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robertogreco : neoluddism   3

You Are Asking The Wrong Questions About Education Technology
"Education technology is trendy. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t read an article or have a conversation in which someone makes the familiar argument that “education is the one industry that hasn’t embraced the technologies of the 21st Century.” The world has changed–so the story goes–and while business has adapted, school hasn’t.

It sounds convincing. We should certainly embrace tools and technologies that will help educators become more impactful. But we should do it because it works, not for the sake of modern humanity’s obsession with progress, newness, innovation, and disruption. These buzzwords of the industrial age, let’s remember, paved the road that led to the current landscape of education.

The very notion of education as an industry is problematic. School is about transmitting values and principles from one generation to the next, not skillfully organizing labor toward productivity. Education is the child-rearing activity of civilization. We nurture our young into reflective citizens by teaching them the social and epistemological agreements of an increasingly global collective. Educators need to understand that reading, writing, and arithmetic are primarily just mutually agreed upon languages through which we make meaning out of human experience. These disciplines are essentially useful, but only fashionably industrial. That is to say: the languages themselves have much more longevity than the current applications.

For industry, however, applicability is always prioritized over ideology. Thus, running schools according to the wisdom of the business world is precisely the thought paradigm which led to the high stakes testing procedures that currently plague the United States. We account for learning outcomes as if they were profit margins. We measure the dividends returned on technology and infrastructure investments. We see children as industrial resources evaluated according to their ability to download ‘workplace skills.’ And for some bizarre reason–and despite all evidence to the contrary–we continue to expect that these metrics will somehow correlate with intelligent, ethical, and responsible adult individuals. We’ve chosen the wrong perspective.

Implicitly arguing that the problem is poor implementation of industrialization, education pundits around the world often blame inefficient government infrastructures for preventing schools from embracing the appropriate technologies. But when I look at the multi-national corporate world, I’m thankful that bureaucracy provides a necessary filter–it keeps us from moving too fast. After all, the global economy is itself evidence that the hastiness of the digital revolution has been as tumultuous as it has been beneficial. Popular technologies have, in many cases, increased corporate productivity and profitability at the expense of the humans who operate them.

What works for industry will not work for education because, as one recent New York Times article aptly noted, “teaching is not a business.” By now, we should know better than to transplant the intellectual structures of one human activity onto another. The trouble, however, is that we mistakenly believe we can separate the medium from the message.

The Making Caring Common Project at Harvard University’s Graduate School Of Education, has already explained that students see how adults’ actions can betray the intended rhetoric. Studies show that while adults say they value empathy, compassion, and critical thinking, children learn to value achievement measured by grade points. This shouldn’t surprise anyone. Students read systems’ implicit messaging while ignoring the explicit talking points. When schools are run according to the conventions of for-profit organizations, we move with impressive efficiency toward a world full of graduates who mistakenly believe enterprising entrepreneurship is a defining value system rather than an important skill set.

Alternatively, we might understand that school is ultimately a ‘technology of the self’ (to borrow a phrase from Michel Foucault). Then, we would first focus on the systematic process through which we nurture individuals’ sense of agency, decorum, and responsibility. School itself becomes the tool which refines individuals into reflective citizens and prioritizes opportunities for emerging human dignity. Education becomes the structure within which narratives of personal and collective identity are contextualized using the intellectual structures and academic skills that we’ve inherited from preceding generations.

Digital tools have the ability to enhance these educational technologies of the self. But we need to make sure that these tools are also aligned with learning outcomes which prioritize human dignity rather than haste, consumption, and algorithmic metrics. Game-based learning is especially useful because the presence of avatars encourages players to step outside of their familiar perspectives and embody alternate ones. Therefore, they nurture the kind of intellectual self-reflection that education psychologists call “metacognitive skills.” Learning games make the question of identity development explicit and therefore truly empower students with the agency to construct their own personal narratives.

Thus far, however, we’ve unfortunately been brainwashed into thinking that educational technologies are neutral. We imagine that tablets and computers are merely tools that transmit unbiased academic content to students. On the contrary, they do much more than that. Embedded in every technological solution is a moral/ethical stance, an image of the good life, and a narrative of the idealized self. The worldwide success of Apple’s marketing is evidence enough that digital gadgets are not only tools with which we manipulate our environment, but also props in a performed identity narrative.

Technologies teach our children how to make sense of the world, how to think about knowledge and information, and how to relate to themselves and to one another. Making sure we agree, in principle, with the tool’s implicit messaging is the most important question we can ask. Yet, it is the one question we most often skip."
jordanshapiro  2014  edtech  technology  luddism  neoluddism  education  learning  howwelearn  ideology  empathy  compassion  criticalthinking  competition  grades  grading  efficiency  entrepreneurship  foucault  agency  decorum  humanism  responsibility  empowerment  games  gaming  howweteach  schools  children  slow  michelfoucault 
october 2014 by robertogreco
Ed-Tech's Monsters #ALTC
[video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kiotl4G6fMw ]

"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.

