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robertogreco : douglemov   1

Teach Like They're Data - Long View on Education
"The same NYT article contrasts Altschool with the “boot-camp model of so many of the city’s charter schools, where learning can too easily be divorced from pleasure, and fear rather than joy is the operative motivator.” But what will Altschool – the platform – look like when it is exported to public schools where the cost of teachers and space matter? Given that “AltSchool’s losses are piling up as it spends at a pace of about $40 million per year“, it’s not hard to imagine that the more desirable aspects of Altschool’s flexibility will be only be available for purchase by the wealthy.

As one example of how the implementation of the platform might carry negative consequences in public schools, consider the Altschool’s use of cameras to gather surveillance. According to Business Insider, “Cameras are also mounted at eye level for kids, so teachers can review successful lessons and ‘the steps leading up to those ‘ah-ha’ moments,’ head of school Kathleen Gibbons said. Some children use them as confessionals, sharing their secrets with the camera.”"



"Since Ventilla’s platform is marketed as a way to customise education to children, and a less-expensive alternative than hiring more teachers, we should be most concerned about its implementation in schools that are under-funded and where communities are under-served.

Paul Hirschfield has documented the different effects of surveillance in schools “even when implemented under the same federal funding initiative.” Surveillance becomes “disparate and unequal,” especially when it interacts with the racism that drives exclusionary discipline policies. While “surveillance methods that are popular in largely white towns and suburbs appear designed to affirm and preserve student individuality and dignity,” the same is not true in the ‘bad neighbourhoods’ with exclusionary discipline techniques, metal detectors, and the police."



"Yet, if neoliberals have succeeded in appropriating the discourse of change, in part this is because the power to act as a consumer has resonance in the face of entrenched failures of the welfare state model and administration of public education, particularly in cities.”"



"In their keynote at Digital Pedagogy Lab, ℳąhą Bąℓi مها بال and Chris Gilliard argue that platforms embody an extractive politics that has deep implications for how we treat each other as people we can ‘extract’ work from. As we bring extractive platforms into the classroom and normalise surveillance, Emmeline Taylor argues that we create a destructive ‘hidden curriculum’. Some schools have rotuinzed finger printing students so that they can access services, such as meals in the cafeteria."



"This objectification of children is also nothing new. I spend a lot of time thinking about the similarities between personalisation, the Silicon Valley solution to education, and manualisation, the drive to find ‘what works’ & implement ‘no excuses’ policies. Just because the Silicon Valley version comes with bright-rubber iPad cases and bean bags doesn’t mean that it’s not about the control of children and the deprofessionalising of teachers to the same extent as Doug Lemov’s Teach Like a Champion – different mechanisms and packaging, same result. Children become objects of control and surveillance, and adults give up professional autonomy to platforms and manuals. As Lupton and Williamson argue, “learning analytics platforms appear to displace the embodied expert judgement of the teacher to the disembodied pattern detection of data analytics algorithms.” This platformisation only defers the dreams of emancipatory education, perhaps putting it out of reach permanently, given that it’s backed by billionaires with an agenda to reshape the world."



"“Altschool Open” – the name of the platform that Ventilla wants to market – openwashes itself: it is neither free nor open-source. As Martin Weller argues, like ‘green’, “’open’ has acquired a certain market value and is worth proclaiming.” And in what we might then call empowerwashing, the Altschool website tells us that their platform is about “Using Technology to Empower People”: “AltSchool tools make insights actionable, super-powering teachers to do what they do best.”

The openwashing of Ventilla’s platform matters at a deeply pedagogical level because much of what is called ‘open’ is in fact black-boxed. Suppose that the Altschool platform delivers up a playlist based on its representation of your child. What mechanism is there for understanding how that decision came about and for contesting it? As Frank Pasquale argues, the extent to which algorithms are black-boxed and protected as trade secrets “makes it practically impossible to test whether their judgments are valid, honest, or fair”; “black box methods are just as likely to entrench a digital aristocracy.”

In an interview with John Battellle, Ventilla tells us that “you don’t leave a place like Google to do something hokey and small.” We should indeed be worried about an entrenched digital aristocracy overtaking education. Battelle asks: “You have raised over $100 million, so when you’re pitching to the big money, like Andreessen or Founders Fund, and you’re saying, “Here’s the total addressable market,” is it the US school system?”"



"It’s easy to keep track of the overt authoritarians, but wrapped in the language of ‘choice’, platforms become insidious. Ben Williamson has exposed the deeper structure of the political economy:
“Silicon Valley has successfully juxtaposed the student-centered progressivist philosophy of homeschooling on to its technocratic vision; it has latched on to the U.S. charter schools agenda to launch its own startup schools; its interests are integrated into prestigious teaching and research centers such as Stanford University; it has generated new entrepreneurial apprenticeship programs and fellowships through its philanthropic donors; and it has become entwined with the therapeutic culture of self-help training curricula associated with behavioral economics.”

In his book Disruptive Fixation, Christo Sims draws an important lesson from his ethnography of a school in New York that venture philanthropists designed to give kids the kind of engaging education they thought would prepare students for economic success. The philanthropists focused on “newly available means”, such as digital technology and game-based learning, but that focus “tended to fix reformers energy and attention on what they could foreseeably control and transform with these new tools.” Thus, “seemingly cutting-edge philanthropic interventions” often “help sustain and extend the status quo.”

As educators, our job is not to nod along with the Silicon Valley reformers, but to look beyond what the edtech billionaires fixate on, to ask about the sacrifice zones, and engage with the community voices that have long been frustrated. Maybe we can reclaim the idea of platform as a verb, something we offer to people so we can better hear their voices, instead of something we can purchase to feed students into."
benjamindoxtdator  2017  altschool  education  schools  learning  children  surveillance  paulhirschfield  discipline  neoliberalism  mahabali  chrisgilliard  emmelinetaylor  objectification  siliconvalley  technology  maxventilla  douglemov  deborahlupton  benilliamson  empowerment  open  openwashing  martinelle  greenwashing  behavior  economics  behavioraleconomics  personalization  manualization  disruption  christosims  edtech  philanthropy 
november 2017 by robertogreco

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