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▶ Audrey Watters | Gettin' Air with Terry Greene
"Audrey Watters (@audreywatters) is an ed-tech folk hero who writes at Hack Education @hackeducation where, for the past nine years, she has taken the lead in keeping the field on its toes in regards to educational technology's "progress". Her long awaited and much anticipated book, "Teaching Machines", will be out in the new year."
2019  audreywatters  edtech  terrygreene  bfskinner  technology  schools  education  turnitin  history  learning  behaviorism  cognition  cognitivescience  psychology  automation  standardization  khanacademy  howweteach  liberation  relationships  agency  curiosity  inquiry  justice  economics  journalism  criticism  vr  facebook  venturecapital  capitalism  research  fabulism  contrafabulism  siliconvalley  archives  elonmusk  markzuckerberg  gatesfoundation  billgates 
7 weeks ago 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
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
What If Everything You Knew About Disciplining Kids Was Wrong? | Mother Jones
"The expression "school-to-prison pipeline" was coined to describe how America's public schools fail kids like Will. A first-grader whose unruly behavior goes uncorrected can become the fifth-grader with multiple suspensions, the eighth-grader who self-medicates, the high school dropout, and the 17-year-old convict. Yet even though today's teachers are trained to be sensitive to "social-emotional development" and schools are committed to mainstreaming children with cognitive or developmental issues into regular classrooms, those advances in psychology often go out the window once a difficult kid starts acting out. Teachers and administrators still rely overwhelmingly on outdated systems of reward and punishment, using everything from red-yellow-green cards, behavior charts, and prizes to suspensions and expulsions.

How we deal with the most challenging kids remains rooted in B.F. Skinner's mid-20th-century philosophy that human behavior is determined by consequences and bad behavior must be punished. (Pavlov figured it out first, with dogs.) During the 2011-12 school year, the US Department of Education counted 130,000 expulsions and roughly 7 million suspensions among 49 million K-12 students—one for every seven kids. The most recent estimates suggest there are also a quarter-million instances of corporal punishment in US schools every year.

But consequences have consequences. Contemporary psychological studies suggest that, far from resolving children's behavior problems, these standard disciplinary methods often exacerbate them. They sacrifice long-term goals (student behavior improving for good) for short-term gain—momentary peace in the classroom.

University of Rochester psychologist Ed Deci, for example, found that teachers who aim to control students' behavior—rather than helping them control it themselves—undermine the very elements that are essential for motivation: autonomy, a sense of competence, and a capacity to relate to others. This, in turn, means they have a harder time learning self-control, an essential skill for long-term success. Stanford University's Carol Dweck, a developmental and social psychologist, has demonstrated that even rewards—gold stars and the like—can erode children's motivation and performance by shifting the focus to what the teacher thinks, rather than the intrinsic rewards of learning.

In a 2011 study that tracked nearly 1 million schoolchildren over six years, researchers at Texas A&M University found that kids suspended or expelled for minor offenses—from small-time scuffles to using phones or making out—were three times as likely as their peers to have contact with the juvenile justice system within a year of the punishment. (Black kids were 31 percent more likely than white or Latino kids to be punished for similar rule violations.) Kids with diagnosed behavior problems such as oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and reactive attachment disorder—in which very young children, often as a result of trauma, are unable to relate appropriately to others—were the most likely to be disciplined.

Which begs the question: Does it make sense to impose the harshest treatments on the most challenging kids? And are we treating chronically misbehaving children as though they don't want to behave, when in many cases they simply can't?

That might sound like the kind of question your mom dismissed as making excuses. But it's actually at the core of some remarkable research that is starting to revolutionize discipline from juvenile jails to elementary schools. Psychologist Ross Greene, who has taught at Harvard and Virginia Tech, has developed a near cult following among parents and educators who deal with challenging children. What Richard Ferber's sleep-training method meant to parents desperate for an easy bedtime, Greene's disciplinary method has been for parents of kids with behavior problems, who often pass around copies of his books, The Explosive Child and Lost at School, as though they were holy writ.

