There has been a bit of radio-silence on this blog, for which I apologise. This is due in no small part to needing to refine my PhD proposal, supply a load of my personal data to establish my ‘credentials’ to study, and to do all this in time for the deadline, 5pm last Friday. I did make it, but it involved one particularly frantic phone call – ‘Could you do me a transcript of my degree results today please?’ ‘Those results may be only stored in our archive.’ ‘Oh’ – which made me feel quite old. It turned out they were available electronically, it all got turned round in a matter of hours, and the day was saved, thanks to one very nice man in Oxford.
So now I don’t have a deadline, just lots of time before I start – hopefully – in which it would be very sensible to start writing lit reviews and so on. Being a talented procrastinator, though, I’ve spent the weekend doing other things and reading a very interesting book.
‘Top Ed-Tech Trendsof 2016’ is a print book produced to coincide with the visit of its author, Audrey Watters, to the DMLL. It’s a book I almost certainly would not have read had I not worked at DMLL, and I have to say that the inclusion of ‘tech’ in the title would probably have been the reason for not doing so. However, the subject matter, ranging from credentialism to personalisation in education, reflects a much wider brief. It’s hard to think of a major theme in education, or politics and social affairs, that isn’t touched on here in this set of ten essays originally published through 2016 and available at 2016trends.hackeducation.com.
Examples centre on America, and there is much about the then-forthcoming Trump administration and its likely effects on education. However, change a few names and this could easily be the UK – we have our own privatisation agenda for all public services, education included, and the prospect of more grammar schools to come to add to rising inequality in educational experiences. This is a book that keeps you turning pages in your growing horror at where the state of play is headed.
Some of the things you’ll have heard of before, some of them are more specialised areas of ed-tech, but put the evidence together, and here there is a real pause for thought. It’s particularly strong on the role of supra-national corporations in the sponsoring, and covert manipulation, of educational practices, often with a secondary agenda of social engineering. It’s hard to say there were bits I particularly ‘enjoyed’ but the sections on ‘personalisation’ and equality were the ones I was engrossed in.
If you had the kind of liberal education that pre-dated the National Curriculum, you probably absorbed the idea that education is the cornerstone of everything. And now, as Audrey Watters memorably reminds us, everything is a business opportunity. It’s a strong reminder that education shapes society at a time when we all need to remember and worry about that most.