I keep peering at the name badges, but am not quite who we are referring to with some recent (in finally in the best space) blog talk about [capital] Edtech. It’s nobody I would hangout with.

The end was spotted at Hack Education where Audrey Watters kicked past the curb at her own blog (yeah I remember blogging). Jim Groom asked about the death and later thought more about it, kicking off a roaring comment party as only the bava can host, where I noticed his naming of both Edtech and edtech. Then in spite of it (maybe more despite?) Tom Woodward brought to the stage a lion face punching act. In 12 footnotes. From the wall-hitting position Anne-Marie Scott is aiming to get back up again. Adam dusted off his blog to remind us that it was more about the musicians than the jamming gear.. Then Edtech quite clearly framed by Ben Werdmüller as the insatiable appetite for scale, “The need for high scale is a crater that has been dug in the fabric of civic life” or as Edward Abbey wrote so long ago, “Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of a cancer cell (scale as the understudy of growth?!)

Still, I have no direct association with this Edtech that is spoken of. It is nowhere in proximity of what I do. Oh I smell the stench of it amongst the selling out of what were basic tenants of openness for a deal with a so called Hero. That’s capital Edtech, where money is changed hands, content shipped off, and none of the players step outside of their cloak of deal silence.

Course Hero is Edtech. Hands down.

I am not.

But it’s not just these villains and scale munchers. I think we have let slide away, be it in a cloud of social media like button clicking, what I always saw as key of a conceptual understanding of how the web works. I see it in what once have been created on a web site is pushed out as a Google Doc or rather than using WordPress I see resources cranked out as Pressbooks. Very few want to know the innards of view source, much less how HTML, CSS, and (boogie man) Javascript can do things not even imaginable in CodePen, where it is all there to inspect. And they will all leave the room if you mutter “Github.”

All that pursuit years ago of “digital/web literacy” seems in vain, and about as much interaction I seem to witness is liking/retweeting.

There is a price paid for the Convenience of not having to know how the web works, to make things “easier” to do. Yes, tasks might be easier, bur now you are limited in what you can do to what the tech builder gives you. And then when they arbitrary decides to shutter up their service or sell to another devil, well there you are left with bitter memories.

Yes, I feel like in so many things, be it submitting to adtech surveillance to buy in to commercial platforms to abandoning the ideas of managing the technology, deals are being made, and we are paying with our souls.

Cue the ominous movies

Yikes, 1970s Devil Movies!

I had a thought for this post of this selling our indie web souls to the corporate platform providers akin to all those movies I took in the late 1960s / early 1970s where we witness what happens when people sell themselves to… Satan. From Rosemary’s Baby to The Omen to The Exorcist and back (and much much more) for the dangled offer of Course Satan of Not Having To Know The Technical Details, your soul is sold, and your creepy uncle who made the intro shuffles off laughing with a wad of cash in his pocket:

The idea of making a deal with the Edtech has appeared many times in works of educators. These pacts with the Edtech can be found in many markets, including: textbooks, courses, registration systems, faculty development, instructional design, media production and games/simulations. When it comes to making a contract with the Edtech, they all share the same prevailing desire, an educator wants some flashy content delivery without needing to understand its principles or underpinnings, but in exchange, they must give up their data and opportunity of freedom for eternity.

terribly re-written in parody from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deals_with_the_Devil_in_popular_culture

There you go, you had to come here to find out that the Edtech [capitalized] is really the Devil. And for all you give the Edtech in terms of data, patterns, attention, cash, the convenience given inevitably falls short. There are no refunds on souls.

I could not help myself but rewrite the story that most recently played out here in terms of remixed movie posters (I acknowledge freely that the source materials were not openly licensed, but these are so obvious a parody and can easily be distinguished from their originals) (And sometimes you have to kick the Edtech between the teeth).

