Digitalization of education: Premises, promises and consequences

Today's seminar is the first in a new seminar series which opens up for a variety of question related to the digitalization of education. It asks questions such as "What does digitalization of education promise?," "If digitalization of education is the solution, then what is the problem?," "Ethical aspects of digitalization of education," "How does digitalization of education change the way we teach and learn?," "The role of digitalization of education in the overall societal development," "Can we learn something/anything from the pandemic crisis? Is this the 'new normal?,'" "Who benefits from the digitalization of education?," and "What (f)actors drive the digitalization of education?"

"The seminar will we introduced by two keynote speakers: Neil Selwyn, Monash University, Australia and Lina Rahm, The Posthumanities Hub, KTH, Sweden. Neil Selwyn’s research interest includes topics such as the use of digital technologies in educational settings, digital technology and social exclusion, and digital technology and its role in everyday life, Lina Rahm’s research has, among other things, studied the genealogy of the 'digital citizen' with a particular focus on adult education."

Anders Sonesson and Peter Svensson from Lund University introduces the seminar from a rather negative – not only critical – perception of technology.
Neil Selwyn, on the other hand, stresses that he is definitely not a technophobe, but rather a realist from a sociotechnical perspective. He stresses that he views technology as important enough to deal with critically. If it hadn't been important, he wouldn't have bothered researching it.
In his talk, Selwyn focuses, in turn, on personalisation (learning analytics, personalised learning, education as a service?), platformisation (reorganisation of higher education through commercial platforms, platforms as key intermediaries - he draws on José van Dijck), datafication (data generated and collected in higher education, the systemisation of human activities), and automation (through which all of the above comes together; AI automation, automated decision-making, recruitment, ordering, but also the automation of the classroom in terms of, for instance, attendance and grading). He then moves on to the consequences and concerns of this development.
Selwyn begins by stressing that "there is nothing personal about personalised learning." Those who are living in a privileged context are more likely to benefit from technology, but the spread of it is often unequal and unfair. Certain demographic groups are more likely to succeed as the technology reproduces already existing striations. There is an algoritmic as well as an societal bias. Another important aspect is how technology shapes pedagogy. Teachers are not selecting pedagoical routes, technology is – and technology usually favours a behaviourist framework. Technology is, just like higher education institutions, a structure of distrust. Technology also intensifies the type of work we do, moving us towards being available 24/7, leading to "worse work," devaluing people's work. Finally, corporate reforms have led to companies who have created useful services have grown to use the data generated in ways that they didn't do at the beginning, thus taking users (individuals, organisations as well as countries) hostage. This is being acknowledged now as this quote from the UN shows:
What do we need to talk about?
Selwyn argues that we need to discuss values. What do we want higher education to be? We should not be users in our own field. Educators ought to be a part of shaping technology based on their own needs.

Lina Rahm takes over after a small break and discusses the historical background to the technology we have today.


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