Pitfalls of (post) COVID-19 education: time for a critical reflection by Hannah Teras [EMPOWER COVID-19 webinar week, day 2]
Pitfalls of (post)
education: time for
a critical reflection
DR HANNA TERÄS
TAMPERE UNIVERSITY OF APPLIED
Digitalization (and des
”Everyone knows what digitalization is” – or do they?
”There is a need for a digital leap because education
must not be left behind as the world changes and
digitalizes”(Olli-Pekka Heinonen, 2016)
Digitalization is important because digitalization is
Image: Deb Watson CC BY-NC 2.0
Digitization: converting analogue
signals into digital, computer-
Digitalization: changes social
(Brennen & Kreiss, 2014)
Kuva: MajorMalfunction CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Digitalization of education
Kuvat: Anders Sandberg CC BY-NC 2.0 & Antti T. Nissinen CC BY 2.0
We tend to actually talk about digitization and let the social change go unnoticed.
”The ENORMOUS potential of digitalization is always waiting just
behind the corner.
Innovation = always good?
So far very little evidence of benefits, a gap between the potential and
reality (Cuban & Jandric, 2015, Selwyn 2010, Mertala 2019)
Digital environments redefine, simplify and reduce learning, no space
for critical evaluation (Bayne, 2015, Mertala, 2019, Knox et al.
Techno-scientific innovation has not solved societal problems,
sometimes quite the opposite. Innovations often benefit edtech
companies themselves. (Birch et al. 2020)
Kuva: Jeff Sullivan. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Digital technologies revolutionizing learning! Since A.D. X. (Koch,
1973; Postman, 1992)
”Education is broken, technology will fix it”. (Williamson 2020,
Birch et al. 2020, Mertala, 2019)
Ed-tech speech is characterized by value-laden, political and
deterministic language that leaves no room for alternative
interpretations or doubt. (Mertala, 2019, s. 27)
Closed universe of discourse: commenting only within a strictly
defined space (Teräs, Suoranta & Teräs, 2022)
Kuva: Robert Ball. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Research focuses largely on digital
skills or technology acceptance.
(esim. Schrerer ym. 2019, Falloon
Teachers are given the role of
objects for professional
development programs (Teräs, Teräs
-> Digitalization becomes the
subject, it is something that
happens to teachers
Kuva: Cynthia Blue. CC BY-NC-ND
Educational policy (with
”own cow in the ditch”)
The future of education is influenced by vision papers and
programs that assume a certain kind of future that requires
certain changes in case we wish to adapt to it. Thus they
actually construct a future instead of just predicting it, they
become self-fulfilling prophesies.
OECD recommendations and conclusions are not based on
research knowledge, but on the blogs and vision papers of
consulting companies, Silicon Valley edtech companies,
”techno-evangelists” and the like – togehter with earlier
The thoughts of those who benefit financially are heard like
the words of prophets.
Kuva: Jim Howard. CC BY-NC 2.0
The ”joys” of datafication
Data has become a significant currency -> more data is
better! So everyone is obsessed with getting as much data
from as many sources as possible. Everyone must consent
in the name of ”better education”. (Couldry & Yu, 2018)
The main motivation behind the development of different
learning platforms and datafication is NOT better learning,
but heftier profit. (see Williamson 2020, Mirrlees & Alvi
Threats: machine behaviorism, algorithm pedagogy,
surveillance capitalism (Knox et al. 2020, Birch et al.
2020, Zuboff, 2019)
Agenda for critical studies in
digitalization of education
1. A step out of the ”digital box”, space and
time for critical reflection. Where are we now,
where do we want to go?
2. Critical pedagogy and critical theory offer
useful tools for the research and development
3. Emancipation and engagement of teachers in
defining and creating desired digital futures!
“Freedom is measured by the
amount of control you have over
the things upon which you are
― C. Wright Mills
Bayne, S. (2015). What’sthematterwith‘technology-enhanced learning’?Learning, Media and Technology,40(1), 5–20
Birch, K., Chiappetta, M., & Artyushina, A. (2020). The problem of innovation in technoscientific capitalism:data rentiership and the policy implications of turning personal digital data
into a private asset.PolicyStudies,1–20.https://doi.org/10.1080/01442872.2020.1748264
Brennen, S. & Kreiss, D. (2014). Digitalization and Digitization. Culture Digitally, September 8 2014. Available at: https://culturedigitally.org/2014/09/digitalization-and-
Couldry, N., & Yu, J. (2018). Deconstructing datafication’s brave new world.New Media & Society, 20(12),4473–4491.https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444818775968.
Cuban, L., & Jandrić, P. (2015). The dubious promise of educational technologies: Historical patterns andfuture challenges.E-Learning and Digital Media, 12(3–4), 425–
Knox, J., Williamson, B., & Bayne, S. (2020). Machine behaviourism: Future visions of‘learnification’and‘datafication’across humans and digital technologies.Learning, Media and
Technology, 45(1), 31–45.https://doi.org/10.1080/17439884.2019.1623251
Mertala, P. (2019). Paradoxes of participation in the digitalization of education: A narrative account.Learning,Media and Technology, 45(2), 1–
Mirrlees, T., & Alvi, S. (2020).EDTECH INC. Selling, automating and globalizing higher education in thedigital age. New York & London: Routledge.
OAJ. 2016. Askelmerkit digiloikkaan. OAJ:n julkaisusarja.
Postman, N. (1992).Technopoly: The surrender of culture to technology.NewYork:AlfredA.Knopf,Inc.
Selwyn, N. (2010). Looking beyond learning: Notes towards the critical study of educational technology.Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 26(1), 65–73
Teräs, M., Suoranta, J., Teräs, H., & Curcher, M. (2020) Post-Covid-19 Education and Education Technology 'Solutionism': a Seller's Market. Postdigital Science and Education 2(1).
Williamson, B. (2020a). Making markets through digital platforms: Pearson, edu-business, and the(e)valuation of higher education.Critical Studies in
Zuboff, S. (2019).The age of surveillance capitalism: The fight for a human future at the new frontier ofpower. London: PublicAffairs.Postdigital Science and Education