Born to buy #1

Moving the discussion of the role of brandification in education along … I must thank @dandonahoo for bring this article to my attention. Clay “Here comes everybody” Shirkey has banned devices and media in his classes. For the freshman, this in really important news. Shirky was quoted, re-quoted and used to justify the “shift” debate around 2007/8. This might be too early Twitter for some, but essentially, his stories and discussion about read/write and social connections was hugely influential on the vanguard of edtech. I won’t name names, suffice to day Shirky was considered a seminal figure in the movement to reform classrooms and numerous correlations drawn between “the crowd” and the emerging social-media communications of teachers who found credibility in the whole “web2.0” debate.

This is what makes this story BIG news. Shirky’s idea (and book) is a cornerstone of the binary new media vs old media debate and without question has been the shoulders that the ISTE/ACEC famous held up as having ‘the future vision for education’. Shirky is a central cultural figure to the ‘early crowd’ interested in connecting ‘school’ and ‘media’ into ‘classroom visions’. In their eyes, consumer culture and mass communications could be tamed and held to account in educational uses/settings. It wasn’t just Shirky who had a had a “laissez-faire attitude towards technology use in the classroom”, schools have not fully appreciated the changes in media either. Reseach is increasingly critical of ‘screen time’ and exposing students to it whom have little ‘media education’ history and highly managed school and home time. [see link in the article].

And now, he has set up set up a pile of rules to be a media/tech filter himself, as his students are “distracted” and unable to manage time effectively [in his view].

I think the issue here is not that the principles of consumption/production have shifted, nor has the ideology of mass schooling. Teachers simply identified with Shirky’s observations and for a short time, the idea of connecting classrooms and using electronic communications was a) manageable b) limited to few software/services and c) relatively under exploited by mega-brands such as Apple, Google and Pearson.

Five years later, the explosion of media, devices and granularity of media subjects and modalities has resulted in as Shriky says “Those gains never materialize; instead, efficiency is degraded”.

In all sectors of education, students have been encouraged to bring in devices. While this is clearly politico-economic, another neoliberal step away from centralised provision and responsibility — we are experiencing elevated consumerism being presented as “more freedom”. This seems to be the central concern Shirky has with technology in his classroom — and wrestling with his other arguements that freedom can be assisted though technology (esp, regime change and information production).

The approach to technology in education so far has been seen/measured in terms of ‘adoption’, where students (with devices) are being counted and often used to justify educational rationales about what EdTech is, and why “we” should be doing X (usually X = things small groups like, benefit or control).

But 2014 isn’t like 2008. Media and devices are saturated with brand interference and consumerism. The distraction levels are alarming, because few students have ever had a media education as media scholars have argued is essential. What will be interesting now is whether or not, EdTech pays attention once again to their founding father … or whether the markting juggernaught of self-gratification resulting in brand/tool obsessive behavior can be tamed.

What if schools still believe what was true of 2004, 2008, 2010, 2012 is still true today? Low tech schooling is alive and well it seems.