His model was honed in children's psychiatric clinics and battle-tested in state juvenile facilities, and in 2006 it formally made its way into a smattering of public and private schools. The results thus far have been dramatic, with schools reporting drops as great as 80 percent in disciplinary referrals, suspensions, and incidents of peer aggression. "We know if we keep doing what isn't working for those kids, we lose them," Greene told me. "Eventually there's this whole population of kids we refer to as overcorrected, overdirected, and overpunished. Anyone who works with kids who are behaviorally challenging knows these kids: They've habituated to punishment."

Under Greene's philosophy, you'd no more punish a child for yelling out in class or jumping out of his seat repeatedly than you would if he bombed a spelling test. You'd talk with the kid to figure out the reasons for the outburst (was he worried he would forget what he wanted to say?), then brainstorm alternative strategies for the next time he felt that way. The goal is to get to the root of the problem, not to discipline a kid for the way his brain is wired.

"This approach really captures a couple of the main themes that are appearing in the literature with increasing frequency," says Russell Skiba, a psychology professor and director of the Equity Project at Indiana University. He explains that focusing on problem solving instead of punishment is now seen as key to successful discipline.

If Greene's approach is correct, then the educators who continue to argue over the appropriate balance of incentives and consequences may be debating the wrong thing entirely. After all, what good does it do to punish a child who literally hasn't yet acquired the brain functions required to control his behavior?"

"In 2004, a psychologist from Long Creek Youth Development Center, a correctional center in South Portland, Maine, attended one of Greene's workshops in Portland and got his bosses to let him try CPS. Rodney Bouffard, then superintendent at the facility, remembers that some guards resisted at first, complaining about "that G-D-hugs-and-kisses approach." It wasn't hard to see why: Instead of restraining and isolating a kid who, say, flipped over a desk, staffers were now expected to talk with him about his frustrations. The staff began to ignore curses dropped in a classroom and would speak to the kid later, in private, so as not to challenge him in front of his peers.

But remarkably, the relationships changed. Kids began to see the staff as their allies, and the staff no longer felt like their adversaries. The violent outbursts waned. There were fewer disciplinary write-ups and fewer injuries to kids or staff. And once they got out, the kids were far better at not getting locked up again: Long Creek's one-year recidivism rate plummeted from 75 percent in 1999 to 33 percent in 2012. "The senior staff that resisted us the most," Bouffard told me, "would come back to me and say, 'I wish we had done this sooner. I don't have the bruises, my muscles aren't strained from wrestling, and I really feel I accomplished something.'""
children  parenting  schools  discipline  education  katherinereynoldslewis  schooltoprisonpipeline  socialemotional  bfskinner  rossgreene  behavior  work  labor  capitalism  technology  edtech  technosolutionism  permission  ownership  self  socialemotionallearning 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Edutopia | Jacobin
[Too much to quote (still tried and exceeded Pinboard's visible space) so go read the whole thing.]

"Education is not a design problem with a technical solution. It’s a social and political project neoliberals want to innovate away."

"Tim Brown, IDEO’s CEO and a regular at Davos and TED talks, has described design thinking as a way to inject “local, collaborative, participatory” planning into the development of products, organizational processes, and now schools.

Design Thinking for Educators is full of strikingly drawn graphic organizers and questions like, “How might we create a twenty-first century learning experience at school?” with single paragraph answers. “Responsibility” is used three times in the text, always in reference to teachers’ need to brainstorm fixes for problems together and develop “an evolved perspective.” (The word “funding” is not used at all — nor is the word “demand.”)

We’re told faculty at one school embarked on a “design journey” and came to an approach they call “Investigative Learning,” which addresses students “not as receivers of information, but as shapers of knowledge,” without further detail on how exactly this was accomplished.

Of course, the idea of engaging students as experienced co-teachers in their own education isn’t novel, nor is it an innovation that sprang forth from a single group of teachers using graphic organizers to brainstorm and chart solutions.

Marxist educator Paulo Freire developed his critique of the “banking model” of education — in which students’ minds are regarded as passive receptacles for teachers to toss facts into like coins — while teaching poor Brazilian adults how to read in the 1960s and ’70s. His book Pedagogy of the Oppressed helped reignite the progressive education movement during that era, and his collaborative approach to learning remains influential in American schools of education today.

