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, I’ve become immersed in its practice. Audrey the pigeon too. And it’s not just the behavioral technologies. Dog companionship has me buying products and services that I’ve long railed against. Poppy is chipped, for example — the doggy surveillance technology everyone has given into “for their safety.” I also paid for a doggy DNA test. (She’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. We’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 HEWN, No. 349 (HEWN (Hack Education Weekly Newsletter))

“Black lives matter,” 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. It’s “Black Power-washing,” Chris Gilliard writes, “wherein 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.” 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 I’m silent on Twitter right now as I mourn my son, don’t think I don’t see you showing your whole ass with your “all lives matter” “let’s hear both sides” bullshit.)

Liked HEWN, No. 347 (HEWN (Hack Education Weekly Newsletter))

I am making more of my decisions like this: how do I need to re-order my time and my priorities and my purchases so that the people and places I love survive? The New Yorker’s Helen Rosner interviewed chef Tom Colicchio this week about the fragility of the restaurant industry and its food supply chain (and certainly some of their observations can be applied beyond just what and where we eat). Me, I’ve signed up for a local CSA — a half share of vegetables and full share of fruits and nuts weekly. I’ve ordered meat from a local ranch network. I signed up for the wine club at the neighborhood wine shop. I’ve bought flour and butter and brown sugar and yeast from the bakery around the corner. All of this takes so much more thought and effort than did that once-a-day walk to the grocery store. And I am so privileged that these are the choices I have, the decisions I get to make, that I live in a city, in a neighborhood where this is possible. The world I want to live in is cooperative and sustainable; it is interconnected. I don’t want the pandemic — or capitalism, for that matter — to flatten our communities under corporate monopoly.

Bookmarked HEWN, No. 345 (

The question right now for educators should not be “what technology do I need to move my class online?” The question should be “what am I doing to support my students (and my colleagues and my family)?” Start there — not with tech but with compassion.

With so much discussion of the pivot to technology and learning at home, Audrey Watters suggests that our focus needs to be on care and compassion.
Bookmarked HEWN, No. 344 (

Do all students have access to high-speed broadband at home? K-12 or otherwise? Nope. Do all students have access to laptops at home? Nope. Schools know this, and it’s part of the calculation they make whether or not to move everything online. But closure isn’t just about classes. The function of schools extends well beyond instruction. This is particularly true in K-12 schools, which also serve for many students and families as childcare, community centers, health care providers, disability support services, and places to eat breakfast and lunch. To close the doors to a school shifts the burden of all these services onto individual families.

Spare me the techno-solutionism. Let’s talk about big structural change.

Audrey Watters reflects on the impact of the coronavirus on education. She discusses the techno-solutionism of online learning being offered up by so many and wonders about notions of accessibility, privacy, or security.

“This may be our moment,” ed-tech folks exclaim, giddily sharing lists of their favorite digital learning tools (with little concern, it seems for questions of accessibility, privacy, or security) and tips for quickly moving “to the cloud.”

This is something I wondered in regards to Julia Hollingsworth’s post on the disruption to education.

Liked HEWN, No. 335 (

According to the article, the only hitch is “the system”: “The challenge for A.I.-aided learning, some people say, is not the technology, but bureaucratic barriers that protect the status quo.” “The gatekeepers.” The teachers. The schools themselves. These should be bypassed, the article concludes, and parents should let the Internet educate their children.

How utterly irresponsible. But there you go.

Bookmarked HEWN, No. 333 (

It is mind-boggling — MIND-BOGGLING — that folks want to argue that the value of a technology company has little to do with its accrual of data. The argument for the past decade has been “data is the new oil” — its extraction and analysis necessary for predictions and profit. Now data is the new nothing-burger, I guess.

Audrey Watters discusses the news that private equity firm Thoma Bravo is to Acquire Instructure for $2 billion and asks how this cannot be about data.
Liked HEWN, No. 317 (

In the case of plagiarism detection and automated essay grading software, it’s not a future that values students’ thinking and students’ voices. It’s not one that, even as Google tries to rebrand its new product, encourages “original thinking.” Rather it’s a future where students will be compelled to conform to the rules of the machine — rules we know are deeply biased, based on extraction and profiteering and information imbalances that have put democracy at risk.

