Welcome to an open lecture with Lucas Cone, Aarhus university and Neil Selwyn, Monash University.
We get what they wish for: EdTech start-ups and the (mis)selling of technology to school
Neil Selwyn's presentation starts from a relatively straightforward question: “Why do we get so much crappy software in our schools?” This issue is explored through an Australian case-study of one Australian EdTech startup led by two first-time entrepreneurs.
We examine how this venture was able to quickly develop and market facial recognition technology to local schools under the guise of being innovative, time-saving, focused on ‘care’ and other such manifestations of technology-driven efficiency. Despite the low-spec nature of the technology, considerable political and media back-lash, and an apparent lack of need for their product, this startup was nevertheless able to grow its business, continue to attract investment, and sell to schools.
This case highlights a number of pertinent issues around the coming together of ‘startup culture’, Big Tech infrastructural logics, tech ‘solutionism’ and the disjointed governance and limited oversight of education technology by government and other public agencies.
The cruel optimism of digitalization: Affective attachments, brand loyalties, and competitive desires in the involvement of EdTech products in a Danish public school
Lucas Cone's presentation explores the affective and embodied aspects of embedding public schools in a burgeoning economy of education technology products promising to help educators save time, enhance student learning, and promote institutional accountability.
Drawing on an extended period of fieldwork at a Danish public primary school, he examines the performative effects of involving commercial actors in the effort to modernize the activities of schooling for a digital age. By highlighting how teachers, students, and leaders become invested in digital products built on proprietary logics of rentiership and monopolism, the lecture troubles the reduction of digital technologies to instruments that can simply solve, augment, or accommodate existing institutional problems within controllable infrastructures of networked education governance. Instead, the lecture illustrates how the involvement of techno-capitalist forces in public education slides into and reshapes the desires and sensibilities of bodies in schools as they are enfolded in the “familiar” universes of Google, Gyldendal, Meebook, and other digital products.
Drawing on the work of Lauren Berlant, the lecture discusses these dynamics as indications of a "cruel optimism" affecting the ongoing efforts of public schools to sustain themselves by investing in digital products whose conditions of exclusivity and competition counteract the realization of the educational fantasies that they are invested with.