it: individuals who are not from “rough” neighborhoods, who have easy access to resources, and none of the pesky “challenges” that come from attempting to survive in an economy rigged against them. The workers who will thrive in a corporate training MOOC are those who do not need a MOOC to get a promotion."
moocs  mooc  udacity  sebastianthrun  2013  academia  audreywatters  mikecaulfield  rebeccaschuman  class  privilege  education  correspondencecourses 
november 2013 by robertogreco
Click Here to Save Education: Evgeny Morozov and Ed-Tech Solutionism
"This flight from thinking and the urge to replace human judgments with timeless truths produced by algorithms is the underlying driving force of solutionism. Bruno Latour distinguishes between “matters of facts,” the old unrealistic way of presenting all knowledge claims as stable, natural, and apolitical, and “matters of concern,” a more realistic mode that recognizes that knowledge claims are usually partial and reflect a particular set of problems, interests, and agendas. For Latour, one way to reform our political system is to acknowledge that knowledge is made of matters of concern and to identify all those affected by such matters; the proliferation of self-tracking—and the displacement of thinking by numbers—risks forever grounding us in the matters-of-fact paradigm. Once we abandon thinking for optimizing, it becomes much more difficult not only to enact but to actually imagine possible reforms of the system being “measured” and “tracked.”"

“Technostructuralists,” he argues, “view information technologies ‘neither as technologies of freedom nor of tyranny but primarily as technologies of power that lock into existing or emerging technostructures of power.’ Thus, any given technology is allowed to centralize and decentralize, homogenize and pluralize, empower and disempower simultaneously.”

"I’ve been told quite often that I’m too negative. Too critical. Too unsupportive of education technology entrepreneurship. Too loud. Too mean. And lately, I’ve wanted to retort, "Maybe. But I’m no Evgeny Morozov” — even though, truth be told, I think ed-tech desperately needs one. Ed-tech, once so deeply grounded in progressive educational theory and practice, has been largely emptied of both."
audreywatters  2013  evgenymorozov  technology  solutionism  technosolutionism  education  mattersoffacts  mattersofconcern  criticalthinking  quantifiedself  knowledge  brunolatour  optimization  efficience  scale  questions  questioning  edtech  technostructuralism  kevinkelly  janmcgonigal  jeffjarvis  clayshirky  timoreilly  timwu  books  problemsolving  problemdefining 
march 2013 by robertogreco
Will · Educon 2.5-ish Random-ish Reflections
"But the one thing we kind of danced around that I wish we’d had more time for was the “ok, so what do we do about it.” Two snippets spoke to that. First, at one point we began talking about the inroads that companies had made into education via the Apple Distinguished Educator or Google Certified Teacher brands, and whether or not there was a downside to helping to market companies that at the end of the day may not have the best intentions or visions for the type of progressive reforms that many of us are calling for."


"We don’t need textbooks anymore. We can make our own with our kids. But textbook companies need us to need textbooks. Other companies need us to need LMSs even though we don’t really need them. Etc. What, at the end of the day, are the products that really serve the vision of teaching and learning that we’re now talking about?"


"I. Self-organized learning

This is something I've been thinking about lately. If we are not given true control (when, how, what, etc.) of our own education then we can always blame others for our education. We become victims. This is the problem with compulsory schooling and predetermined curriculum.

On the other hand, if we are given complete control of our education then we can only blame ourselves for its shortcomings. We are allowed self-determination. That is empowering.

II. The tools at our disposal

"What, at the end of the day, are the products that really serve the vision of teaching and learning that we’re now talking about?"

Same as they've always been (though not really products): the people and places in our communities. That includes libraries and museums, of course.

And from recent years: broadband connections (connecting to people, ideas and resources from around the world) and maker spaces (in many ways, those are not really new)."
willrichardson  educon  educon2.5  2013  self-organizedlearning  education  learning  tools  empowerment  blame  victimization  teaching  schools  schooling  textbooks  lms  audreywatters  comments 
march 2013 by robertogreco
Hacking at Education: TED, Technology Entrepreneurship, Uncollege, and the Hole in the Wall
"I have questions about community support. I have questions about what happens when we dismantle public institutions like schools — questions about social justice, questions about community, questions about care. I have questions about the promise of a liberation via a “child-driven education,” questions about this particular brand of neo-liberalism, techno-humanitarianism, and techno-individualism."

"Now don’t get me wrong. There’s plenty that education institutions do — from K–12 onward — that doesn’t help learners at all. Cost. Curriculum. Control. Assessments. Standardization. Debt. Unemployment. Existential Malaise."