Peter McLaren, who taught elementary and middle school in a public housing complex for five years before becoming a professor of education, has since further developed Freire’s ideas into an extensive body of revolutionary critical pedagogy, which I was assigned in my first class as a master’s student in education. The Radical Math project, launched a decade ago by a Brooklyn high school teacher whose school was located within a thousand feet of a toxic waste facility, draws heavily on Freire’s perspective in its curriculum for integrating social and economic justice into mathematics.

Yet, here we are, a “nation at risk,” with lower test scores than our international peers and children still arriving at school every day without breakfast.

Like all modern managerial philosophies that stake their name on innovation, “design thinking” has been framed by creative-class acolytes as a new way to solve old, persistent challenges — but its ideas are not actually new.

According to Tim Brown, design thinkers start with human need and move on to learning by making, “instead of thinking about what to build, building in order to think.” Their prototypes, he says, “speed up the process of innovation, because it is only when we put our ideas out into the world that we really start to understand their strengths and weakness. And the faster we do that, the faster our ideas evolve.”

What design thinking ultimately offers is not evolution, but the look and feel of progress — great graphics, aesthetically interesting configurations of furniture and space — paired with the familiar, gratifying illusion of efficiency. If structural and institutional problems can be solved through nothing more than brainstorming, then it’s possible for macro-level inputs (textbooks, teacher salaries) to remain the same, while outputs (test scores, customer service) improve. From the perspective of capitalism, this is the only alchemy that matters.

Design Thinking for Educators urges teachers to be optimistic without saying why, and to simply believe the future will be better. The toolkit instructs teachers to have an “abundance mentality,” as if problem-solving is a habit of mind. “Why not start with ‘What if?’ instead of ‘What’s wrong?’” they ask.

There are many reasons to start with “What’s wrong?” That question is, after all, the basis of critical thought. Belief in a better future feels wonderful if you can swing it, but it is passive, irrelevant, and inert without analysis about how to get there. The only people who benefit from the “build now, think later” strategy are those who are empowered by the social relations of the present.

The same people benefit when analysis is abandoned in favor of technical solutions — when the long history of education for liberation, from Freire to the SNCC Freedom Schools to Black Panther schools to today’s Radical Math and Algebra projects (none of them perfect, all of them instructive) is ignored."

"IDEO puts forth the fact that Innova students perform higher than the [Peruvian] national average on math and communication tests as proof that they’ve delivered on their mantra for the project: “affordability, scalability, excellence.”

But if test scores are higher than those of public schools, it is not because of the soul-searching of teacher/designers. It’s because tuition is about a quarter of the national median income. After all, a consistent pattern in the educational research of the past half-century is that the socioeconomic status of a child’s parents is one of the strongest predictors of his or her academic success."

"Design thinking, embraced by key figures in business and especially in the tech industry, insists that educators adopt a perpetually optimistic attitude because that is what it takes to believe everything will turn out okay if we just work together to streamline our efforts. That is what it takes to believe that the best idea is the one that survives group discussion and is adopted. The rabid optimism of the techno-utopian vernacular, with its metaphors that no longer register as metaphors, obscures the market imperatives behind the industry’s vision for the future.

This is intentional. Conflating the future with unambiguous, universal progress puts us all on equal footing. Participating as a citizen in this framework consists of donating your dollar, tweeting your support, wearing your wristband, vowing not to be complacent.

Critiquing the solution only impedes the eventual discovery of the solution. And why make demands for power if you yourself are empowered? Empowerment, as Duncan uses it, is a euphemism. Anger is empowering, frustration is empowering, critique is empowering. Competence is not empowering.

The fact is, education is not a design problem with a technical solution. It is nothing like building a spaceship. It is a social and political project that the neoliberal imagination insists on innovating out of existence. The most significant challenges faced today in education are not natural obstacles to be overcome by increasing productivity — they are man-made struggles over how resources are allocated."

