Replied to I Told You So by Audrey WattersAudrey Watters (Second Breakfast)

As I argued in my book Teaching Machines the entire history of education technology, from the first decades of the twentieth century, has been bound up in this quest to automate education. And much of the early history of artificial intelligence too, ever since folks cleverly rebranded it from “cybernetics,” was deeply intertwined with the building of various chatbots and robot tutors. So if you’re out there today trying to convince people that AI in education is something brand new, you’re either a liar or a fool โ€“ or maybe both.

I Told You So
by Audrey Watters

The discussion around my edtech job has been how AI can help cutdown on the repetitive and mundane, of doing things like cleaning up duplicate data produced through previous attempts to automate things. I sometimes wonder if such errors occur because when faced with the investment in capacity and how people work, we just double down on more automation?

Bookmarked Un-watching, Un-tracking: Healing and Bad Data by Audrey WattersAudrey Watters (Second Breakfast)

I wore my watch for the first few days of not running, still using it to record the morning walks with the dog. But as the messages about my activity level started to exacerbate my anxiety โ€“ I was already feeling shitty enough, thank you very much โ€“ I took the watch off. โ€œThe body keeps the score,โ€ [to borrow a phrase](, and thereโ€™s no need for me to hand my activity data over to a gadget thatโ€™s going to develop its own score, one that may or may not coincide with how I feel, physically and/or mentally.

Source: Un-watching, Un-tracking: Healing and Bad Data by Audrey Watters

Audrey Watters reflects on the limitations to smart devices and tracking apps. Whether it is reminders that lack context or the algorithms behind the feedback, Watters wonders if sometimes we can achieve the same outcome by keeping a paper journal or knowing the distances you are running.

This reminds me of danah boyd’s reflection on the addictive nature of statistics.

Stats have this terrible way of turning you โ€” or, at least, me โ€” into a zombie. I know that they donโ€™t say anything. I know that huge chunks of my Twitter followers are bots, that I couldโ€™ve bought my way to a higher Amazon ranking, that my Medium stats say nothing about the quality of my work, and that I should not treat any number out there as a mechanism for self-evaluation of my worth as a human being. And yet, when there are numbers beckoning, I am no better than a moth who sees a fire.

Source: My name is danah and Iโ€™m a stats addict by danah boyd

Replied to The Week in Review: What’s Good (Audrey Watters)

It’s time to pull out Tools for Conviviality, perhaps, for a re-read, because I’m loathe to make the argument that email is, in fact, where we find technological conviviality these days. But that’s the direction I’m considering taking the argument. If I were to write about it and think about it more, that is.

Maybe I’ll just go for a run instead.

Audrey on the money again. I think I found my problem, I really need to run more.
Bookmarked The End (Hack Education)

This site won’t go away โ€” I’ll still pay for the domain for a while longer, at least โ€” but the HEWN newsletter, the Patreon, and all Hack Education-related social media will. You’ll be able to find my latest writing on my personal website. Remember blogging? Yeah. I’ll do that for a while until I can figure something else out. I have to put this decade-long project to rest so that I can move on to something that doesn’t consume me in its awfulness and make me dwell in doom.

Audrey Watters shares the end of Hack Education and her association with ed-tech. Although her perspective will be missed, thankfully her voice will remain. I wonder if that is what actually matters most. There are some readers I read because they are interesting no matter what. For example:

This site won’t go away โ€” I’ll still pay for the domain for a while longer, at least โ€” but the HEWN newsletter, the Patreon, and all Hack Education-related social media will. You’ll be able to find my latest writing on my personal website. Remember blogging? Yeah. I’ll do that for a while until I can figure something else out. I have to put this decade-long project to rest so that I can move on to something that doesn’t consume me in its awfulness and make me dwell in doom.

Bookmarked The Technology of Wellness, Part 1: What I Don’t Know (Audrey Watters)

We still trust some stories sometimes. Importantly, we trust what confirms our pre-existing beliefs. Perhaps we can call this the Michael Crichton Ego Effect. We have designated ourselves as experts-of-sorts whenever we confront the news. We know better than journalists, because of course we do. (This effect applies most readily to men.)

Bookmarked The History of the School Bell (Hack Education)

It should come as no surprise to close observers ofย invented histories of educationย that Gatto would have something to say (in almost all his books, in fact) about the tyranny of the bell. He was, after all, one of the most influential promoters of the “school-as-factory” narrative: that the origins of mass schooling are inextricably bound to the need to reshape a rebellious farming nation’s sons and daughters into a docile, industrial workforce. It’s a powerful, influential story, sure, but it’s a pretty inaccurate history.

There is something magical about Audrey Watters’ ability to shed new light on the myths that we come to assume. In this piece, she unpacks the history of the school bell. In particular, she pushes back on the idea of the factory model.

But bells weren’t simply โ€” or even primarily โ€” a technology of pedagogy as much as one for announcements and alarms. Although companies like the Standard Electric Time Company (founded in Massachusetts in 1884) sold synchronized clock and bell systems to schools (and yes, factories), an early function of the latter was not to mimic the rhythm of the workplace but rather to warn occupants about fire.