"So despite their claims to be liberatory — with the focus on “the learner” and “the child” — this hacking of education by Mitra and Stephens is politically regressive. It is however likely to be good business for the legions of tech entrepreneurs in the audience."
education  schools  schooling  ted  tedtalks  sugatamitra  holeinthewall  community  publicgood  dalastephens  uncollege  unschooling  deschooling  criticism  audreywatters  techno-humanitarianism  neoliberalism  liberation  criticalthinking  groupthinking  dalestephens  evgenymorozov  highereducation  highered  funding  sole  capitalism  coursera  salmankhan  khanacademy  daphnekoller  privilege  techno-individualism  individualism  libertarians  libertarianism  californianideology  niit  salkhan 
march 2013 by robertogreco
Twitter / robinsloan: @audreywatters @tcarmody @mthomps ...
"@audreywatters @tcarmody @mthomps Ha! Nothing we do at @snarkmarket is massive or even particularly scalable—that's part of its charm ;-)"

…in response to

"@tcarmody @Snarkmarket @mthomps @robinsloan thank you for not calling this MOOC. Otherwise, you'd be dead to me, Carmody"

…in response to

"The best blogs become great classrooms. On @Snarkmarket’s Tenth Anniversary Seminar w/@mthomps, @robinsloan, me, & you: "
snarkmarket  seminars  charm  scaling  scale  robinsloan  timcarmody  audreywatters  moocs  2012  mooc 
november 2012 by robertogreco
He Enlisted
"When I look at my son, I see a 19-year-old young man. But I also see a million moments from all those 19 years, compressed into the Now. I see him as I saw him after he slid out of my body, covered in blood, cord still attached to me. I see him on his first day of school. I see him on the day he graduated from high school. I see him as a Tyrannasaurus-loving toddler, holding his arms close to his body to mimic the Rex’s short limbs, his hands clenched with just two fingers sticking out. Roaring. I see him in that moment when I had to tell him his dad had died. I hear his wailing cry in response. All this haunts me.

He is all those things at once: the newborn, the toddler, the teen, the man. It’s sometimes hard to reconcile.

It’ll be harder still with him in uniform."

[See also: ]
children  mothers  love  parenting  2012  audreywatters 
october 2012 by robertogreco
"The Audrey Test," Part 2: What Educators Need to Know about Tech
"It was pretty easy for me to write “The Audrey Test” for technologists. After all, I’ve been thinking about teaching and learning (with technology) for a long, long time. It’s much harder for me to write a test for teachers. I’m neither an engineer or an entrepreneur. I've never done no book learnin' on these topics, and I had to take a crash course in these things when I became a tech blogger. I'm still all "valuations, wait wut?" I confess.

Nonetheless, here’s my first draft of what educators (particularly those making purchasing decisions -- for themselves, for their schools, their classrooms, their children) should probably know: [list]"
edtech  entrepreneurship  technology  education  2012  audreywatters 
september 2012 by robertogreco
Steve Hargadon - The Future of Education | Connected Learning
"Questions Asked/Key Comments Made

(16:54) As we're having these national conversations with a lot of hand-wringing about [...] the state of our education system, I think that we need to have some serious conversations about 'What is the purpose of education?'

(19:07) If the conversation about the purpose of education takes place at the EduCon or Steve Hargadon level, is that actually going to create the kind of change that we're looking for? Or does the conversation need to be taken down to a much more grassroots level?

(26:52) The first question coming in is about another elephant in the room: the assessment system of testing. That really is identified by the questioner as one of the deficiencies that you're referencing, Steve. And the question is very simply, "How can this be changed?"


[I mentioned the chat here: with the following notes.]

I just watched a chat on "The Future of Education" [ ] (with Steve Hargadon, Jeff Brazil, Audrey Watters, Bryan Alexander, Monika Hardy) and I think it's worth sharing. Steve Hargadon kicks off the discussion with a pair of stories and a list of his four core beliefs regarding education, all of which I agree with:

1. "the worth and inherent value of every child" as opposed to defining children by deficiencies, as is mostly the case with the system that we currently have

2. "agency: the ultimate goal of education should be to develop the ability for students to take responsibility for their own lives and become increasingly self directed"

3. "the value of learning in helping us lead better lives by overcoming our biases, by overcoming simplistic thinking, by overcoming cognitive errors"

4. "the value of participation" for learning, democracy, professional development, etc.

One of the important points made in the conversation that follows is that that future could (and I hope it will) be found in networks rather than institutions or *a* system, both of which imply hierarchical power maintained through standardization. That's why I'm also leaving a link to Tricia Wang's talk "Dancing with Handcuffs: The Geography of Trust" [ ], in which she gives a great description of the power of social networks while describing how they differ from social circles.

