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Audrey Watters

NYC, Day 54

2 min read

I started writing this and realized I had actual work to do. So it's a fragment (the title of this site) and not a blog post.

I am not sure when it’s really “official.” Am I a New Yorker when I rent an apartment? When I register to vote? When I get my New York driver’s license? I’ve done the first two at least.

This weekend, I returned to the apartment Kin and I called home for over three years to start the process of packing everything up. Much is going into storage – all of Anthony’s artwork, primarily, which we’d just pulled out of storage in Oregon a year ago. We’ve lived on the road for so long; it’s really only been within the last year or so that we started to accumulate possessions again: mostly books and artwork. That’s all getting shipped east. The furniture – all that low-quality IKEA crap – is going up on Craigslist, free to the person who’ll haul it away.

Hermosa Beach was really good to us. But it’s time to move on.

Audrey Watters

Literature Review: The History of the Future of Personalization

5 min read

A literature review for Evidence and Inference, a class I'm sitting in on as part of my Spencer Fellowship.

“Personalized learning” has become something of a buzzword in education circles in recent years – shorthand, in many cases, for the potential for new technologies to reshape how schools operate and how students learn. “Personalized learning,” some insist, will allow students to move at their own pace through instructional materials. Some say it will enable a customization of instruction, so that lessons can be tailored to students’ interests and capabilities.

Despite its popularity in policy discussions, it’s not always clear what the phrase means – does “personalized learning” require technology at all, for example? Or is it akin to older, “progressive” education models that have long encouraged individual inquiry rather than “whole class instruction”?

It’s not clear what it means and it’s not clear if “it works.” It’s not readily apparent what, if any, effect that “personalized learning” has on students’ educational “outcomes” – their achievement, their curiosity and interest, and so on.

But the idea has powerful backers nonetheless – the Gates Foundation and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, for starters. The White House, under both Trump and Obama.

There are several schools of thought about “personalized learning,” much of this based on the disciplinary backgrounds of the scholars themselves. There are the educational researchers – “learning scientists” -- who investigate whether or not personalized learning is “effective.” In other words, does it raise test scores? There are those who study the sociology of education, some of whom are less interested in questions about “effectiveness” and more interested in the influence – politically, ideologically -- that industry has on educational reforms and education narratives. These researchers also look at how “personalization” works at an institutional level. There are also, of course, those in business schools who suggest that industry should have more influence on how schools are run. There are those too who study the history of education, many of whom would note that the rhetoric of and calls for “personalized learning” in some form or another is at least one hundred years old.

NOTABLE SCHOLARS:

Learning Sciences:

Bloom, Benjamin. “The 2 Sigma Problem: The Search for Methods of Group Instruction as Effective as One-to-One Tutoring.” Educational Researcher. 1984.

Chen, Chih-Ming. “Intelligent web-based learning system with personalized learning path guidance.” Computers and Education. 2007.

Pane, John F., Elizabeth D. Steiner, Matthew D. Baird, Laura S. Hamilton, and Joseph D. Pane “Observations and Guidance on Implementing Personalized Learning.” RAND Corporation. 2017.

Tseng, Judy C.R., Hui-Chun Chu, Gwo-Jen Hwang, and Chin-Chung Tsai. “Development of an adaptive learning system with two sources of personalization information.” Computers and Education. 2008.

Sociology of Education:

Selwyn, Neil. Education and Technology: Key Issues and Debates. 2016.

---. “Web 2.0 applications as alternative environments for informal learning – a critical review.” CERI-KERIS. 2007.

Williamson, Ben. “Educational reform, enquiry-based learning and the re-professionalisation of teachers.” The Curriculum Journal. 2009.

---. “Governing software: Networks, databases and algorithmic power in the digital governance of public education.” Learning, Media, and Technology. 2015.

History of Education:

Cuban, Larry. Oversold and Underused: Computers in the Classroom. 2001.

---. “Reforming Again, and Again, and Again.” Educational Researcher. 1990.

Education Business:

Christensen, Clayton, Curtis Johnson, and Michael Horn. Disrupting Class, Expanded Edition: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns. 2008.

FURTHER QUESTIONS:

It is rather remarkable that a topic as widely ballyhooed as “personalized learning” would have as little research about how well (or not) it works. But then again, that’s probably something that can be said of almost all education technologies: in the aggregate, education technologies have mixed results – some show negative effect, some show minimal effect, and some show no effect at all. There’s no “silver bullet,” if you will, that will address the problems that the education system faces.

But this makes the question of “why personalized learning?” all the more interesting.

How did “personalized learning” go from being something touted by progressive educators in the early twentieth century to the latest craze touted by education reformers and technology billionaires-turned-education philanthropists? (There are decades between progressive education of the 1900s and the push for the personal computer in schools. What happened?) Does the phrase mean the same as it did one hundred years ago? How has its meaning changed – and changed beyond simply the addition of computers?

And how does the addition of computers change what one means by “personalized learning”? Have computers changed “progressive education”? How does progressive education reconcile the highly commercial focus of much of today’s educational software? How much of “personalized learning” as imagined and built and sold by tech companies is echoes what “personalization” means on their platforms: metrics, marketing, conversion rates, customer satisfaction?

What makes “personalized learning” so appealing – again, historically but more importantly, today? Is there something about the tension of the American education system – its mandate to educate the public in some sort of collective manner? Does “personalization” offer some sort of psychological balm, perhaps, for standardization? (It is noteworthy, no doubt, that calls for “personalization” in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century occurred alongside the push for mass education.) And what makes “personalized learning” so appealing to education reformers? Is it something the technology promises? Is it the technology itself?

