12038 OL: “I Open at the Close”: Infrastructure and Ideology at Play in School Tablet and Laptop Rollouts

06/12/2015 @ 11:00 AM – 12:30 PM
The Wiltern A

Organizer: Meryl Alper
Presenter: Meryl Alper, Morgan G. Ames, Nicholas C. Wilson, Mathew H. Rafalow
Discussant: Ellen Seiter

Infrastructure—the arrangement of sociocultural, political, and technical systems—shapes the design and deployment of educational technologies. This includes teacher and parent organizations, local and national school policies, and wifi access. In an unevenly networked society, infrastructures can both foster equity and perpetuate inequality. Science and technology studies scholars Star and Ruhleder (1996) point out that infrastructure, which tends to work invisibly in the background, often only becomes visible when it breaks.

This panel focuses on breakdowns in the infrastructure of educational technology, specifically the distribution and deployment of tablets and laptops for individual student use in educational environments. The goal of the panel is to make visible the dialectic between “openness” and “closure” that these infrastructural breakdowns enact. For example, when are rollout projects understood to begin and end, and how is this reflected infrastructurally? How does infrastructural support (or lack thereof) create learning opportunities for some students while constructing barriers for others? What tensions between open-source and proprietary software and hardware manifest in these programs? Like the Golden Snitch in Harry Potter, what possibilities open at the close?

Four researchers will each present a unique case of educational technology rollouts. These case studies differ on a number of levels, such as scale, geography, and type of device. These rollout programs are united though in their stated ideals of “opening” learning for various populations (e.g. youth with disabilities, high schoolers, students in the Global South). Following the presentations, Ellen Seiter will respond and facilitate an audience discussion.

Meryl Alper will discuss how one large urban school district is managing special education students’ use of iPads as assistive speech aids alongside a massive rollout of iPads in the general curriculum. The two projects converge and diverge in various ways, revealing new insights into the complexity of educational technology infrastructures.

Morgan Ames will discuss the twilight of a One Laptop per Child (OLPC) project that was considered exemplary until it ran out of money. While negotiating which campaigns to keep, repairs to prioritize, and infrastructure to maintain has undercut the project’s commitment to equity, it has also opened it to discourses about technology in education beyond OLPC.

Matt Rafalow will discuss how two middle schools differently negotiate Chromebook rollouts. At a school that fosters collaboration among faculty, “glitches” during classroom instruction are perceived as collective learning opportunities with students. At another school, mishaps are seen as threats and signs of teacher and student failure, closing learning opportunities.

Nick Wilson will discuss student resistance to technology-based learning activities at a mid-sized working class high school, and how a lack of infrastructural support for implementing student-centered instruction undermined the goal of the school’s laptop program to make learning fun and accessible to all students.

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