"The United States is one of just three OECD countries, along with Israel and Turkey, where schools that serve rich families have better resources and more funding than schools that serve poor families. The other thirty-four countries included in the index either provide equal funding for all students or spend a disproportionate amount of money on students from low-income families.

In a country where the top 20 percent of the population earns eight times as much as the bottom 20 percent, this inevitably leads to two distinct and parallel systems of education, one for the rich and one for the poor. It’s not that “money doesn’t matter” for reforming the education system, or that technology can be a substitute, but that children from working-class and poor families score lower on standardized test scores than their wealthy peers — and America has many more poor families than rich."

"One example of the importance of this kind of flexible and evolving practice — especially for children from low-income families — comes from Lisa Delpit, educator and author of Other People’s Children. In talks, Delpit uses a situation she witnessed in a preschool in which a teacher handed out a tray of candy and instructed children to each take a piece and pass on the tray. Some of the children took multiple pieces, and there was not enough to go around.

A teacher evaluating the children without interpreting the context, like a machine, would conclude that the children did not successfully complete the task and need more practice in sharing. In fact, after asking why the children took extra pieces, the human teacher found that they were simply engaging in a different kind of creative economy, saving up a couple of pieces to take home to siblings later.

I suspect the innovation Gates is investing in is not a technological one, but a managerial one. The only truly novel thing Sal Khan has done is produce a cheap and popular way to distribute basic lectures and exercises to a large number of people who like them."

"The firing and disciplining of teachers is also an ideological choice: teachers threaten the ruling class. Though they are atomized as workers into separate classrooms and competing districts, teachers are, as Beverly Silver puts it, strategically located in the social division of labor. If they don’t go to work, no one can — or at least, no one with children to look after. As caretakers, teachers are by definition important and trusted community figures, public care workers who can shut down private production.

In the United States, where the vast majority of families continue to rate their own child’s teacher highly, even while believing the political mantra that the nation’s education system is rapidly deteriorating — unique job protections like tenure serve to further strengthen teachers’ capacity to resist … [more]
meganerickson  2015  whigpunk  education  designthinking  timbrown  ideo  policy  canon  paulofreire  oppression  capitalism  inequality  management  petermclaren  salkhan  khanacademy  billgates  gatesfoundation  arneduncan  politics  economics  edwardthorndike  history  bfskinner  psychology  control  power  technosolutionism  progress  technology  edtech  funding  money  priorities  optimism  empowerment  distraction  markets  lisadelpit  otherpeople'schildren  hourofcode  waldorfschools  siliconvalley  schooling  us  democracy  criticalthinking  resistance  criticalpedagogy  pedagogy  howweteach  howwelearn  efficiency  rote  totelearning  habitsofmind  pedagogyoftheopressed  anationatrisk  rotelearning  salmankhan 
march 2015 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
BBC - Blogs - Adam Curtis - HAPPIDROME - Part One
"In the battle for Kobane on the Syrian border everyone talks about the enemy - IS - and the frightening ideas that drive them. No-one talks about the Kurdish defenders and what inspires them.

But the moment you look into what the Kurds are fighting for - what you discover is absolutely fascinating. They have a vision of creating a completely new kind of society that is based on the ideas of a forgotten American revolutionary thinker.

He wanted to create a future world in which there would be no hierarchies, no systems that exercise power and control individuals. And the Kurds in Kobane are trying to build a model of that world.

It means that the battle we are watching night after night is not just between good and evil. It is also a struggle of an optimistic vision of the future against a dark conservative idea drawn from the past.

It is a struggle that may also have great relevance to us in the west. Because the revolutionary ideas that have inspired the Kurds also shine a powerful light on the system of power in Britain today. They argue that we in the west are controlled by a new kind of hierarchical power that we don’t fully see or understand.

There are two men at the heart of this story.

One is the American revolutionary thinker. He is called Murray Bookchin. Here is a picture of Bookchin looking revolutionary.

The other man is called Abdullah Ocalan. He is the leader of the Kurdish revolutionary group in Turkey - the PKK

Here he is in 1999 after he had been captured by Turkish security forces and was on his way to a jail on a tiny island in the Sea of Marmara where he would be the only prisoner.

