I’ve been holding on to this post for a week or so, rolling it around in my head trying to connect a few dots before clicking the publish button.
It’s got to do with Apple, and SOPA and Raspberry Pi and education and learning and on and on and on…..
It started with the education event that Apple hosted on January 19th. At this event Apple unveiled iBooks2 and iBooks Author. After several weeks of hype and people breathlessly awaiting the great advancement that Apple would give us in education – we got interactive textbooks. Interesting as a business model, interactive texts and textbooks are definitely something that students are interested in, and something that is probably inevitable given how students are becoming used to working with text.
But these are certainly not a ground breaker. And in fact, the details of the end user agreement have created huge amounts of controversy as it becomes clear that using iBooks Author ties you into the loop of using an Apple product to produce the text that can only be sold (or given away) through the iBookstore and then can only be read on iBooks 2 enabled devices such as iPads. Some folks are wondering if this tight loop will survive an antitrust case. Others are wondering how many schools are going to be able to afford to buy into this model. For make no mistake, buying into this model is something that is going to cost. Apple has grown into a massive company. 13 billion dollars in income in the final quarter of 2011. One of the largest and most successful corporations in history. (Its hard to remember that only a decade ago (or so) they were the underdog and were in fact in very real danger of becoming bankrupt.)
And this is where the danger is.
We need to remember that Apple is a corporation. They are going to do what is right for them and their shareholders first. They are more concerned with profits and shareholder value than they are with learning and doing what is good for students. This struck home to me after David Warlick left this comment on this post I had written previously about redefining edtech:
“What concerns me, Clarence, is that technology seems to be advancing to the point that it can behave just like a textbook. I think that we’re approaching a tipping point where edtech truly fuses with the operation and image of education.
But! ..will that tipping point come at the arrival of a technology that fits education as we know it?
..or will the tipping point come as we clearly articulate and adopt a new image of teaching and learning that reflects a new environment — resulting in part from technological advances.
Do we digitize education or do we transform it…”
As time goes by, many corporations are giving us tools that allow us to do what we’ve always done in education rather than producing tools that will help and encourage teachers to transform what happens in classrooms. There is a far larger market for digital textbooks than there is for a tool that will allow us to connect with folks who think in new and different ways than we do.
Which brings me to the final step. This article in the Globe and Mail was published on January 18th, the day that the SOPA protests had darkened a lot of the web. It brings to light an interesting division in society and technology. That of producerism and consumerism:
“Consumerism is the well-known, American-invented philosophy of defining oneself by brands of consumption. I wear Nike, therefore I am an athlete. I drive a Suburban, therefore I am outdoorsy. I drink Starbucks, therefore I am cultured.
Producerism is the less-well-known French alternative philosophy of defining oneself by their output of production. I paint, therefore I am an artist. I draft legal arguments, therefore I am a lawyer. I throw cobblestones, therefore I am a protester.”
How do these philosophies fit into what we believe about education? How do they effect what we do in our classrooms?
Do we believe that we are preparing students for the future simply because our district has spent thousands (possibly even tens or hundreds of thousands) on iPads or Smart boards, or Macbook Pros or whatever shiny gadget has gathered societies attention for the moment?
It makes me wonder, is our current form of education being legitimized, digitized and standardized by corporations, teachers and districts heavily invested in preserving the status quo? Education simply cannot be focused on the consumption of products and information at the expense of creativity, connection and community.
In the last few years as the edtech industry has matured we have seen a blossoming of companies willing to provide services for schools. But we’ve also seen the opportunity to use tools that are cheaper and allow us to focus on creation and community instead of on consumption.
Where do we want the emphasis placed in our classrooms and for our learners?