A dandelion of data

|Matt Offord

I was conducting a mini-ethnography of a Twitter teaching community for Education and Digital Culture and decided to add to my study the data aspect of the teaching discussed by this community. The group are called #hybridlearning and consist largely of US based K12 teachers engaged in hybrid learning (in this interpretation teaching online and F2F simulataneously). I noticed a very significant uptake and profiling of edtech solutions to very difficult task of teaching in two modes art once. Very few tweets discussed operational solutions such as the use of learning stations to segragate activity. There was, instead, an earnest reaching for simple solutions based on technology.

I divided the tweets into posts about the learning analytic dashboards (described by Brown 2020), edtech evangelised by individuals and sponsored edtech promotions. I also spotted a lone AI post purporting to assist in the remote learning environment. I chose to hand draw (albeit on software) a dandelion where my colour key was reflected in the seeds of the flower, emulating a natural pie chart. I also drew another image in soft pastels.

Dandelion data visualisation

The data show the #hybridlearning hashtag has clearly triggered a number of edtech sales algorithms. Many solutions proudly promote datafication (Williamson et. al. 2020), although dashboards (Brown 2020) are fairly low profile whereas one-stop shops or even online schools are quite prominent (van Dijck et. al.2018). The level of broadcasting by edtech promotors really drowned out the community voice as can be seen by the amount of red on the dandelion pie chart.

1 thought on “A dandelion of data

  1. Lovely hybrid visualization! And lots of interesting points in the commentary too. Struck by this line: “The data show the #hybridlearning hashtag has clearly triggered a number of edtech sales algorithms.” I think this points to *other* ways that datafication and algorithms affect the work of teachers — in this case, not as actual learning technologies, but as data for marketing those learning technologies to teachers. This is I think becoming a major trend — uses of data analytics to identify markets of customers for edtech. There are also edtech market intelligence agencies using data to attract venture capital investors. And organizations gathering data about edtech ‘impact’ to produce ‘edtech evidence search engines’. All of these add a different twist to questions about ‘teaching with data’ — they are really about using data to ‘teach’ investors, teachers and educational leaders to ‘invest’ in edtech. Beyond that, it’s quite sad to see largely organic, ground-up teacher movements online exploited for commercial advantage, and your dandelion captures that really effectively. Those are a lot of seeds ready to float off and take root elsewhere.

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