Education Evolutions #65

The future of books flickr photo by Johan Larsson shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Select Readings and Thoughts on Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age

I think it is fair to say that we have reached a point where our individual lives are more entwined in relationships with corporations than perhaps any time since the age of the company towns at the turn of the last century. Maybe there is something peculiar about a century passing. It is definitely long enough that no living memory any longer exists. Documented history becomes increasingly important. Consequently, sorting out the past and how it might be impacting the present gets a bit trickier. Still, there are a lot of interesting parallels between the beginnings of the 20th and 21st centuries.

This week’s articles are loosely organized around our increasingly entangled relationships with companies and how technology mediates our day-to-day lives. It gets both complex and complicated, making for a real mess. Yet the notion that technology is in any way “neutral, apolitical, or purely virtuous” must be discarded.

The choice for “If you read only one article…” this week is a bit tricky. Yet, since most readers are classroom teachers, “Google’s Got Our Kids” is probably the best choice. Written by a teacher, it is the most direct of the selections. The other two articles swim in deeper waters of philosophy, theory, and ethics. It is also the shortest of the group, so it is the easiest read of the three. However, none of these items are significantly longer than the others.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there.

Here are three+ curated articles about education, technology, and evolutions in teaching.

The New Octopus – Logic –  K. Sabeel Rahman (12-minute read)

I have been recently remarking how much our current moment is reminiscent of turn of the 19th century and the days of Teddy Roosevelt. This article does a much better job of striking the parallels in stark relief. However, it also does even better at explaining the subtleties of corporate power and how much they can upset the delicate balance required for healthy democratic principles.

Possibly the best thing about Rahman’s piece is the reframing of privacy rights as a way to impose structural limits on amassing corporate power as much as it is about individual rights, maybe more so. Ultimately, there are some really big problems that need to addressed and potentially require some new and more conscientious thought than has worked previously. Regardless, we need to confront the “democratic capacities of the public and the powers of private firms” or risk losing democratic capacities altogether.

Google’s Got Our Kids – The Outline –  Joanna Petrone (8-minute read)

There is something poignant about this piece in its balance and recognition that Google is not all bad. There are plenty of positive attributes to the products and services that Google provides. Nevertheless, the over-reliance and dependence on Google in schools should no less be a serious concern. It doesn’t matter how positive or beneficial the effort is if it means the collection of unchecked power (See The New Octopus for more on that).

What is more important to recognize is just how much educators are complicit in the new mindspace landgrab that has been underway for the better part of the last decade. It has only accelerated at geometric proportions with the introduction of the Chromebook. Plus, you know how serious it is in when looking at how much competitive companies like Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon are trying desperately to play catch-up before it is beyond too late to catch Google in the K12 field. Of course, it is all free or nearly free because, as Petrone correctly reiterates, the children are really the products. An even more keen insight often not even considered, when or if students transfer their Google Drive from the education domain to their own private account, none of any prior restraints on Google targeted advertising are in place.

I am a data factory (and so are you) – Rough Type –  Nicholas Carr (10-minute read)

This blogpost by Nicholas Carr, of “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” fame, is an important discussion on the metaphors that we use to understand the current conundrum we find ourselves regarding the entanglements of power, technology, democracy, and daily life. There is a lot of carefully considered thought about the importance of metaphors we choose and their potential impact in shaping our thinking. I have been convinced for some time that one of the biggest challenges is that there may not be many metaphors that adequately help our understanding. We simply may not have them.

I do, however, like the idea of data framed in similar ways to oil, which is one that has I have begun to see a lot more recently. There is a lot of power in that metaphor, incomplete as it may be. One thing that I would refute a bit with Carr is that we are neither data mines nor factories. In many ways, we are both. It is not strictly a binary issue. It is more complicated than that, which lends support to my claim that we currently lack the proper metaphors. As it is evolving, digital technology hybridizes a host of existing metaphors. Our devices are more than tools; our data is more than oil; our lives are mediated more than ever by the technology we use every day, individually or as a society.

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