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Reform: Why EdTech Gives Me The Willies

image from farm5.staticflickr.comMy concerns about edtech aren't so much that someone might make money -- that's already happening in education and everywhere else, and has been for years. It's a big endeavor, this public education thing, and many of us -- including teachers -- are making all or part of a living off it. So some folks are getting rich?  Secondary concern.

Even the personal politics of some of those positioned to take advantage of ed tech -- who include not only the so-called "bad guys" like Gates and Murdoch but also (don't forget!) supposed relatively "good guys" like Amazon and Apple and the College Board -- doesn't bother me a ton.  Everyone's got a view, and generally thinks he or she is right. You're no different; you just don't agree with them.   

What really bothers me -- gives me the willies, actually -- is that the current reform movement (leaders, funders, organizations) may already be turning its relatively small but essential energies away from the success and tough lessons of the last 5-10 years (which include the limits of charter school expansion, value-added, and ending LIFO) towards the new, sexy edtech stuff like MOOCs, tablets, blended learning, big data, and augmented learning -- thereby passing by (again) the really deep and transformative problems facing education (teacher preparation and support, for example, or early literacy) that need everyone's undivided attention.

New ideas and approaches are great, but often don't end up being as transformative as they sound in the early stages and can distract folks from deeper, tougher, more critical endeavors.  If you're going to do edtech, for example, why not do universal access? Image CCFlickr



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Wise comment, Alexander. Smart. good work.

Would it creep you out if you noticed the stuff they're vending is educationally toxic, but there's no way to assess that because our education research has been taken over by marketers? Inside the schools we aren't just dragged away from the hard work of teaching transformatively, we're under constant assault by liars demanding we embrace defective product lines.

Oh, God, the actual products are such crap! You can't make kids just keep clicking and dragging on their worksheets, so bug eyed cartoon characters with little signs pop up everywhere. This is supposed to reward the kids, and keep them playing their stupefying "learning" games. Instead, their nervous systems are shutting down to images, in desperate defense against the endless pop-up gibberish that assaults them.

My 15 year old students can't interpret illustrations in their chemistry text because they can't even see them on the page now. In a laboratory, they can't sequence their own actions: cause and effect don't really operate in virtual products. Even careful simulations don't reflect physical reality, and nobody is trying to build carefully, because it would cost too much.

The abstract operation of applying object permanence to the atoms in chemical reactions is not engaged for my students, because reason itself doesn't apply to the ignorant and intrusive proprietary activities they've been FORCED to consume.

I've been trying to pull up the Edweek cover ad from a few weeks ago, showing rabid cartoon squirrels and rainbows and whales and shit swarming out of a screen at a little girl, trapped in headphones, while her teacher looks on.

"New ideas and approaches are great, but ..."
Are you even capable of imagining the cost to these children if the new ideas and approaches being inflicted on them are not "great" at all, but nobody can say out loud that the Emperor is naked?

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