Campaign targets negative impacts of educational technology

September 19, 2017
Cory Hare
We The Educators is a campaign that employs a series of videos and a literature review to stimulate dialogue around personalization, standardization, privatization and datafication within public education.

A global campaign produced in partnership with the Alberta Teachers’ Association is aiming to start conversations to counteract the negative impacts of educational technology on public education.

Called We The Educators, the campaign includes a detailed literature review and five animated short films released in three languages. The campaign aims to raise awareness of four factors that influence the quality of public education: personalization, standardization, privatization and datafication.

“This is resisting the forces of privatization and standardization in education,” said Dr. Phil McRae, an Association staff officer and researcher who was involved in developing the campaign.

“We called it We The Educators to reclaim the term ‘educator’ in a world where companies are suggesting that algorithms and software platforms become the teacher.”

The videos explain the importance of truly personalized education for the success of every student, the difference between standards and standardization, the dangers of privatization in education and how datafication turns many aspects of our lives into computerized data that is converted into new forms of value.

“This is the first time globally we’ve ever segmented out these issues as a profession and tried to bring this to a public conversation,” McRae said.

The hope is that these conversations will include parents, teachers and policy makers.

“We’re not going to control this conversation,” McRae said. “We The Educators is a launch platform and once it goes out into the world, which it has, we want people to engage in this discourse.”

Launched at the Unite for Quality Education and Leadership Conference on May 3, the campaign also involves Education International and the Canadian Teachers’ Federation. British technology innovator Graham Brown-Martin produced the films.

“The processes of standardization, privatization and datafication have the potential to drastically narrow the curriculum while reducing learner choice, inclusion and teacher autonomy,” Brown-Martin wrote in a blog post prior to the program’s launch. “Such a system can only deliver automatons at a time when we need the exact opposite.”

He explained that the films and literature review are being made public via a Creative Commons license as part of a deliberate strategy that runs counter to the industrialization of education.

“By releasing valuable resources into the creative commons, We The Educators hopes to provide teachers, parents and policy makers with the ammunition for conversations and a greater understanding of what is at stake before we, as a society, do something that we might later regret.”

This article was originally published in the ATA News on May 16, 2017.