Meet Rosemary, a young aspiring faculty member, maybe adjunct, who wants to be part of the popular OER movement. On her campus, she knows of the gatherings of all the in people, the keynote speakers who wander in, all hang out in Suite 5R. On timidly visiting the gathering, and opportunity is presented to build her OER art course on the Edtech’s .com platform, yes imbued with the runes of various licenses. She wonders if she should take up building the course in her own domain, but a dean dangles some release time, and the Edtech swoons with all that comes with them hosting her “community course”– yes the course was her “baby”, but…

Movie poster with a jagged mountain top profile on the bottom and a baby carriage perched atop. Large ghostly faces in the background labeled Course Hero and Lumen loom over text a the otom reading - Look what's happened to Rosemary's OER Art Course

In April 2022 she starts getting questions by email why links to her course are suddenly redirected to another site where visitors are goaded by trolls to pay coins for so called course help documents. She has no means to export her own course, it has been sold to another Edtech.

In the next movie we are shown the makings of a Venture Capital funding round, and all who stare at the wonder child so called “angel” (of ??) as the dollars climb higher. There is no means to appease the omen of needing more and more scale and product to appease the dark angel.

“VC Funding is the greatest mystery of all because no human being will ever solve it.”

“Who is He? What is He? Should We Fear Him? Can We Stop Him? Is He a Warning? Is He the Beginning of the End?”

Meet the IPOmen…

A dark movie poster with a fiendish looking child in top left, casting a long shadow in the shape of a dollar sign. Text at the bottom reads - You are One Day Close to the Day of Seed Capital-- and the movies name IPOmen

Beware the spawn of The Edtech, the gown of pedagogy critically tossed aside!

In the third movie of this trilogy, the once child like innocence of open educators like Rosemary has been fully possessed by the spitting pea soup greed of The Edtech. There seems to be no recourse, no way to save this young faculty member from the demon inside until a quiet man in a dark suit approaches the campus gates, he the one that liberates texts. In his bag are bash scripts and python code that, wielded by him, can free courses like Rosemary’s from the iron grips of The Edtech.

One more movie poster featuring the silhouette of a man with a bag in his hand, staring at a haunting light and the course here logo streaming out the window of a two story house.  Text reads-- Libretext;s The Exportist, directed by Delmar Larsen-- and at the bottom -- the slickest content reclaim of all time

Yes, this is a job for The Exportist. Rosemary’s course can now be found in a liberated space that provides her and everyone else the same rights (all 5, count ’em) it always should have had.

THE END

Yes, I got a little carried away here… and reminder, I am writing this in jest. As irony and sarcasm is about all I have left anymore.

Of course I am not serious and nor do I want to transport back to the magical time of discovery and experimentation where I got to know all of the blog authors above.

To which I celebrate the real edtech I know, the spirit and people that are not in it for venture capital chips or scale gorging. I want to be on the road with Adam the one he says “is getting tougher, larger, and more congested, no doubt, but I’m continuing to find ‘pockets of hope,'” all while avoiding what Ben paints as “the antithesis of intimacy.” In getting up from hitting the wall, Anne-Marie notes that from little things big things grow. Yes, little things, chickens. I want to footnote more with Tom’s notion to look for things that change my mind about what can be done (hotdogs notwithstanding). I am there in my RSS reader pew for every sermon by the Reverend Jim, and swaying to the hymns like seeking “an approach that is exploratory, experimental, and creative, not to mention generous and unbolted to the logic of licensing and litigation.” And I can respect Audrey folding up the Cassandra cloak band sending it to Goodwill, yet least hold on to the postcard memory of that there was once something that could help kids make art with math. And whatever she blogs, I will read.

And thus, I have no idea who The Edtech is that is spoken of. That’s not the people linked above, and also not a lot of people out there. If you must refer to the word, stay lower case.

Which leads to a song. By my fave band.

And have to say that in terms of Edtech I can rewrite the chorus:

Edtech, who are you? (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)

I really don’t wanna know (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)

Tell me, who are you? (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)

‘Cause I really don’t wanna know (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)

https://www.lyricsfreak.com/t/the+who/who+are+you_20146820.html

Yeah Edtech, who the fuck1 are you?


1 That’s a full quote of the lyrics! and look at me, Tom, with footnotes!

Featured Image: Something I made for an earlier post, that one modified the Wikimedia Commons image Hello my name is sticker that is in the public domain and then I changed it up even more here.