Fantasy.

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
Toward a Luddite Pedagogy - Hybrid Pedagogy
"In stark contrast to the fluffy talk of a thousand “revolutions” coming from plush conference halls in places like Long Beach, California – talk that reduces serious political discourse to the level of a sales pitch – the Luddites were willing to pay the ultimate price for a real revolution in the prevailing power relations, hoping to build a social order that forward-thinking people like the Luddites might be able to believe in.

A Luddite pedagogy for the 21st century

Just as the 19th century Luddism was interested far more in a forward-looking political agenda than in particular pieces of technology, so a 21st century Luddism in education will be concerned with more important issues than whether or not allowing pupils to use their own devices in class is a good idea. Like their political ancestors, the Luddite pedagogues will wield a hammer, but they won’t see any urgency in bringing it down on trivial things like touch-screen gadgetry. Instead, the targets lie elsewhere.

One place they lie is in the false talk of liberation that has gained popularity among people using the #edtech hashtag. A Luddite pedagogy is a pedagogy of liberation, and, as such, it clashes head on with the talk of liberation peddled by advocates of edtech. According to the latter, the child, previously condemned to all the unbearably oppressive restrictions of having to learn in groups, can now be liberated by the tech that makes a 1:1 model of education feasible, launching each and every child on an utterly personal learning journey. Liberation as personalisation – here the Luddite finds something that ought to be smashed.

But what needs to be smashed is less the pedagogy itself than the idea of freedom it rests on – the more general political notion that freedom is all about freeing individuals from social constraints so that they can pursue their personal projects unhampered by the claims of society. This is the essentially liberal idea championed by Sir Ken Robinson, for instance, for whom it is enough for individuals to find things to do that they enjoy and that allow them to develop a talent.

But we need to be clear here: Luddism doesn’t want to smash the concern for personal freedom, rather it wants to smash the idea that it is enough. The untruth of personalisation is its unjustified narrowing of the horizon of liberation."



"A Luddite pedagogy takes its cue from this need to build (and later maintain) a world – a society – of a certain sort. And in pursuing this end, the Luddite hammer has to be brought down again on a number of currently dominant assumptions about education.

One is the assumption that education must be child-centred. Luddites laugh at the assumption that education must have a single centre. No, it has two (as Hannah Arendt argued). It must also be centred on the needs of the society whose construction and maintenance depend partly on education. Rather than the ideal of letting the child pursue his or her curiosity unconstrained (an impossible ideal in any case), Luddite teachers are right to cultivate the broadest possible engagement with the world that children will find themselves bearing responsibility for in the future.

And this means that the education of children at its best is less about personalisation than socialisation. And, no, it is not a form of indoctrination beginning with infants being frogmarched around the schoolyard before being compelled to learn the Little Red Book off by heart.

This does not imply any antithesis to solitary work or personal choice or occasional use of 1:1 techniques. All it entails is the inclusion of these in the broader framework of an education taking place chiefly in a school outside the home, where children can be introduced to the habits, values, ideas and ways of thinking that are crucial to a free society.

Like all societies, that free society, at the very least needs to be able to use the pronoun “we”. We can only achieve freedom historically if we find ourselves among people similarly engaged by the questions of who we are, what we are doing, what we believe and what makes sense to us. As preparation for this, a crucial initial task of school is to enable children to feel that they are part of a larger whole beyond the family, and then to equip them and inspire them to carry on the dialogue about the beliefs and ideas and frameworks of sense that hold society together."



"Because of the centrality in that debate of the questions about who we are, what we are doing, what we believe the Luddite pedagogy entails what might be called a Delphic model of education (recalling the inscription outside the Temple of Apollo in Delphi: Know Thyself), and it entails bringing the Luddite hammer down hard on the liberal taboo against what we would call an education in belief (and they would call indoctrination).

The broader liberal framework of personalising edtech requires keeping values out of education as much as possible, except as things to be studied “objectively” (e.g. in the form of comparative religion, where belief systems are presented without being questioned and evaluated). Only a minimal set of values are to be openly endorsed: chiefly the values of a respect for the facts and logic, combined with the minimal liberal agenda of tolerance, peace, and the value of a sort of idle critical thinking (idle because it is not really in earnest about criticising other systems of belief – that would be too illiberal).

A Luddite pedagogy puts the non-idle interrogation of values at the centre of the curriculum, at least in the high school, when children have a broad enough background to draw on when making their critical appraisals of ideas about value – the aim being to help children begin to think more deeply about what we believe and what makes sense and what doesn’t."
tornhalves  luddites  history  2014  luddism  edtech  education  socialization  democracy  learning  howwelearn  individualization  technology  1:1  kenrobinson  tcsnmy  freedom  collectivism  collectivity  debate  discourse  curriculum  walterbenjamin  hannaarendt  progress  disruption  mechanization  automation  atomization  subservience  revolution  neoluddism  society  unschooling  deschooling  personalization  schools  schooling  child-centered  children  1to1 
september 2014 by robertogreco

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