The ethics of new media is a minefield. In 2007, politicians allowed those orchestrating schools to break a tenant of learning about (and with) technology. The DER (digital education revolution) was a huge media opportunity for IMB, Google, Microsoft, Adobe and Apple. Today, you’d be hard pressed to find a school which could claim to be using OER software and resouces at all.
Curriculum documents were clear in how students and teachers were to describe technology. I acknowledge that the the curriculum only bothered to deal with “office automation” software (word processors, spreadsheets, databases, presentation tools, image editors, desktop publishing and the world wide web) – but here’s news – it still uses the same language with marginal nuances. No brand names should be used and as any computing science teacher knows, students will be marked in correct if they substitute a brand name for a type of software or hardware device.
So how then, did schools get to a point where in-service teaching and online resources promote brands? At what point did educational leadership turn a blind eye to ethics and in favour of economic gain? Marketing is well known for courting clients with fancy trips overseas (like being a guest of IBM at the Bejing Olympics) or dropping a devices on leaders for free. In a few short years the result has been less of a focus on the mediums available for learning, and the media texts that could be taught in an un-ending parade of brand endorsement. If a brand wants to get parent dollars, use their kids. And what better social-proof of upstanding quality and trust than to get teachers to do it (for free).
Why do teachers do it? Well firstly, its a minority that do. But leaders routinely use these people to lecture ‘laggards’. Perhaps the laggards are objecting to brands invading scholarship? Secondly, the DER and hype-cycle was a great way of climbing the career ladder and getting somewhat Twitter famous. For the lucky few, they could jump off and start consulting back to schools. This for leaders has the added benefit that the message delivered no longer had to have any basis in classroom practice.
Of course this post is BIASED and OUTRAGEOUS – but it is far from being a fantasy. While schools bang on about ‘digital citizenship’, there is little public discussion (and no conference discussion) over the ethical implications of allowing education to be shaped by commercial brands. School doesn’t have to mirror popular culture, but it seems really popular to try and suggest it does. School gives kids a solid basis for life (or so it claims) – not an i-Life of Google-internship.