Education shaped by big data and Silicon Valley. Is this what we want for Australia?

This article was originally published on EduResearch Matters. Read the original article.AARE

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By Rachel Buchanan and Amy McPherson

The recent banning of smart phones in public schools by several state governments shows Australian policymakers are concerned about children’s use of technology and social media in school time. But what about the way our schools use digital technologies and, in particular, how the data collected by schools about our children is being used? Continue reading

Exploring the postdigital

In working to unpick the complex dynamics at play in the way that digital technologies have been taken up (or not) by schools, I have been exploring the concept of the ‘postdigital’ as a way to theorise what is going on.

On the one hand, there is much discourse suggesting that schools are not doing enough to equip students to work in a globalised highly-technological economy and that they need to do a better job of embedding educational technologies in schools. On the other hand, schools make a great deal of use of highly technological administrative systems, and are increasingly using educational technologies such as learning analytics, adaptive computer testing, administration packages and learning management systems. So are schools digital enough yet? Continue reading

‘The internet is all around us’ what children think of the internet

Recently, Tiana Murray (an early career primary school teacher) and I had an article published in the journal, Digital Culture and Education, which examines what 10-12 year old children think of the internet. We published it in an online open access journal which I think is a fantastic venue for this research as it allowed us to publish a sample of the children’s artwork about the internet. These beautifully demonstrate the children’s ambivalence; the internet is depicted as both being a joyous place and a place of danger. The article can be accessed here and the abstract and selected children’s artworks appear below.

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Ethics, Ed Tech and policy in school

The facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal raises some important questions about the use and security of user’s data, and the operating practices of such companies. The scandal is not so-much that there had been a “breach” but rather that users data had been shared as part of facebook’s business model. It is a model that relies value provided by the data that facebook’s users share. This data, it turns out, is not only of value to advertisers, but as it turns out, political analysts and campaign consultants.

Arguably, this situation has developed because facebook is a form of what’s been termed ‘platform capitalism’. [See Nick Srnicek’s Platform Capitalism for more information]

‘With a long decline in manufacturing profitability, capitalism has turned to data as one way to maintain economic growth and vitality in the face of a struggling production sector.’ (p6)

Platforms as data engines

This is where platforms come in. If data has become a massive new raw material for capitalism, then platforms are the engines that allow it to process this data

Given that such platforms need data as the basis of their product that they use to turn into a profit, techniques developed at places such as Stanford University’s Persuasive Technology Lab are used to the develop and refine these platforms so that people enjoy sharing their data, photos, comments, ‘likes’, etc and receiving positive feedback. This “quantifiable social endorsement” (Sherman, et al, 2018) reinforces data-sharing behaviour, and increases the likelihood that people will continue to provide data to such platforms.

Like all many new technological developments, ethics seems to be the caboose on the end of the train, never able to get ahead and steer the developments powered by new scientific and technological discovery and exploration. Continue reading

Lazy Reblogging #3 Kids and digital footprint

I recently published this piece: ‘Post no photos, leave no trace: Children’s digital footprint management strategies‘ and my mother-in-law, (who runs a childcare centre) told me that it was a shame that this information is inaccessible for parents and teachers. With her in mind I wrote up the paper as a piece for The Conversation. Here it is, re-posted in all it’s glory.

Why children should be taught to build a positive online presence

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Rather than just teaching children about internet safety and reducing their digital footprint, we should also encourage them to curate a positive digital footprint which will be an asset for them in their future.

Today’s children are prolific users of the internet. Concern has been raised about the future impact of the digital footprints they are generating. While much discussion of this issue focuses on keeping children safe, little is known about how children manage their digital footprints.

While digital footprints are considered to be a liability, if managed well they can be an asset. Digital footprints can showcase identity, skills and interests. This is important in an era where employers “google” candidates to check their identity and verify their suitability. In this context, having no digital footprint can be as much of a disadvantage as having a poorly managed one.

The “Best Footprint Forward” project explored what children know about digital footprints. Focus groups were made up of 33 children aged 10-12 years from three schools in regional NSW. Analysis of the focus groups reveals children have strategies to keep safe online, but they need further guidance on how to build a positive digital footprint. Continue reading

If you’re not busy on Wed Dec 6th

come and join us at Newcastle for a discussion about EdTech.

We are searching for the middle ground. So much of the discussion regarding technology in education is either evangelical (technology will save us) or pessimistic (nothing will change). Often the educators most enthusiastic about technology are also the most critical. The DICE research group are hosting the EdTech Talkfest – a chance to confab about the contradictions, emotions, optimism and problems of the EdTech field.

If you’d like to come please email Erica Southgate ~ erica.southgate@newcastle.edu.au The EdTech Talkfest will take place on Wednesday 6th December, 2017 9:30 – 4pm, Room X803 NeW Space Building, University of Newcastle, cnr Hunter & Auckland Sts, Newcastle. The event is free but places are limited.

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