One final wish from me to add to all of this: I hope the future of education involves the elimination of age segregation. Networks can make that easy to accomplish.
us  society  lcproject  individualization  standardization  commoncore  autonomy  hierarchy  alternatives  future  generations  socialnetworking  socialnetworks  learning  purpose  economics  power  politics  schoolboards  institutions  insiders  deschooling  unschooling  assessment  technology  change  networks  education  2012  jeffbrazil  bryanalexander  audreywatters  monikahardy  stevehargadon  self-preservation 
september 2012 by robertogreco
The Real Reason I Dropped Out of a PhD Program
"I was disillusioned by the institution of higher education. I still am. But my disillusionment about grad school involves much more than simply the unhappy prospects for the academic job market. I saw the university care more about sports than learning. I saw undergrads care more about getting their diplomas than learning. I’d once believed I wanted to be part of a scholarly community, but “community” was sorely lacking, as was oftentimes the scholarship. And while I wanted to spend my life immersed in learning and teaching and writing, I just couldn’t reconcile “the life of the mind” with the whims of university administrators, state politicians, state budgets. I couldn’t reconcile “the life of the mind” with the demands of the physical world, the demands of the physical body."

"I quit because I’d lost the stomach for being part of the institution of higher education — one that wasn’t sustaining me intellectually, financially or spiritually; one that wanted me to teach classes for very low wages — as a grad student and then likely as an adjunct faculty member. I quit because I was exhausted and couldn’t handle the obstacle course that grad school and the academic job market still required my running through. I quit because I needed to heal from the trauma of watching Anthony die. I quit because far from that so-called Ivory Tower being a place of solace and contemplation, it had become a nightmare of bureaucracy and politics. I quit because I didn’t want to be a cog in that machine. I quit because I felt the system was broken. And at the time, I was broken too."
adjunct  healthinsurance  death  life  2005  2004  2012  education  markets  labor  exploitation  highereducation  highered  audreywatters  academia  gradschool 
august 2012 by robertogreco
Main Page - Educate
"[M]ost of the people in Silicon Valley who are starting ed-tech companies (or funding them) don't actually know much about teaching and learning. The goal of this project is to fix that by producing a short guide to the core concepts that someone really must be familiar with to take part in a grown-up conversation about education and technology…someone who has read this guide should have a comprehensive (albeit shallow) knowledge of the educational landscape---there shouldn't be any glaring "unknown unknowns" in their understanding of the subject.

Our target is 50 topics of 1000 words each…possible to read the whole guide on a flight from NY to SF…

…we want to cover five areas:
* education in general
* educational technology
* computing education
* real-world constraints on large-scale change
* illustrative examples

Our prototypical reader is Tim, a 30-year-old programmer in Silicon Valley. He has a degree in Comp Sci from Euphoric State University, has been working for a tech…"
books  technology  computers  computing  collaboration  wiki  2012  theory  learning  amybrown  audreywatters  gregwilson  education  edtech 
august 2012 by robertogreco
Why Should Techies Care About Education Theory?
"Below is a look at 5 of the most important education theorists of the 20th century. And yes, I realize there are others who’ve contributed to the field. I’d love to hear suggestions from readers about “who’s missing.” Even better? Offers to write those sections of the guide. You’ll find this and other articles in our work-in-progress-wiki [ ]."

[The five education theorists are John Dewey, Maria Montessori, Jean Piaget, B.F. Skinner, and Paolo Freire.]
edtech  learning  education  theory  2012  bfskinner  piaget  jeanpiaget  mariamontessori  johndewey  paulofreire  audreywatters 
august 2012 by robertogreco
The Failure of One Laptop Per Child
"The mission of the non-profit organization always stressed something broader, bigger -- One Laptop per Child meant empowerment, engagement, and education:

We aim to provide each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop. To this end, we have designed hardware, content and software for collaborative, joyful, and self-empowered learning. With access to this type of tool, children are engaged in their own education, and learn, share, and create together. They become connected to each other, to the world and to a brighter future.
No mention of improving standardized test scores in there, you'll notice. No talk of "student achievement." "The best preparation for children," according to the OLPC website isn't test prep. It is "to develop the passion for learning and the ability to learn how to learn."

Standardized test scores in math and in language do not reflect "the ability to learn how to learn" -- they don't even purport to. But we fixate on test scores nevertheless.
laptops  computers  standardizedtesting  testing  learning  education  minimallyinvasiveeducation  holeinthewall  sugatamitra  nicholasnegroponte  2012  audreywatters  olpc 
april 2012 by robertogreco
How to Teach Web-Building to Anyone
"I'm making some big shifts in my work in the coming months (read: focusing my energies rather than what's become the scattershot of freelance writing). I'm thrilled to say that this will mean more time for Hack Education, thanks in no small part to a research and writing project I'll be undertaking for Mozilla.

