Audrey Watters: Education Technology as “The New Normal”

Audrey Watters blogs about technology. This post was recommended by a reader.

This is a speech posted on her blog that she delivered at an ed-tech conference in Mexico.

Here is a brief excerpt:

“When I hear the phrase “the new normal,” I cannot help but think of the ways in which those same words were used in the US to describe the economy during and since the financial crisis of 2007–2008 and subsequent global recession. A period of slow economic growth, limited job creation, and stagnant incomes. A period of economic instability for most of us, and one of growing economic inequality globally as the super wealthy got super wealthier.

“That period was also one of enormous growth in new digital technology companies. Facebook and Twitter grew in popularity as social networks emerged to profoundly reconfigure information and media. Netflix moved from DVDs to a streaming service to a media company in its own right. Amazon introduced “The Cloud.” Apple introduced the iPhone, and “apps” became ubiquitous, leading some to pronounce the World Wide Web – a scholarly endeavor at its origin, let’s not forget – was dead. Venture capitalists became exuberant once again about investing in high tech startups, even those in education, which had for the previous decade been seen as a difficult and unprofitable market. Another Dot Com boom was predicted, this one centered on personal data.

“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”…

“This “new normal” does not simply argue that governmental regulations impede innovation. It posits government itself as an obstacle to change. It embraces libertarianism; it embraces “free markets.” It embraces a neoliberalism that calls for shrinking budgets for public services, including education – a shifting of dollars to private industry.
Education needs to change, we have long been told. It is outmoded. Inefficient. And this “new normal” – in an economic sense much more than a pedagogical one – has meant schools have been tasked to “do more with less” and specifically to do more with new technologies which promise greater efficiency, carrying with them the values of business and markets rather than the values of democracy or democratic education.

“These new technologies, oriented towards consumers and consumption, privilege an ideology of individualism. In education technology, as in advertising, this is labeled “personalization.” The flaw of traditional education systems, we are told, is that they focus too much on the group, the class, the collective. So we see education being reframed as a technologically-enhanced series of choices – consumer choices. Technologies monitor and extract data in order to maximize “engagement” and entertainment.

“I fear that new normal, what it might really mean for teaching, for learning, for scholarship.”

from novemoore http://ift.tt/2sfNW3G

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