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The argument that Veletsianos and Moe make in their recent EDUCAUSE Review article The Rise of Educational Technology as a Sociocultural and Ideological Phenomenon is that edtech is driven by an underlying neoliberal ideology.
These edtech ideological underpinnings that Veletsianos and Moe identify include:
- "..a shift in political thought from government oversight to free-market oversight of education"
- “...the belief that education, like training, is a product to be packaged, automated, and delivered"
- “..the technocentric belief that technology is a solution to the perils facing education.”
I had two reactions when reading The Rise of Educational Technology as a Sociocultural and Ideological Phenomenon.
The first was - this all makes good sense.
The second was - I don’t actually know anybody working in the edtech field who believes any of this.
How can a plausible argument be made about ideology of profession, if nobody (at least nobody that I know) in that profession actually holds that ideology?
Is it possible that there is a 180 degree mismatch between the way that people who work in edtech actually think and behave - and the larger ideas that define the profession?
Every person I know who works as instructional designers, educational technologists, media educators, and directors of digital learning holds views of education that don’t line up with any sort of neoliberal system of beliefs.
If anything, I think that the people who work in edtech are not appreciative enough of the good things that the market and the profit-motive can accomplish.
Higher ed based edtech people seem to be pretty well aligned with the majority of faculty in their thinking. That is to say, they tend to be a smidge more liberal (or a great deal more liberal) than those outside the academia. Edtech seems to be kinda a lefty thing.
(And amongst my edtech fellow travelers, I sometimes feel a bit stodgy due my more pro-market / moderate views - like a Hillary supporter at a Bernie rally).
I don’t personally know any edtech people - and I think I know lots of edtech people - who want to do things like replace educators with technology. Every edtech person I know sees technology as a complement to educators.
Nor do I know any edtech people who think public disinvestment in postsecondary education is a good thing.
If anything, the edtech crowd that I know is more critical of the potential of technology than those outside of the field. They will be the first to tell you that technology is only a tool. They will identify as educators first, technologists second.
So if the people who work in higher ed edtech are not the neoliberals behind the edtech neoliberal ideology, than who is?
Are people who work in edtech at foundations, professional associations, nonprofits, and at companies really that different from those who work at universities? Maybe - but not in my experience. They seem to be just as pro-educator as their edtech campus counterparts.
Who does that leave? The media? Maybe the people who invest in and start edtech companies? You?
Am I hanging out with the wrong edtech people?
Is there a neoliberal edtech conference that I can attend?
Maybe if I should head out to the ASU+GSV Summit and this will all make sense.