Last year, following the example of the very cool team at Middlebury College, we launched the 2020 TRU Digital Detox. In a series of eight essays (and three face-to-face sessions!), we discussed pressing issues in educational technologies. We focused on ethics, algorithms, and data privacy, and we explored the idea of applying an ethics of care lens to our approach to educational technologies. Following my favourite book at the time, A Manifesto for a Post-Critical Pedagogy and drawing on a range of thinkers in the discipline, we tried to approach the conversations from a perspective of hope.
Last year, we offered an opportunity to try and detoxify your relationship to educational technologies. Remember early 2020? Remember hope? Remember when educational technologies were an optional thing to talk about? I don’t think I do, to be honest.
The pandemic has changed education in myriad ways, but at the core the pandemic has made explicit the same kinds of weaknesses and potential for crisis we discussed last time around. The inaccessibility and baked-in inequity of many of the tools we have come to rely on are not new, but they are now ubiquitous. And that makes the conversations that make up a Digital Detox more urgent than ever.
We won’t be rehashing all the same conversations. The targets of critique are different. We’ll be taking deep dives on the learning management system, the move to e-proctoring, and we’ll take a long, hard look at Microsoft for Education. And the person writing the essays this time is different — not literally, it’s still me, but I’m older and wearier than I was last year, and not so given to flights of unbridled optimism. So the tone of the 2021 TRU Digital Detox will be a little different, too.
Last year, we offered an opportunity to try and detoxify your relationship to educational technologies. This year, we ask if we can. Have we gone too far to heal the critical problems central to the tools we’ve outsourced so much to? And if not, if building back better is possible, what will that take — and do we have the will to try?
The 2021 TRU Digital Detox is open to everyone, within and outside of the TRU community. It’s geared for post-secondary students and educators, but like last year I hope anyone with an interest in how education works or technology and ethics more generally will feel welcome to join. You can participate here in the comments or by joining our live synchronous sessions (open to anyone!). You can also share your thoughts on your own blogs, or share a community discussion with us like our fabulous pals at University of Michigan – Dearborn.
Ultimately, I hope to chart a path forward. And I hope you’ll come with me.