115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Question of (Ed) Technology in the K-12 Classroom 

Matthew Callahan, Independent Scholar

This paper examines the cult of productivity in K-12 education in the United States using Heidegger’s theory of technology as a guiding critique. I aim to demonstrate that student work is instrumentalized in the K-12 classroom to the detriment of students as individuals, and to propose an ethics of education as a remedy.

Proposal: 

This paper examines the cult of productivity in K-12 education in the United States using Heidegger’s theory of technicity, or the essence of technology, as a guiding critique. Production is at the heart of everything students are expected to do in the contemporary classroom setting. As soon as students are able to write (as early as Kindergarten), they are evaluated based on their ability to produce text (or pictures) on the page. We ask students to read books and keep track of the number of pages they read per night. In my experience as an educator in independent schools, we require students to submit to reading assessments in which we quantify their errors (meaning, structural, and/or visual errors.) We assess the rate of student reading and report to parents on that rate, especially if it is not deemed fast enough. Students are also required to produce writing about their reading to prove their comprehension. In math, students are often asked to produce mathematical facts in an allotted time. The examples of the preoccupation with production are myriad. The ways in which success is measured is quantitative.

 

Technicity in Heidegger’s The Question Concerning Technology refers to the harnessing of resources for production. Beyond the production and consumption of traditional commodity resources, I see the current commodification of data, and, in this case, student data, as a serious threat to the educational mission. Heidegger, in this work and others, argues that human life is impoverished by the constant drive for production, and that the overwhelming desire to continue to produce is insatiable and unending (The End of Philosophy, 106-7). By bringing Heidegger into the discussion of pedagogical technological ethics, I aim to demonstrate that student work is instrumentalized in the K-12 classroom to the detriment of students as individuals. Heidegger shifts his focus to contemplation. I, in turn, argue that the contemporary K-12 classroom is antithetical to contemplation because of the obsession with student productivity. I see current schooling, most often, as an obstacle to serious contemplation. In this paper, I claim that even in the progressive context of the independent school classroom, we have not advanced far enough from Lyotard’s depiction of education as violent constraint (The Inhuman, 4).

 

I will use this framework to critically examine the following themes in the K-12 context: ed tech, the workshop model, grit and growth mindset, the maker movement, and the current obsession with STEM/STEAM education.


In the conclusion, I will propose an ethics of education and education technology in the K-12 classroom in my aim to foster thoughtful engagement with the world rather than focusing so intently on production.