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The tagline on Hack Education is “the history of the future of education technology.” This week, I kicked off a new series on retro ed-tech – forgotten and persistent – with a look at the Speak & Spell. Coming soon: histories of The Oregon Trail, Lego Mindstorms, PLATO, SCANTRON, and more.

Elsewhere in fear and nostalgia for old electronic toys: Adrienne LaFrance on “Teddy Ruxpin in the Uncanny Valley” and Roisin Kiberd on how “Online Dating Is Turning Us All Into Tamagotchis.” And elsewhere in 1980s technology: Tim Carmody on Back to the Future.

Other histories: Alexis Madrigal (on Ryan Cordell’s research): “The appeal of facts that blow your mind, from the 19th century to Buzzfeed.” Dana Goldstein on “Our Problematic Obsession in American Education With Ranking People”. Jonathan Goodwin on the history of the MLA Jobs List. Kim-Mai Cutler on “East of Palo Alto’s Eden: Race and The Formation of Silicon Valley.”

And what of the present, the future? “We’re not living in an algorithmic culture so much as a computational theocracy,” writes Ian Bogost. Thanks to social media, “21st Century Americans are in many ways becoming a kind of democratic Stasi, reporting on their neighbors and colleagues, assembling dossiers of suspicious or questionable action and speech,” writes Timothy Burke. “Computers are learning to read emotion, and the business world can’t wait,” writes Raffi Khatchadourian.

What are the implications of algorithms, surveillance, big data for education? What happens to generosity and care?

What happens to education with the influence of big money and college football? What happens thanks to unexamined narratives about meritocracy?

Well, “This Is What Happens When We Lock Children in Solitary Confinement.”

What happens if community college is free? (You get an op-ed by Tom Hanks, for starters, talking about how important community college was for him; and the Speaker of the House John Boehner uses Taylor Swift animated GIFs in a blog post to criticize the President’s proposal.) So, yeah. I don’t even know.

“I Don’t Know if Je Suis Charlie,” says Quinn Norton. “I Might Be Charlie,” says Ta-Nehisi Coates.

A reminder from danah boyd: “Teens’ use of social media is significantly shaped by race and class, geography and cultural background.”

And a reminder about “goodness, friendship, and doing the right thing”: Hermione Granger and the Goddamn Patriarchy.

Yours in struggle,

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Audrey Watters



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