In his solitude he would start to read the theories of Murray Bookchin and decide they were the template for a future world.

Both men began as hardline marxists.

Murray Bookchin was born in New York in 1921. In the 1930s he joined the American Communist Party. But after the second world war he began to question the whole theory that underpinned revolutionary marxism.

What changed everything for him was the experience of working in a factory. Bookchin had gone to work for General Motors - and he realized as he watched his fellow workers that Marx, Lenin and all the other theorists were wrong about the working class.

The Marxist theory said that once working men and women came together in factories the scales would fall from their eyes - and they would see clearly how they were being oppressed. They would also see how they could bond together to become a powerful force that would overthrow the capitalists.

Bookchin saw that the very opposite was happening. This was because the factory was organised as a hierarchy - a system of organisation and control that the workers lived with and experienced every second of the day. As they did so, that hierarchical system became firmly embedded in their minds - and made them more passive and more accepting of their oppression.

But Bookchin didn’t do what most disillusioned American Marxists in the 1950s did - either run away to academia, or become a cynical neo-conservative. Instead he remained an optimist and decided to completely rework revolutionary theory.

Here is Bookchin in 1983 talking about how his thinking became transformed - and how his factory experiences led him towards anarchism. It’s part of a fantastic film called Anarchism in America - as well as Bookchin it’s got a great bit with Jello Biafra, and it’s really worth watching if you can get hold of it.


Watching these sections of the film does make you think that what is being described is spookily close to the system we live in today. And that maybe we have misunderstood what really has emerged to run society since the 1980s.

The accepted version is that the neo-liberal right and the free market triumphed. But maybe the truth is that what we have today is far closer to a system managed by a technocratic elite who have no real interest in politics - but rather in creating a system of rewards that both keeps us passive and happy - and also makes that elite a lot of money.

That in the mid 1980s the new networks of computers which allowed everyone to borrow money came together with lifestyle consumerism to create a system of social management very close to Skinner’s vision.

Just like in the mental hospital we are all given fake money in the form of credit - that we can then use to get rewards, which keep us happy and passive. Those same technologies that feed us the fake money can also be used to monitor us in extraordinary detail. And that information is then used used to nudge us gently towards the right rewards and the right behaviours - and in extremis we can be cut off from the rewards.

The only problem with that system is that the pigeons may be getting restless. That not only has the system not worked properly since the financial crash of 2008, but that the growing inequalities it creates are also becoming a bit too obvious. The elite is overdoing it and - passive or not - the masses are starting to notice.

Which makes the alternative - the vision put forward by Lewis Mumford in the film, and which inspired Murray Bookchin - and the Kurds, seem more interesting as an alternative.

Here is Mumford from the film. He starts by criticising the managed utopia - how it turns people into sleepwalkers. He has a great quote:

“You reward them. You make people do exactly what you want with some form of sugar-coated drug or candy which will make them think they are actually enjoying every moment of it.

This is the most dangerous of all systems of compulsion. That’s why I regard Skinner’s utopia as another name for Hell. And it would be a worse hell because we wouldn’t realise we were there.

We would imagine we were still in Heaven.”

Mumford then goes on to describe eloquently the alternative, a system of direct democracy where we would all awake and become genuinely empowered - able to take part properly in deciding our destiny.

It is a powerful and optimistic vision of a new kind of progressive politics. But it has one very serious problem.

It means we would have to spend a lot of time going to meetings."
anarchism  2014  kurds  iraq  kobane  isis  murraybookchin  abdullahocalan  labor  marxism  hierarchy  hierarchies  horizontality  anarchy  oppression  revolution  optimism  jellobiafra  capital  capitalism  wagelabor  work  power  control  bfskinner  economics  domination  exploitation  gender  socialism  liberation  lewismumford  utopia  politics  oligarchy  neoliberalism  elitism  conditioning  compulsion  autonomy  behaviorism  hermankahn  hudsoninstitute  technocrats  1983  technocracy 
november 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
Lab Rats: Welcome to New Orleans—America’s urban education laboratory | EduShyster
"Do you dream of being part of our nation’s greatest experiment in urban education? I know I do—which is why I was thrilled to be the recipient of a recent Google ad inviting me to Teach, Live and Love New Orleans. Welcome to NOLA, reader, where you’ll find plenty of *that je ne sais quoi, that elan, that bon temps* but absolutely pas d’excuses. In other words, it’s time for us to button up our lab coats and get busy. We’ve got <strike>a city to colonize</strike> an achievement gap to crush.

