The History of the Future of Education Technology
I created Hack Education in June 2010 shortly after I became a technology journalist. I was frustrated by the lack of coverage of education technology -- by both technology and education publications. I did my day job (that is, the freelance writing I got paid for) but devoted as much attention as possible to Hack Education, trying to create the sort of publication that I'd want to read: one that was smart and snarky, one that was free of advertising and investor influence, one that was tracking new technologies but not just because of some hyperbolic "revolution."
To “hack” can mean a lot of things: To break in and break down. To cut to the core. To chop roughly. To be playful and clever. To be mediocre. To solve a problem, but to do so rather inelegantly. To pull systems apart. To "MacGyver" things back together. To re-code. To rebuild. To “Hack Education,” in turn, can have multiple interpretations, I recognize: a technological solution, a technology intrusion, a technological possibility, a technological disaster. Ed-tech is all those things.
To "hack education" isn't something that just technologists should do or care about. Nor is this just a concern for teachers, administrators, parents, or students. We all should consider the implications of technology on how we teach and learn, lest the future of ed-tech be just like the history of ed-tech: learners as pigeons.
In June 2022, I posted my last update to this site. I can't be, I won't be ed-tech's Cassandra any longer.
· All Hack Education Articles · The Last Few Articles:
Well, it's been quite a ride. But when I received word a couple of weeks ago that my very favorite ed-tech startup Desmos was being acquired, it seemed like the perfect time to close the curtains on this show. I'm officially done with Hack Education, done with ed-tech. This site won't go away. You can work your way through the extensive archives. I wrote a lot of good stuff, and almost all of it is still relevant.
Hope for the Future
"Things are fucked up and bullshit." That's what the sign said at Occupy Wall Street. Let's not forget that. And it's not just that things are bad now or things were bad then. We have to remember that folks resisted. Folks protested. Change happens. We needn't give up the future to the corporate elites. We needn't hand over education to their techno-fantasies. We need to remember. And from memory, we can draw hope. This was sort of the gist of my keynote at Digifest 2022.
The History of the School Bell
Listen up. The school bell is not a technology adopted to train students to become factory workers, ok? Stop telling these ridiculous tales about the history of education. Or alternately, keep it up, and I'll just keep writing these essays about the history of school technologies and screaming into the void.
· Books · Latest Book:
“There must be an industrial revolution in education,” psychologist Sidney Pressey wrote in 1933, “in which educational science and the ingenuity of educational technology combine to modernize the grossly inefficient and clumsy procedures of conventional education.”
We still hear claims like this today: ed-tech is poised to bring science and efficiency to schools. Teaching machines will individualize instruction, allowing students to move at their own pace through their lessons and freeing teachers from drudgery so she may focus, as Pressey argued, on more important work “developing in her pupils fine enthusiasms, clear thinking, and high ideals.”
“Teaching Machines, is a vital cultural history of our desire for a technical solution to the fundamentally social problem of how to make education work for all families. Watters has written the rare book that is necessary, important, and readable.” -- Tressie McMillan Cottom, Associate Professor, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; author of Thick: And Other Essays
“This is a landmark book.” -- John Warner, Inside Higher Ed
· The Best of Hack Education: Selected Essays · Featured Essay:
The 100 Worst Ed-Tech Debacles of the Decade
Here. I have chronicled for you a decade of ed-tech failures and fuck-ups and flawed ideas. Oh yes, I’m sure you can come up with some rousing successes and some triumphant moments that made you thrilled about the 2010s and that give you hope for “the future of education.” Good for you. But that’s not my job. (And honestly, it’s probably not your job either.) .
· The Best of Hack Education: Selected Talks · Featured Talk:
This talk was delivered at OEB 2019 in Berlin. I wanted to call out the misinformation and disinformation repeated by those who get on stage at ed-tech events (as well as those who uncritically accept the fairy tales as truth). If we prance delightedly towards a dystopian ed-tech future, it is in part because of the storytellers in ed-tech who peddle this bullshit.
· Why Pigeons?:
The Pigeons of Ed-Tech
What is up with all the pigeons? The bird appears across all the various Hack Education projects as it exemplifies how education technology has viewed learning and learners. In part, it's a reference to the work of Edward Thorndike and B. F. Skinner and their development of multiple choice tests, teaching machines, and behavioral (educational) psychology....
Image credits: Bryan Mathers