06 SES 04, Criticality, Education and Economy: Contradicting Relationships?
The mostly positive perceptions in public media of new technology and the roles of technology providers in education have the last years been overshadowed by some bad examples of companies running global businesses beyond national control and making huge profits.
A main ambition of this project is trying to find out how and to what extent the roles of the large business companies have been presented and handled over time in the academic literature of education and related fields. In an early stage of the project the perception of big business might be seen as a discursive construction characterized by contradictions, complexity and changes.
In public debates about education there has for some years been an awareness of technology playing the role of “a game changer”, and of technology giants like Google, Microsoft and Apple involving quite heavily (Boorstin, 2017). They have mainly been regarded as “the good guys, helping everyone optimize digital opportunities”, but have now been put on the “list of some of the most disrespected companies!” (Andriole, 2019). The same goes for Norway. But some have argued that this is something we just have to accept as parts of the future digital world (Jelstad, 2016). The scandal of Cambridge Analytica, however, was an eye-opner to many, especially the role of Facbook (Gundersen, 2018). So the critical focus has been strengthened in the public debates.
The critical perspectives are also represented in the academic literature of education. Claims are made that “big business is taking over public schools” (Hogan, 2015a), and “public-private partnerships” are presented as mostly business oriented (Hogan, 2015b). The partnership of Pearson and IBM is seen as strengthening the “massive penetration into schools” (Williamson, 2016). And Player-Koro et al. (2017) highlight the way teacher agency is shaped and controlled through the education trade shows demonstrating and selling technology.
A main reason for regarding the perception of big business in education as a contradictory construction is that the critical voices through the last 30-35 years have been accompanied by a dominant amount of technology optimistic contributions (Haugsbakk, 2011). Then the roles of the big ed-tech companies are hardly problematized, or they are seen as inevitable and essentially positive parts of a future society.
An element making the situation more complex is the large group of actors leaning on the technology providers sharing a “pro-technology-agenda”. This includes teachers, academic researchers, political think-tanks, commercial research and development units (Selwyn, 2011). Hogan (2018) adds to this complexity when she nuances her critique of commercialization in schools by concluding that commercialized products and services might not necessarily be problematic “if the teachers and schools that choose them are aware of the significance of their choices”. Similarly, Cuban (2017) insists on distinguishing between “access to” and “class room use” of technology. Google, Microsoft and Facebook putting their digital products in classrooms do not necessarily have any direct effects on how teachers teach.
Another important element regarding the perception of big business in education is historic changes. The critical comments in the 1980s and 90s seem to a large extent to have been approaching commercialization on a general basis, and more likely addressing politicians and school leaders than technology companies. One example is universities being accused of introducing economic rationalism through the implementation of new distance education methods and technology (Jakupec, 1996). Selwyn & Fitz, however, focused the influence of the IT-industry in the UK as part of the establishment of public/private partnerships and the Labour’s Third Way strategy using the development of The National Grid for Learning as a case (2001).
The project is to a large extent based on literature studies. Searches in academic databases will be an important part of getting across the literature, but also following references in available books and articles related to ed-tech companies and education. The text analysis will be leaning on discourse analytic approaches. Then it is about how meaning is created through language and having as a main ambition to reveal patterns of meaning-making (Wetherell et al., 2001). A special attention will be given to the use of key concepts as they are of vital importance to how we perceive the world (Koselleck, 2004). They connect to ideas and arguments and form more or less consistent discourses searching for hegemony. The project is also inspired by Norman Fairclough’s ideas and concepts of recontextualization of the dominating discourses in society, how discourses from one area in society influences other areas in ways that might be seen as a form of colonization (Chouliaraki and Fairclough, 1999). A next step of this project might be interviews with key actors from business, research, educational institutions, teachers and students.
A main ambition of this project is trying to find out how and to what extent the roles of edu-businesses have been presented and handled over time in the academic literature in the field of education and related fields. As these companies, mainly global technology giants, to a large degree are premise providers for education, but also almost all other areas of today’s society, it’s of great important to get most possible insight into how they work, how they are addressed and what kinds of values and ideas are underpinning their activities. Doing literature reviews of relevant academic publications to get a first overview of the situation might provide an interesting starting point for further research. The project might also provide a platform for developing new policies in this field and to increase our capabilities to make more informed and knowledge based choices regarding the new challenges posed by edu-business.
Andriole, S. (2018). Big Trouble For Facebook, Amazon, Google And Apple In 2018. Forbes. January 3. https://www.forbes.com/sites/steveandriole/2018/01/03/big-trouble-for-facebook-amazon-google-apple-in-2018/#eac61f64d87d Boorstin, J. (2017). A lesson plan from tech giants on how to transform education. CNBC. March 28. https://www.cnbc.com/2017/03/28/microsoft-google-and-facebook-see-billions-in-future-of-education.html Chouliaraki, L. & Fairclough, N. (1999). Discourse in late modernity. Rethinking critical discourse analysis. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Cuban, L. (2017) Silicon Valley Takes Over Classrooms: Yes and No (Part 1). Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice. December 6. https://larrycuban.wordpress.com/2017/12/06/silicon-valley-takes-over-classrooms-yes-and-no-part-1/ Gundersen, M. (2018). Overvåkningsmaskinen Facebook. NRK. 24. mars. https://nrkbeta.no/2018/03/24/overvakningsmaskinen-facebook/ Haugsbakk, G. (2011). How Political Ambitions Replace Teacher Involvement: Some Critical Perspectives on the Introduction of ICT in Norwegian Schools. Nordic Journal of Digital Literacy. 04-2011. https://www.idunn.no/dk/2011/04/art03 Hogan, A. (2015a). How big business is taking over public schools: is this what we want for Australia? EduResearch Matters. https://www.aare.edu.au/blog/ Hogan, (2015b). Boundary spanners, network capital and the rise of edu-businesses: the case of News Corporation and its emerging education agenda. Critical Studies in Education. Volume 56, Issue 3. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17508487.2014.966126?scroll=top&needAccess=true Hogan, A. (2018). Nuancing the critique of commercialisation in schools: recognising teacher agency. Journal of Education Policy. Volume 33, Issue 5. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02680939.2017.1394500 Jakupec, V. (1996). Reforming distance education through economic rationalism: a critical analysis of reforms to Australian higher education. In T. Evans & D. Nation (eds.) Opening education. Policies and practices from open and distance learning. London; New York: Routledge. Jelstad, J. (2016). Digitale gratisløsninger tar over i skolene. Utdanningsnytt.no. 3. april. https://www.utdanningsnytt.no/magasin/2016/april/gratislosninger-tar-over-i-skolene/ Koselleck, R. (2004). Futures past. On the semantics of historical time. New York: Columbia University Press. Player-Koro, C; Bergviken Rensfeldt, A. & Selwyn, N. (2017) Selling tech to teachers: education trade shows as policy events. Journal of Education Policy. Volume 33, Issue 5. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02680939.2017.1380232 Selwyn, N. & Fitz, J. (2001). The Politics of Connectivity: The Role of Big Business in UK Education Technology Policy. Policy Studies Journal. 29 (4) pp. 551-570. Selwyn, N. (2011). Schools and schooling the digital age. London: Routledge. Wetherell, M., Taylor, S. & Yates, S. J. (2001). Introduction. In M. Wetherell, S. Taylor, & S. J. Yates (eds). Discourse theory and practice. A reader, (1–8). London: Sage. Williamson, B. (2016). Pearson, IBM Watson and cognitive enhancement technologies in education. code acts in education. November 2016. https://codeactsineducation.wordpress.com/2016/11/04/pearson-ibm-watson/
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