Last year, Daniela DiGiacomo, Sarah Barriage, and I published an article on student and principal perceptions of ClassDojo. Our findings weren’t entirely what we expected, even if they weren’t a huge surprise. In short, students and practitioners don’t always share the concerns about edtech platforms (like ClassDojo) that are gaining steam in the critical educational technology literature. I don’t say this to shame edtech users for not thinking the way that we ivory tower types do—rather, it speaks to a long-recognized tension between theoretical and conceptual concerns held by academics vs. the practical concerns held by those outside the academy.
One interesting thing that we noted during the research process, though, was the way that our respondents seemed to put ClassDojo in the same conceptual category as other educational technologies that we wouldn’t have seen as similar. There was at least some of this that is a factor of instrument design, but there was enough of it that it couldn’t just be a goof on our part. Anyway, this pattern of conflation irked us to the point that we decided to take what was primarily intended as screening data and spin it off into a second piece. I’m happy to announce that that article has just been published in Information and Learning Science. It can be found here, and the Emerald generated preprint is hosted on my website here.
Here’s the (structured) abstract that accompanies the piece:
The purpose of this paper is to examine how higher education students think about educational technologies they have previously used – and the implications of this understanding for their awareness of datafication and privacy issues in a postsecondary context.
The authors conducted two surveys about students’ experience with the ClassDojo platform during their secondary education. In both surveys, the authors included a question asking students to identify which ClassDojo-like platform they used in school. For this study, the authors examined responses to these screening questions, identifying the technologies that responses referred to and sorting technologies into categories.
Students identified a wide range of technologies when prompted to identify a technology similar to ClassDojo. Many responses suggested students have a broad, monolithic understanding of educational technology. This suggests the prevalence of a utilitarian tool perspective (rather than a platform perspective) that may be entrenched by the time that students reach higher education, hampering efforts to inform and educate them in that context.
To the best of the authors’ knowledge, there are few studies of students’ conflation of educational technologies in the extant literature. Furthermore, the platform perspective emphasized in this manuscript remains relatively rare in many fields associated with educational technology.
I’m quite happy with the paper, since it speaks to something that’s been weighing on my mind recently, not only as a professional but also as a parent. I’m not sure that folks—including researchers, not enough of whom adopt critical perspectives—are paying enough attention to edtech beyond a simple, utilitarian perspective. One of the best suggestions we got from the reviewers of this manuscript was to pay more attention to the role of the COVID-19 pandemic in making platforms even more omnipresent in educational settings, which makes our findings all the more important. If we aren’t paying attention to everything about the tech we used, we’re going to have some nasty wake-ups in the future.
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