Read The 100 Worst Ed-Tech Debacles of the Decade by Audrey Watters (Hack Education)

For the past ten years, I have written a lengthy year-end series, documenting some of the dominant narratives and trends in education technology. I think it is worthwhile, as the decade draws to a close, to review those stories and to see how much (or how little) things have changed. You can read the series here: 2010201120122013201420152016201720182019.

I thought for a good long while about how best to summarize this decade, and inspired by the folks at The Verge, who published a list of “The 84 biggest flops, fails, and dead dreams of the decade in tech,” I decided to do something similar: chronicle for you a decade of ed-tech failures and fuck-ups and flawed ideas.

I started reading this over the holidays when Audrey released it. It took me four sittings to make it all the way through (in great part because it’s so depressing). I’ve finally picked it back up today to wallow through the last twenty on the list. 

I’m hoping that at least a few people pick up the thread she’s always trying to show us and figure out a better way forward. The information theorist in me says that every student has only so much bandwidth and there’s an analogy to the Shannon Limit for how much information one can cram into a person. I’ve been a fan of Cesar Hidalgo’s idea of a personbyte (a word for the limit of information one can put into a person) and the fact that people need to collaborate to produce things bigger and greater than themselves. What is it going to take to get everyone else to understand?

If anything, the only way I suspect we’ll be able to better teach and have students retain information is to use some of the most ancient memory techniques from indigenous cultures rather than technologizing our way out of the perceived problem.

Annotations/Highlights

(only a small portion since HackedEducation doesn’t fit into my usual workflow)

In his review of Nick Srnicek’s book Platform CapitalismJohn Hermann writes,

Platforms are, in a sense, capitalism distilled to its essence. They are proudly experimental and maximally consequential, prone to creating externalities and especially disinclined to address or even acknowledge what happens beyond their rising walls. And accordingly, platforms are the underlying trend that ties together popular narratives about technology and the economy in general. Platforms provide the substructure for the “gig economy” and the “sharing economy”; they’re the economic engine of social media; they’re the architecture of the “attention economy” and the inspiration for claims about the “end of ownership.”

Annotated on March 08, 2020 at 02:35PM

It isn’t just the use of student data to fuel Google’s business that’s a problem; it’s the use of teachers as marketers and testers. “It’s a private company very creatively using public resources — in this instance, teachers’ time and expertise — to build new markets at low cost,” UCLA professor Patricia Burch told The New York Times in 2017 as part of its lengthy investigation into “How Google Took Over the Classroom.”

Annotated on March 08, 2020 at 03:04PM

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Chris Aldrich

I'm a biomedical and electrical engineer with interests in information theory, complexity, evolution, genetics, signal processing, theoretical mathematics, and big history. I'm also a talent manager-producer-publisher in the entertainment industry with expertise in representation, distribution, finance, production, content delivery, and new media.

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