Whiter and brighter (and an outsider)
The first thing you’ll notice about our laboratory of innovation is that most of the other lab technicians are, to use a bons mots, whiter than a lab coat. That’s because while NOLA, as we’ll insist upon calling it, abounds in *locavore markets and stores,* you won’t find many locavore teachers here these days. Nor will you find many African American teachers, despite the fact that New Orleans remains a majority/minority city. Both are long gone, fired (illegally, as it turns out) in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, leaving nothing behind but low expectations and *historic homes at attainable prices.*

Pas d’excuses
Look closely at the brighter, whiter, outsiders working as lab technicians and you’ll notice something else: they’re all performing the exact same experiment. *School choice abounds,* it’s just that all of the schools offer the same choice. Take the seven charter management organizations that are behind the Teach, Live and Love New Orleans teacher recruitment campaign, for example. While the badges on the lab coats may be different, they share a single working hypothesis: for students to achieve they must first be taught to submit to adult authority, no excuses. As for emerging evidence that such an approach causes students to distrust and disparage themselves, may I remind you that *every student can have lifelong success and achievement, regardless of their socio-economic status or zipcode*?

New schools, old theories
I’m guessing that, unless you are Arne Duncan, you did not attend school in a laboratory. And yet, even if some of the bold urban education innovations in NOLA, like silent recess, lunch at *Level Zero* (also silent), or cool hand gestures used by students to indicate that they need to go to the bathroom, are new to you, I’m betting that you’re familiar with the theory behind these innovations. Remember that Psych 101 class you took where you learned about B.F. Skinner and his brand of behavioral psychology? If you were the kind of college-ready student who actually attended class, you may even recall something called *operant conditioning.* Want to teach a pigeon to turn in a circle to the left? Just give it a reward for any small movement it makes in that direction. Soon, the pigeon will catch on and begin making larger movements, garnering more rewards, until finally the bird completes the full circle. And as for that bit in Psych 101 about Skinner-style behaviorism being rejected decades ago, who learns anything in college anyway?

Laissez les bons temps rouler (after testing season)
You know what else is great about NOLA? All of the art and music, which you will find just about everywhere in this city, except for in the schools. In fact, kids have 88 charter choices to choose from, but just one has an arts and music focus. Which is sort of an interesting experiment, when you think about it. From whence will the city’s future musicians come from now that the Big Easy is the undisputed capital of no excuses?

Exit ticket
NOLA’s bold experiment in urban education may be a mere decade old, reader, but there’s one conclusion of which we can be certain. Teaching in an *urban education laboratory* is exhausting—hence the fiercely urgent need for fresh talent as yesterday’s technicians hang up their lab coats and move on to less punishing work. Which is why Teach, Live and Love New Orleans wants you—and me—to work in an amazing city where *we all teach, live, and love.* *We love to live here, and you can too.*"
education  neworleans  policy  inequality  segregation  2014  jenniferberkshire  teaching  ecucation  burnout  arts  bfskinner  behaviorism  nola  charterschools 
june 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
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
Cory Doctorow’s » TEDxObserver talk on kids and privacy
"Here's a video of my talk on kids, privacy and social media ("A Skinner box that trains you to under-value your privacy: how do we make kids care about online privacy?") at last month's TEDxObserver event in London. It was a great day and there were a ton of interesting talks (the set is here)."
corydoctorow  youth  teens  privacy  cyberoptimism  parenting  teaching  technology  socialmedia  safety  facebook  tedxobserver  socialnetworking  bfskinner  psychology  tcsnmy  toshare  classideas  todiscuss  behavior  2011  anonymity  social  freedom  networkeducation 
april 2011 by robertogreco

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