Posts Tagged 'commercialism'

"Circuits of Cool/Digital Playground"

MTV, Nickelodeon, and Microsoft commissioned an international study of youth and technology, and with 18,000 surveyed, it is being heralded as the largest study of its kind. The report is titled “Circuits of Cool/Digital Playground.”

I haven’t seen or read the actual study. I learned about it through a United Business Media wire story posted at CNNMoney.com and elsewhere. Judging by the companies involved with the study and the general tenor of the wire article (big emphasis on data’s marketing value), I am surprised more folks in the edtech arena haven’t picked it up.

The statistics and cultural insights generated by the study are really interesting, but it’s a little discomforting when big business and media giants are the ones generating the data for their own use.

There is one quote by an MTV veep that I keep turning over and over in my head: “For kids and young people, ‘tech’ isn’t a separate entity now, it’s organic to their lives,” said Fahey Rush. “They are completely focused on functionality.”

Is this just a carefully crafted way of commercializing “web 2.0”? Does that diminish the value of the study’s findings?

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"Educationized" wiki?

According to this news article, teachers in Charlottesville, VA, are learning how to use open, web-based technologies to create, edit, and share curriculum materials. Specifically, they are receiving training in Curriki, the brainchild of Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy. According to eSchool News online, which also posted a story about Curriki earlier this year, McNealy envisioned Curriki as “a way to provide disadvantaged teachers and students around the globe with open and unfettered access to high-quality educational content.”

That’s great.

What is not so great is how Executive Director Bobbi Kurshan describes Curriki: “We’ve taken the wiki idea and educationized it.”

This is horrible. It seems highly arrogant to suggest that wikis are anything other than educational to begin with. The whole wiki concept, after all, is based on community knowledge building!

I’ve explored Curriki briefly; it is indeed a free and open community with many members and lots of potential to grow and expand. But something about Kurshan’s comment just flies all over me, especially after I read her bio and noticed the many affiliations and former positions she has held with commercial enterprises, including Apple and Microsoft.

Be vigilant! The education profiteers are sweeping in to co-opt the homegrown, organic qualities of the read/write web.

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NO LOGO by Naomi Klein

As part of a research paper on the privatization of public schools, specifically commercialization through school-business “partnerships,” I began reading No Logo by Naomi Klein. Note my use of the word “began;” I got as far as Chapter 4, “The Branding of Learning,” which has helped me understand how the traditional line between the pubic and private sectors has become blurred in recent years. As a whole, the book rests on the thesis that an underground revolution is simmering and a whole generation of anticorporate radicals and global citizens will rise up and reclaim our “sold planet” from the Starbucks and the Wal-marts. Maybe I’ll finish the book before all that happens.

My reason for mentioning No Logo here is the connection Klein draws between the privatization of education and instructional technology. Klein theorizes that commercialism in schools is directly correlated to an increase in “info-tech hype” that started in the 1990s. During that decade, American marketers waged a successful campaign in which they appealed to the desire of many local communities and school boards to provide state-of-the-art classrooms to schoolchildren despite perennial budget shortfalls:

It was technology that lent a new urgency to nineties chronic underfunding: at the same time as schools were facing ever-deeper budget cuts, the costs of delivering a modern education were steeply rising, forcing many educators to look to alternative funding sources for help. . . . Schools that couldn’t afford up-to-date textbooks were suddenly expected to provide students with audiovisual equipment, video cameras, classroom computers, desktop publishing capacity, the latest educational software programs, Internet access — even, at some schools, video-conferencing. (p. 88)

This equation enabled the multinational brands (Coke, Disney, etc.) to essentially eliminate “the barrier between ads and education.” Wow. So, it seems that instructional technologists, school reformers, administrators, teachers, really ANYONE who opens the classroom door to corporate funding needs to be able to discern what is hype and what is not hype. My guess is it’s HYPE if the objective is to put a SmartBoard in every classroom or a laptop in the hands of every child. It’s NOT hype if a teacher in Danbury, Texas, writes and wins a $2500 grant from Best Buy to start a student film festival. (Thanks to my mom for the newspaper clipping!)

Interesting side note: Knox County’s most visible partnership with business is the annual coupon book drive, in which local and national companies sponsor money-saving coupons bound in a chunky, little book that, in turn, elementary and middle school students hawk all over the county at $10 a pop. According to the KCS website, the 2006 campaign raised a $1.5 million dollar profit. The county returns 75 percent of the funds to the schools who sell the books. Of the 67 elementary and middle schools who participated, 82 percent reported using this money to buy — you guessed it — technology, software, and computer upgrades. Less than 20 percent report using coupon book proceeds on the arts, playground improvements, and field trips.


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Think on this:

"What if we just ignored the status of students in other countries? That wouldn’t be especially neighborly, but at least we wouldn’t be viewing the gains of children in other lands as a troubling development."

Alfie Kohn


"When I hear people say it's our job to create the 21st century workforce, it scares the hell out of me. Our job is to create 21st-century citizens. We need workers, yes, but we also need scholars, activists, parents -- compassionate, engaged people."

Chris Lehmann

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These are the communities where I network and cross-post. Come by for a visit!
Classroom 2.0
School Matters (East TN, USA)
Media Literacy