Sunday, December 18, 2022

Edu-Techno-Utopian Voices Got It Wrong with Remote Learning

“No matter the problem, it seems, a chorus of techno-utopian voices is always at the ready to offer up 'solutions' that, remarkably enough, typically involve the same strategies (and personnel) as those that helped give rise to the crisis in the first place. We can always code our way out, we are assured. We can make, bootstrap, and science the shit out of this.” Thomas S. Mullaney, "Your Computer Is On Fire"

Interesting thoughts here by Mullaney and some truth. There truly exists “a chorus of techno-utopian voices…ready to offer up ‘solutions’ that…typically involve the same strategies (and personnel) as those helped give rise to the crisis in the first place.” Education has its own “techno-utopian chorus” that sings of tech-solutions to everything that ails us in education too. Educational problems are seen as opportunities to solve with technology. But, as the recent remote learning experiment clearly demonstrated, our educational problems are not always solvable with tech. 

In fact, the application of tech, like in this situation, often amplifies existing problems, and causes a whole set of new problems. For example, in the remote learning experiment, the problem of parental involvement in their children’s education was magnified for those students because parents who were able to assist were either non-existent or not available. The students that remote learning most penalized were these students. There was not a ZOOM technology that could solve this issue because it was a problem before the pandemic, and it was a problem magnified during.  A whole set of new problems accompanied the remote learning experiment too. For example, how to effectively provide the services, such as counseling, therapy, and lunch to students who were not physically present, not to mention the issue of missing socialization with peers that works best in physical presence. 

As Mullaney points out, our first reaction as educators is to try to “code our way out” of the problem, or “science the shit out of it.”  Perhaps the problem in education is our recurring turn toward technology for answers. Sure, the tech industry loves that thinking and helps foster it, but we need to think independently. 

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