It's part of the organization's larger learning and literacy efforts, and my piece will involve researching practices and pedagogies and interviewing teachers, learners, technologists about tools for teaching programming for the Web. Specifically (or rather, conceptually), I'm asking the question: Do we need a "'Scratch' for HTML5?" All my findings and conversations will be written up here on this blog."
srg  edg  kids  2012  programming  coding  web  webdev  html5  html  audreywatters  children  webdesign 
february 2012 by robertogreco
The Public Library, Completely Reimagined | MindShift
"Earlier this year, MAKE Magazine’s Phillip Torrone wrote a provocative article asking “Is it time to rebuild and retool libraries and make ‘techshops’?” In other words, should libraries join some of the other new community centers that are being created (such as General Assembly which we covered yesterday) and become “hackerspaces” or “makerspaces”?

“Yes!”, says librarian Lauren Smedley, who is in the process of creating what might just be the first maker-space within a U.S. public library. The Fayetteville Free Library where Smedley works is building a Fab Lab — short for fabrication laboratory — that will provide free public access to machines and software for manufacturing and making things."
libraries  lcproject  makerbot  2011  audreywatters  philliptorrone  laurensmedley  lafayettefreelibrary  library2.0  makers  hackerspaces 
november 2011 by robertogreco
Bookworm: Ngrams Meet the Library Catalog | Hack Education
"Despite the ease by which Ngrams purports to let users glean insights from the history of published words, it’s pretty clear that it’s not a complete (or completely accurate tool). Yet the idea of this sort of search-plus-visualization is really compelling.

Bookworm builds on this visualization, but does so with a much richer sense of libraries, metadata, and texts are interconnected. It feels as though it moves closer to the ways in which we use the library stacks — you search for a subject or book; you go to that shelf; you grab that book and then you browse what’s nearby. As our reading and research habits become more digital themselves, these sorts of discovery tools are crucial."
2011  audreywatters  googlengrams  ngramviewer  books  humanities  visualization  metadata  culture  scholarship  academia  history  language  libraries 
october 2011 by robertogreco
Has Technology Changed the Way Children Play? | MindShift
"Playground culture and children’s games are not overwhelmed, marginalized or threatened by media."

"despite the fears about an untoward influence of media and technology, the researchers found that children’s folklore and children’s imaginations still thrive"
learning  play  ipad  technology  children  audreywatters  2011  games  playgrounds  folklore 
september 2011 by robertogreco
Mozilla’s Open Badges Announcement, Storified | Hack Education
"I have covered the Open Badges project several times over the past year:  in an article for MindShift and most recently with an interview in O'Reilly Radar with Project Manager Erin Knight.

In the storify below, I've collected some of the resources about the project, as well as some of the reactions via Twitter to today's announcement -- Mozilla's announcement as well as the Digital Media & Learning's badges competition."

[See also: AND AND ]
audreywatters  mozilla  openbadges  2011  motivation  learning  dmlbadges  badges  lifelonglearning  alternativecertification  certification 
september 2011 by robertogreco
Google+ Audrey Watters on Cell Phone Bans in Schools
"A little rant here: my iPhone is my most important computing device. It's mobile, so I have it with me always. It contains all my information -- or, rather, access to all my data -- all my Google Docs, all my Evernotes, all my address book, the e-books I'm reading, the story articles I'm working on, photos, etc. It's a camera. It's a video camera. It's a phone. At my fingertips, I have access to the Web and by extension access to just everything -- Hooray for knowledge. Hooray for WiFi, for 3G, etc.

So it boggles my mind, yes, but mostly it just infuriates me that schools would tell students that the mobile computing devices they carry -- devices that likely contain just as personal and important information for them -- are forbidden. Or worse: that they're subject to confiscation and search…"

[Response to: ]
audreywatters  education  schools  mobile  phones  policies  learning  iphone  howwework  howwelearn  rights  students  studentrights  2011 
august 2011 by robertogreco
Read, Written, Resigned | Audrey Watters
"And see, that’s the thing: teaching and learning isn’t something that just happens in the classroom. The Internet has torn down the walls of the classroom, whether teachers or ed-tech companies like it or not. Ed-tech needn’t be the ghetto’d products that could never make it on the consumer market. And luddite educators just won’t cut it any longer. With the explosion of information and knowledge and data and such, “education” plus “technology” is something that all of us — technologists, writers, educators, students alike — should take seriously."
audreywatters  edtech  education  technology  learning  information  knowledge  informallearning  luddism  luddites  teaching  classrooms  2011  classroom 
july 2011 by robertogreco
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