Liked HEWN, No. 329 (

I’m not sure what ISTE gains by buying Edsurge, to be honest. Edsurge, for its part, gains a lifeline. Despite years and years of losing millions and millions, the publication won’t go away. Not yet at least. There’s more, some seem to believe, to squeeze out of the brand. Apparently the ed-tech industry — and ISTE is certainly part of that industry, despite being a non-profit — has determined that its storytelling function is too valuable to go away. Or perhaps it’s just cheaper for the industry to fund one marketing vehicle rather than two. And that’s an interesting determination, considering all the pronouncements that finally! the ed-tech “revolution” has arrived.

Liked HEWN, No. 328 (

Ed-tech is “grooming students for a lifetime of surveillance.” But let’s be clear: this grooming is happening at school, and it’s also happening at home.

Bookmarked HEWN, No. 321 (

It’s not simply that the Silicon Valley positivity machine only rewards positive ideas. (“We build things,” someone once told me. “You just tear things down.”) Without a grounding in theory or knowledge or ethics or care, the Silicon Valley machine rewards stupid and dangerous ideas, propping up and propped up by ridiculous, self-serving men. There won’t ever be a reckoning if we’re nice.

Liked HEWN, No. 319 (

Anthony Burgess’s novel — a novel about a violent youth subculture, sure, but also one about behavioral modification — was published in 1962, a year after B. F. Skinner published his book The Analysis of Behavior, as well as his article “Teaching Machines.” The Stanley Kubrick film came out in 1971, the same year Skinner published Beyond Freedom and Dignity. (It’s odd, I find, when people today believe that behaviorism is wrong because it doesn’t work.)

Liked HEWN, No. 316 (

I’ve seen Epstein described elsewhere as a “stool pigeon,” tasked with ratting out other billionaire pedophiles as part of a deal he struck (or hopes to strike) with the government. It seems to me there are several stool pigeons here among his science cronies too, especially those who set out some decoy version of “intelligence” — dare I say “artificial intelligence” — hoping we don’t sense the danger or notice that their eyes and minds and hearts are sewn shut.

Liked HEWN, No. 312 (

Engineering is a social production not merely a scientific or technological one. And educational engineering is not just a profession; it is an explicitly commercial endeavor. For engineers, as historian David Noble has pointed out, are not only “the foremost agents of modern technology,” but also “the agents of corporate capital.”

“Learning engineers,” largely untethered from history and purposefully severed from the kind of commitment to democratic practices urged by Dewey, are now poised to be the agents of surveillance capital.

Liked HEWN, No. 298 (Hack Education Weekly Newsletter)

Technologists suck at predicting the future. They suck because they don’t understand the past; they’re blind to much of the present. They’re terrible at predicting the future because they fail to grasp the systems and practices surrounding their products, firm in their faith instead that their own genius (and their investors’ continued support) will be enough to muddle forward.

Replied to HEWN, No. 295 by Audrey Watters (HEWN)

I’ve been off of social media for a week now. I don’t know if other people have noticed my absence, but the platforms sure have. Facebook now sends me daily emails, trying to lure me to log back in with vague references to what I’ve missed. One message. Nineteen notifications. Four mentions. Facebook wants me to know that Tommy has uploaded a photo, confident I suppose, that I need to use Facebook to see how his very first trip to the UK is going. (I don’t.) Facebook wants me to know that Tressie has commented on Tim’s status update. I haven’t talked to Tim in a while, and Tressie has a book coming out soon. I should email both of them. Thanks for the nudge, Facebook, but I won’t sign in.

The way in which platforms like Facebook and Pinterest send notifications is really annoying. Turning them off is even more frustrating. However, what disappoints me is why platforms whose model is subscription based continue with this trend. If there is a need to send a notification, especially by email, then why can’t it include all the information I need to know? For example, with Compass schools are able to notify users of update and/or information, but this then requires the user to log in and then click on the notification in order to find out something menial such as ‘sausage sizzle on tomorrow’