Educational Technology as Imperialism: Finding a middle ground between Papert and Freire
Audrey Watters is an insightful writer who tackles hard issues in educational technology. I’ve cited her work before in this blog. The post linked below made me realize that I need to read more by Paulo Freire and Paulo Blikstein, and how important it is to avoid, “The latest in a long line of educational salvations that the Global North has imposed on the Global South.”
I deeply appreciate Freire’s emphasis on “school,” which Audrey emphasizes. The need for school can also be seen in the research findings of Yasmin Kafai and Deborah Fields (who found that kids who discover tools like Scratch tend to be even more privileged than those in undergrad CS classes) and Betsy DiSalvo (who found that immigrant families don’t even know what words to search for in order to find learning resources). Open education efforts alone are unlikely to reach the underprivileged students who most need the resources. We need school in order to reach everyone.
It isn’t simply that an XPRIZE would likely offer an imperialist curriculum — that it’s in English is only part of the problem here. What does it mean to teach “O is for Octopus” in Sub-Saharan Africa, for example? It’s that all of this will be delivered on an Android tablet, and with that comes a host of other technological imperialist overtures — telecommunications companies offering hardware and software and banking and schooling; Google’s special brand of data-mining; and more broadly the tech sector’s penchant for surveillance, for starters.What is the goal of the Global Learning XPRIZE when it comes to learning? Is it for children in the developing world to join the global economy, for example? If so how? On whose terms? To what end? In what role? Why? How? Under whose Terms of Service?