How do we understand Trump and ed-tech? How do we help students understand? How do we help all of us understand and respond?

Back in June, The Chronicle of Higher Education published a mock syllabus for “Trump 101” – “this course will explore the phenomenon that is Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.” The syllabus, which tried to position itself in a long line of crowdsourced syllabi – relevant and radical, generated to help students understand recent events – failed to include the work of scholars of color. Utterly failed.

There have been several responses and rewrites, most notably Trump Syllabus 2.0, written by N. D. B. Connolly and Keisha N. Blain. It's an important document. Work your way through all of it.

This is my addition of a week (or more) of reading, if you will, to that syllabus. It’s a week (or so) focused on understanding Trumpism and/with education technology (and technology more broadly). (There’s still a lot that could be added about education specifically, I think.)

This is a very rough draft.

Before listing the readings, I want to go through the assignments – one of those other core elements of a syllabus. In other words, these are the tasks I’d like to see those working in education and education technology undertake:


  • What data are you gathering on students and teachers?
  • If this data puts students at risk – of profiling, of deportation – can and will you delete this data before January 20?
  • What data is being shared with third party vendors? Why? Who do they share data with? Why? At what point might the risks of data sharing outweigh the benefits? What are your plans to protect students’ data once that happens?
  • Do you know who the investors are of the third party vendors your school utilizes -- those sanctioned and unsanctioned by administration? (Do you know, for example, that Clever and Knewton are funded by Peter Thiel?)
  • What sorts of profiles are being built about students based on the data that’s being gathered -- thanks to policy and thanks to promises of "ed-tech innovation"? How is this data being used? How might this be used?
  • Do students know what data is being gathered about them? Do they have any say in that?
  • How are you helping students understand the role of technology in surveillance, in propaganda, not simply in homework or testing?

Support independent ed-tech journalism.


  • Edwin Black, IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance between Nazi Germany and America’s Most Powerful Corporation
  • Simone Browne, Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness
  • Jesse Daniels, Cyber Racism: White Supremacy Online and the New Attack on Civil Rights
  • David Golumbia, The Politics of Bitcoin: Software as Right-Wing Extremism
  • Ivan Illich, Tools for Conviviality
  • Stuart Leslie, The Cold War and American Science: The Military-Industrial-Academic Complex at MIT and Stanford
  • Tressie McMillan Cottom, Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy
  • Evgeny Morozov, The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom
  • David Noble, Digital Diploma Mills
  • Cathy O’Neil, Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy
  • Seymour Papert, The Children's Machine
  • Neil Postman. Amusing Ourselves to Death
  • Astra Taylor, The People’s Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age
  • Siva Vaidhyanathan, The Googlization of Everything: (And Why We Should Worry)

(For fiction: see this list of education technology and SF novels and movies.)

This is a work in progress. Obviously. And I hate publishing stuff that isn’t polished. But here we are.

This document is available for editing via GitHub. Please suggest readings or tasks. (Yes, I know Google Docs might be easier for some. But I’m disinclined to make a publicly editable doc on Google for many many reasons. If you do not know how to make a pull request on GitHub, you can also leave a comment by filing an issue. Or you can email me or DM me with your addition/deletion/feedback.)

Audrey Watters


Hack Education

The History of the Future of Education Technology

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