BYOD (build your own demise)

Our technological gadgets and one-click culture has not simply created a perception that we cannot live any other way. There’s a sense of power and potential abandonment which appears highly addictive to some teachers.

“And it’s done consciously to trap children from infancy and then to turn them into consumer addicts” according to Noam Chomsky talking about Democracy and Education in the 21st Century and Beyond.

The kind of change I once saw as important has turned into something I find quite disgusting and facile. While I was hoping for ‘maker networks’, we have ended up with websites where the “best keynote” can be bought online like bubble-gum cards.

This makes is doubly depressing, as I actually like and respect them – but I hate the way education is being conducted as a brand-value enabler. As Stephen Downes pointed out, education is expensive, and brands can’t hope to profit from commercialising it. I actually don’t think that’s the plan, as building brand value is better achieved by using teachers as ‘trusted’ signals to families. The effect is what Chomsky is talking about – brands profit in the broadest sense. In addition, they use brand-endorsement (the teacher) who in their own right (bit part player) makes personal profit to some degree. The big picture is that these sub-branded teachers provide the brand unfettered access to their preferred demographic – which they are systematically creating in the attention-economy cycle.

BYOD being the first iteration of ‘free choice’, but predicably, BYOD will be a choice of those the brands enabled, using largely public money. Brands don’t care about equity and social inclusion, but will, when it suits their profile, be seen to sponsor it. This isn’t the change I was hoping for, so clearly I’m on the side which thinks commercialising and branding classrooms is un-ethical. It appears the opposite to what is happening in grass roots projects which create infrastructure social solutions such as tool libraries, youth off the street type innovation.

Brands win because brands are organised. A killer signal they have used is to tell ‘society’ that being un-organised is the way to create change and become an internet mega-star. Yes, be dis-organised, abandon formal education, leave associations and drink the red cordial.

Major cultural changes happen at the societal level, but regardless of origins, require sustainable organisation of some form, else people are simply a sign of the butterfly effect.

Associations and Guilds have changed society radically in the past, yet are decidedly ‘un-cool’ these days if one is to believe the edu-social-media signals.

An association of artists, architects, designers, and industrialists in Germany, created the Werkbund (1907-1934). It famously enabled a radical change almost every aspect of society whether the people noticed at the time, or not. Where as it might be ‘cheap’ for a government to encourage BYOD, teachers teaching teachers and so forth, it’s dangerous to assume this approach to education in leading to ‘improvement’ and improving the life changes of students at all levels.

Education is no more designed to use the ‘butterfly’ effect as Parliament is to ‘crowd source’ policy. But Associations can be a real pain for governments and brands alike – as they tend to be expert-networks, not simply excitable-networks.

For instance, Game of Thrones S03E09 contained the ‘red wedding scene’. Those who read this type of book didn’t take to Twitter to abuse HBO because HBO apparently killed off characters and ruined everything. It’s a similar story in education. Not understanding the narrative, leads to brain-missing signals to society.

Currently, mega-brands such as Apple and Google are central to re-shaping sections of every society rich enough to afford them.  A significant strategy, little examined is the way mega-brands target ‘educators’ and use them to promote their brand (products and services) to families – via children whom have little choice or say in the matter.

Once educators tended only to buy into one type of device (PC) and one type of software (Windows/Office). Apple always promoted education as part of it’s sales message, a successful strategy for ‘micro-computers’ in the 1980s. To get into the home (the were the money lies) generate ‘fear’ in the minds of parents that without this ‘new technology’ their children will not succeed in life.

Professional teaching associations have been ‘demoted’ though base-less rhetoric about ‘personal learning networks’ as a new phenomenon. The idea of like-minded people from particular ‘trades’ is nothing new, but has become a persuasive argument to suggest “if you don’t pay us persistent-attention, you are no longer relevant”.

The result, sadly for me, is that many leaders support and advocate the ‘brandification’ of education. This is overtly obvious among those private schools which have also adopted a tactic of proving their ‘quality and innovative-nature’ upon sub-brandification. This is no more sophisticated than basic brand endorsement marketing.

My argument is that social-edu-media is awash with conference images and ‘tweets’ endorsing ‘brandification’ – where being associated with a brand is central to teacher identity. I really don’t understand this at all as an educator – but my design background tells me this makes perfect sense.

However, since Rudd handed over $3billion to educational leaders in 2007 (now exhausted), it appears to be the same people, the same message, the same brands and the same problems being promoted via edu-social-media. This, despite technology, society and the economy being radically different.

I’m celebrating 12 months of giving up two things this week – smoking and edu-conferences. I have been into individual schools, classes and helped some associations. I think there’s merit in saying “free and independent educator” well above any brand-based descriptor. Brands have value, nothing they give is ever free. Education has value, and last time I checked most kids went to a free school not a rich north shore private with globe trotting brand-managers.

The impact of brandification is clear – kids use brand names to describe objects. These brands penetrate the family. The fact the brands make huge profits, avoid tax, farm personal data which they sell and routinely ‘drop’ the privacy ball seems to be of little concern. Educators are one of societies most trusted institutions – by fostering brand-value as ‘educational’ families tend to ‘deny’ and ‘ignore’ the darker agenda of profit, power and control of information and ideas.

I guess this has been the argument of the open movement for decades, but right now it seems that the worlds edu-social-leaders are addicted to brands and off their face with mutual gratification.

There’s never been a better time to get a post-graduate degree in Education and detox brandification.


4 thoughts on “BYOD (build your own demise)

  1. Thank you.
    I work with a group of teachers in the Peel District School Board that have similar beliefs. We find tools that support student learning and always promote free versions of any web 2.0 tool that is competitive because we want education to be free and available for all. Regardless of branding. We have no allegiances and use anything/everything that will support students’ learning.
    Thanks again. Great read.

  2. Wow! This makes me think even more about the fact that I’d like to build a library of cast-offs in my classroom – done with your old device (whatever it might be – brand not important), I’ll take it – booking out he netbook lab is sometimes impractical. Lots to think about here, and while I do believe in the power of the PLN (hugely!), I believe there is learning to be had other places and from other sources as well. I teach in a very mixed economic environment, so a mixed tool library (generated by those who might be able to move to the next model) would be ideal for me.

    Also trying to introduce my students to as many different open-source tools as possible, rather than just one brand. This may become more interesting next year, when we move to a “brand-name” suite of online tools within the board.

  3. Our board recently sent teachers to the Google Certified Educator preparation session (at $400 a pop). I asked one of them, “what qualifies Google to certify a teacher? What background do they even have in education? I thought they were a technology manufacturer.”

    The branding is going beyond putting devices in students hands, we’re now branding the teachers themselves, who then begin advertising every time they call themselves by one of these empty (yet expensive) ‘professional’ designations.

    Great post!

  4. Pingback: OTR Links 06/07/2013 | doug --- off the record

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