5 Things You Need to Know Before You Buy Edtech #OTESSA23

I did an invited talk yesterday for the kick off day of the OTESSA conference, part of the larger Canadian Congress conference. It was a lovely experience, not least because I was introduced by Connie Blomgren from AU, and Jon Dron was also in the audience. It was a treat to connect with dear colleagues whom I miss very much, as well as the other attendees. Jon also put his hand up for the first question which has been a recurring feature of our working relationship for over 3 years now. Familiar comforts!

The talk was recorded and I hope will be available online somewhere after the conference ends, but I promised to share my slides, so here they are, along with the abstract for my talk. I was largely drawing on my thoughts about procurement and also the sustainability of edtech, themes that I’ve been thinking about for some time. I ended with some thinking I’ve been doing recently about embracing constraints as positive forces. Cutting edge configurations of trailing edge technologies, rather than this orgy of excess we seem to be mired in constantly. That’s not to say that the critical work of engaging with emerging technologies isn’t still needed, but more haste less speed would go a long way. Which reminds me that I have more to say on AI too, but that post might not get written this week as it’s a busy one with travel coming up fast.

PDF copy of the slides

5 Things You Need to Know Before You Buy Edtech

Drawing on experiences of over 20 years in higher education technology, working across commercial and open technology contexts, this talk proposes that the procurement of educational technologies is fundamentally flawed both as a practice and as a process. Institutional processes such as procurement tend to be absent from conversations about digital education, often acknowledged as problematic but also outside our sphere of influence or domain of expertise. On the basis that pedagogy and technology are entangled in complex ways, in fact the opposite should be true. The educational technologies we use are not tools, and should be treated as matters of quality when we consider what good digital education might look like, and what we think the purpose of education is.

Consideration of ethics are often absent from procurement of technology, largely based on instrumentalist assumptions about the neutrality of technologies. Public sector procurement “best practice” also forces us to use poor proxies for our educational values, purposes, and contexts, and creates new risks and liabilities for institutions, at the same time as it seeks to minimise others. Whilst this talk will explore potential solutions to current procurement process and practice, the question that remains outstanding is whether we are simply buying and/or using too much educational technology, and whether, in order to achieve more environmentally sustainable and just forms of education, we should be embracing a de-growth approach to educational technology more generally?

How much procurement of edtech, however well executed, is too much?

2 thoughts on “5 Things You Need to Know Before You Buy Edtech #OTESSA23

  1. This is fantastic! University procurers should be fed a version of this talk on a non-stop 25 hour loop, Clockwork Orange style.

    1. Well, everything’s a lesson, isn’t it? Learning all the time, as you could say.

      Thank you. I think it’s one of my finest pieces of doom-mongering, and I’ll not lie that my gif choice might have had some suggestive overtones. I have a half built web resource that I drew a lot of this talk together from and I really should make the time to finish it off and have it as a permanent reference, as it’s got a little more narrative around it.

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