Liked Behaviorism, Surveillance, and (School) Work (Hack Education)

The question before us now, I’d argue, is whether or not we want behaviorist technologies โ€” and again, I’d argue all behaviorist technologies are surveillance technologies โ€” to be central to human development. Remember, B. F. Skinner didn’t believe in freedom. If we do, then we have to reject not just the latest shiny gadgetry and anti-cheating bullshittery, but we have to reject over a century of psychotechnologies and pedagogies of oppression. That’s a lot of work ahead for us.

But if we just bite off one chunk, one tiny chunk, let’s make sure Proctorio is wildly unsuccessful in all its legal and its business endeavors.

Liked Remember This Year (Hack Education)

Going forward, we have to build something better, not for the sake of the digital prophets โ€” I cannot stress enough when I say “fuck those guys.” We must build something better for the sake of an equitable and sustainable future, for the sake of democracy. And that future cannot be oriented around “cop shit.” And folks, that means that future cannot be oriented around most ed-tech.

Liked HEWN, No. 351 by Audrey Watters (HEWN)

Despite trying to take a break from thinking and writing about ed-tech for the past month, Iโ€™ve become immersed in its practice. Audrey the pigeon too. And itโ€™s not just the behavioral technologies. Dog companionship has me buying products and services that Iโ€™ve long railed against. Poppy is chipped, for example โ€” the doggy surveillance technology everyone has given into โ€œfor their safety.โ€ I also paid for a doggy DNA test. (Sheโ€™s 50% Rottweiler, 12% American Staffordshire Terrier, 12% Labrador Retriever, 12% McNab, 7% Bullmastiff, and 6% German Shepherd, supposedly.) I bought a Roomba that runs daily to deal with the pet hair. Weโ€™re considering buying a car.

But we’re all making do with the shitty circumstances and the bad choices and the terrible technologies, I suppose. Be patient, the dog trainer reminds me. You got this. Click. Treat.

Liked Building Anti-Surveillance Ed-Tech (

I don’t think that ed-tech created “cop shit” in the classroom or created a culture of surveillance in schools by any means. But it has facilitated it. It has streamlined it. It has polished it and handed out badges for those who comply with it and handed out ClassDojo demerits for those who haven’t.


Chances are, if you want to focus on the tech because it’s tech, you’re selling “cop shit.”

Liked ‘Luddite Sensibilities’ and the Future of Education (Hack Education)

A Luddite pedagogy is a pedagogy of subversion and transgression. It is a pedagogy of disobedience and dismantling. It is aย pedagogy of refusalย and of care. It is โ€”ย with a nod to Jesse’s opening keynoteย โ€” against models and against frameworks (quite literally, Luddites smash frames). It is wildly undisciplined.

Liked ‘All Watched over by Machines of Loving Grace’: Care and the Cybernetic University (Hack Education)

I don’t mean here that we should refuse online education, to be clear. I would rather faculty and students and staff be online than dead. I care. But what I do mean is that we need to resist this impulse to have the machines dictate what we do, the shape and place of how we teach and trust and love. We need to do a better job caring for one another โ€” emotionally, sure, but also politically. We need to recognize how disproportionate affective labor already is in our institutions, how disproportionate that work will be in the future. We need to agitate for space and compensation for it, not outsource care to analytics, AI, and surveillance.

We must refuse to be watched over, to have students and staff watched over by machines of purported loving grace. We must put our bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels and make the machines stop.

Bookmarked The Ed-Tech Imaginary (Hack Education)

As we imagine a different path forward for teaching and learning, perhaps we can devise a carrier bag theory of ed-tech, if you will. Indeed, as I hope I’ve shown you this morning, so much of the ed-tech imaginary is wrapped up in narratives about the Hero, the Weapon, the Machine, the Behavior, the Action, the Disruption. And it’s so striking because education should be a practice of care, not conquest. Knowledge as a bag that sustains a community, not as a cudgel. Imagine that.

In a keynote for ICLS Conference, Audrey Watters traces a narrative from Frankenstein, through to Skinner. She wonders about the possibilities of a different ed-tech imaginary.
Liked HEWN, No. 349 (HEWN (Hack Education Weekly Newsletter))

โ€œBlack lives matter,โ€ brands have all suddenly proclaimed. But we should know better than to take them seriously, particularly the technology companies who build tools and services that put Black lives at risk. Itโ€™s โ€œBlack Power-washing,โ€ Chris Gilliard writes, โ€œwherein companies issue essentially meaningless statements about their commitment to Black folks but do little to change their policies, hiring practices, or ultimately their business models, no matter how harmful to Black people these may be.โ€ These companies speak, to borrow from the situationist Raoul Vaneigem, with corpses in their mouths. (And yes, that includes many ed-tech CEOs. Just because Iโ€™m silent on Twitter right now as I mourn my son, donโ€™t think I donโ€™t see you showing your whole ass with your โ€œall lives matterโ€ โ€œlet’s hear both sidesโ€ bullshit.)