Convivial Tools in an Age of Surveillance

Another must-read from Audrey Watters:

In Papert’s vision, and in Kay’s as well, “the child programs the computer, and in doing so, both acquires a sense of mastery over a piece of the most modern and powerful technology and establishes an intense contact with some of the deepest ideas from science, from mathematics, and from the art of intellectual model building.” But as Papert wrote in his 1980 book Mindstorms, “In most contemporary educational situations where children come into contact with computers the computer is used to put children through their paces, to provide exercises of an appropriate level of difficulty, to provide feedback, and to dispense information. The computer programming the child.”

The computer programming the child.

The computer isn’t some self-aware agent here, of course. This is the textbook industry programming the child. This is the testing industry programming the child. This is the technology industry, the education technology industry programming the child.

Despite Kay and Papert’s visions for self-directed exploration — powerful ideas and powerful machines and powerful networks — ed-tech hasn’t really changed much in schools. Instead, you might argue, it’s reinforcing more traditional powerful forces, powerful markets, powerful ideologies. Education technology is used to prop up traditional school practices, ostensibly to make them more efficient (whatever that means). Drill and kill. Flash cards. Just with push notifications and better graphics. Now in your pocket and not just on your desk.