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An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.

Comments

  1. Are you kidding me? That ridiculously creative and awesome re-imagining of 60s and 70s occult horror films in the spirit of Edtech devils is just about the funnest, coolest thing i have seen since animated GIF comic book covers or minimalist book art 🙂 The edtech force is strong with you dog, and as long as there’s a web and I am breathing there will be a bava traveling on that road with you, Adam, and many other awesome folks. I originally signed up to edtech for a job and an escape from grad school but I stayed for the amazing people, and thankfully many of them are still here and still care. That’s enough for me.

  2. Cogdog you did an excellent job capturing all of the conversation that’s been spurred recently. Being that I’m out of my home country at the moment, I’ve had a difficult time keeping up with all of it, so thank you for capturing it so thoroughly.

    I’ll just speak for myself in saying despite how difficult these last couple years have been (most professionally speaking here) I’m confident that the “golden ages” of yesteryear are what prepared me for it. You helped prepare me for it. None of it was what we wanted and it wasn’t the fun stuff, but I still believe in what we were/are doing even if a couple of the ways, tools, and languages around it have changed.

    It was and will always be about the people to me. So thank you for what you’ve done over the years to, and I mean this with all sincerity, inspire and challenge me. Not just with WordPress wizardy, but you’ve modeled me so much: joy and fun in online learning, community, daily practice in public, etc. etc.

    And I love the song. If Audrey is the EdTech Cassandra, Cogdog is the EdTech Weird Al.

  3. Coming late to the party. Almost glad I am. Took time off. Left Thursday, June 30 (the day before you posted this). Came back Monday, July 25.
    Since coming back, I’ve been catching up on diverse posts. Watters’s announcement was already on my mind, of course. Yet I feel like my vacations (and some happy events in my personal life) have helped me put these things into a different perspective from the one which served as a filter when I “left the office”.

    Today, things are coalescing, to an extent. I’m now curating links around angst, fatigue, transitions, departures, toxicity, sellouts…
    There’s a lot in there which can be quite depressing.

    It’s probably important to state that the feels involved are valid.

    It’s just that I need to focus on the “what now?”

    Through much of my life I’ve been affected by a strange condition (that of an “emotional sponge” or “empath”) which makes feel people’s feels indiscriminately. In other words, my empathy isn’t selective. And if I’m among people who feel down, my own mood goes down quickly, regardless of what might affect me directly. Conversely, if people around me are in a very positive mood, my mood will slowly go up even if I’m a relatively tough spot.

    Somehow, I now feel “detached” enough to focus on appropriate action, moving forward.

    To me, a lot of it has to do with collective action and individual agency.
    Among the gifts I’ve received is one that I mention frequently. Environmentalist Kristian Gareau, who’s no stranger to activism, that I had done what was in my “sphere of agency”. Maybe this gift can’t work as well for others. Still, I find that there’s deep truth in acting according to how we can act.
    Especially if we can take part in broader change.
    And “Open” is about broad change. As Brenna said, “Open as in Hearts”.

    Sure, you could use Porter’s Pollyanna or Voltaire’s Candide to try and get a rise out of me. I get the impression that strategy won’t work.

    Recently, I’ve interacted a few times with members the Keep Badges Weird community. For some reason, it’s contributed to my hopefulness and sense of appropriate action. Maybe the same could happen with any group.
    What’s special about these interactions is that they’re specifically about working on change.
    For instance:
    https://blog.weareopen.coop/how-badges-can-change-the-world-65395581f90c
    During yesterday’s community call, I’ve expressed an intention to work through toxic culture using recognition.
    And I’m frequently reminded of Lisa’s lightning talk about gratitude, during OEG.
    https://connect.oeglobal.org/t/gratitude-thanking-faculty-for-their-role-in-oer/3842

    All this to say…
    Yes, we’re living through horror movies and a RomCom might feel out of place.
    We can also break out of the screen, roll up our sleeves, and get cracking on fulfilling the promise of Open for Epistemic Justice and solving the World’s Wicked Problems.

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