Opportunity or Oppression?

Take My Hand – Photo by Photos Hobby on Unsplash

A Frightfully Optimistic Future

This week I spent some time reading two articles making speculations about the future of technology’s impact on education.  In both articles there was a mix of optimism and pessimism.  I think the above photograph does a good job of expressing how the readings made me feel.  The title of the photo is “Take My Hand”, suggesting the photographer saw the robot as a helpful tool, or even a leader.  At the same time, the robot’s balled up fist calls into question the robot’s intentions and one can’t help but wonder what type of leader it would be.  So, will educational technology turn out to be the provider of opportunity or oppression?

Opportunity?

Macgilchrist et al. (2020) presented three possible futures with speculations ranging from dystopian to hopeful.  In the third scenario, the most optimistic, the authors predicted the democratization of information and the eventual personal ownership of private data.  They described a revolution of sorts which includes a shift in control over information from corporate entities to decentralization in the form of open source technologies and educational resources (p. 86).  This is an exciting future, which has an opportunity to reduce inequality and open doors previously closed to many.  Realistic, though?  I’m not sure.

Oppression?

Selwyn et al. (2020) presented a series of vignettes which expressed a considerably darker version of the future of educational technology.  The story that really caught my attention was Vignette #5, describing an Orwellian educational environment in which students’ thoughts and emotions are constantly monitored and evaluated.  While I think the idea that, in 10 years’ time, students will be lightly shocked in order to maintain their attention in class is a little far fetched, the idea that artificial intelligence could monitor students’ emotions and make judgements isn’t unrealistic (p. 100).  How we use those tools in the future could be incredibly beneficial, or equally likely, could lead to an unfortunate fate at the wrong end of a menacing robotic fist.

References

Macgilchrist, F., Allert, H., & Bruch, A. (2020). Students and society in the 2020s.  Three future ‘histories’ of education and technology. Learning, Media and Technology, 45(1), 75-89. DOI: 10.1080/17439884.2019.1656235.

Selwyn, N., Pangrazio, L., Nemorin, S., & Perrotta, C. (2020). What might the school of 2030 be like? An exercise in social science fiction. Learning, Media and Technology, 45(1), 90-106. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439884.2020.1694944

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