Audrey Watters

Initial Thoughts on Conspiracy Theories in Education

4 min read

Someone asked me the other day how I respond to charges that my work involves conspiracy theories about a “billionaire boys’ club” seeking the privatization of education. And it struck me that education reform and education technology have been caught up in aspersions accusations about “evidence” and accusations of “fake news” for some time now.

The phrase “billionaire boys’ club” is one historian Diane Ravitch uses in a chapter of her 2010 book The Death and Life of the Great American School System to describe the network of philanthropic organizations – namely, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Walton Foundation, and the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation – and the policies that these wealthy education reformers have funded and promoted. The phrase “billionaire boys’ club” can be traced farther back still, to a 1980s Ponzi scheme operating among the wealthy students at the Harvard School for Boys. Ravitch never makes reference to this social investing organization in her book, so it’s not clear if she is intentionally invoking the criminal enterprise when describing the efforts of Gates et al. Any connection between ed-reform and that “BBC” would certainly be the makings of a grand conspiracy theory. She doesn’t go there, but Ravitch’s work has been often dismissed as conspiracy theory nonetheless.

What makes something a conspiracy theory? The designation is no longer reserved for hypotheses about secret government activities, alien technologies, or celebrity deaths. It’s become a label used to dismiss all sorts of criticism that one disagrees with.

Sociologist Bruno Latour has argued that there is an unsettling connection between conspiracy theory and criticism: "What’s the real difference between conspiracists and a popularized, that is a teachable version of social critique inspired by a too quick reading of, let’s say, a sociologist as eminent as Pierre Bourdieu?

In both cases, you have to learn to become suspicious of everything people say because of course we all know that they live in the thralls of a complete illusio of their real motives. Then, after disbelief has struck and an explanation is requested for what is really going on, in both cases again it is the same appeal to powerful agents hidden in the dark acting always consistently, continuously, relentlessly. Of course, we in the academy like to use more elevated causes – society, discourse, knowledge-slash-power, fields of forces, empires, capitalism – while conspiracists like to portray a miserable bunch of greedy people with dark intents, but I find something troublingly similar in the structure of the explanation, in the first movement of disbelief and, then, in the wheeling of causal explanations coming out of the deep dark below. What if explanations resorting automatically to power, society, discourse had outlived their usefulness and deteriorated to the point of now feeding the most gullible sort of critique? Maybe I am taking conspiracy theories too seriously, but it worries me to detect, in those mad mixtures of knee-jerk disbelief, punctilious demands for proofs, and free use of powerful explanation from the social neverland many of the weapons of social critique. Of course conspiracy theories are an absurd deformation of our own arguments, but, like weapons smuggled through a fuzzy border to the wrong party, these are our weapons nonetheless. In spite of all the deformations, it is easy to recognize, still burnt in the steel, our trademark: Made in Criticalland.

This is an argument that Kurt Andersen seems to pick up on in his recent book Fantasyland: America has “lost its mind,” in part because of postmodernist theory and what according to Andersen is its penchant for “anything-goes relativism.”

Diane Ravitch is no postmodernist (no matter how you define the term). So perhaps it’s easier to see the charges that she peddles in conspiracy theories as simply part of that longer history of accusing women of “hysteria.” Perhaps that’s what’s meant when someone frames my work that way too.

But I think there’s more to it than that.

Audrey Watters

Notes and Highlights from Bringing Montessori to America

21 min read

Bringing Montessori to America: S. S. McClure, Maria Montessori, and the Campaign to Publicize Montessori Education by Gerald L. Gutek and Patricia A. Gutek

the individual child’s liberty to realize his or her own self-development.

She would distinguish her scientific method of education from what she called the traditional old “ordinary schools” that had their students assimilate “content digested by others.”

In these schools, Montessori said, “students learned by studying much—teachers explained much—the students’ only labor was to accept the content of labor of those before them.”

In contrast, Montessori told her trainees to use the “method of practical science” in their teaching. The new teacher “does not give ready made thoughts but allows the child to make his own.”

Contrary to the individualized learning that would characterize the Montessori Method,

The only individualized part of the school day was the recitation, when a child was called upon to recite a previously memorized passage—able students, standing at attention, correctly responded to the teacher’s questions with answers they had previously memorized from the textbook.

if children did not perform the activities needed in their developmental sequence at the right time, they suffered the consequences of continual and cumulative impairment.

Montessori, who saw his findings as “the first attempts at experimental psychology.”

The child needed to be free to demonstrate what he or she wanted to do. Child freedom or children’s liberty to choose their work became a compelling part of Montessori’s method.

Anne George, the first American trained by Montessori as a directress, informed her readers in Good Housekeeping Magazine that Seguin’s premise that sensory training was the necessary first step in children’s intellectual and moral development profoundly shaped Montessori’s educational theory.11 Montessori would use some of Seguin’s training materials as prototypes for her didactic apparatus.

individual child’s independent self-learning, which she called “auto-education.”

Seguin and Montessori anticipated the contemporary Individualized Education Program (IEP) that is part of the education of children with special needs.

sensory learning

didactic apparatus

These Montessori learning materials would play a key, and sometimes contentious, role in the introduction of the Montessori Method to the United States by McClure and others.

“I wish to transform education into the experimental sciences,” she said, and “make it a science in itself.”

Montessori regarded her directresses as disciples and why she regarded deviations or revisions of her method as heresies.

Montessori directresses were told to accurately record each child’s weight and height weekly. These measurements formed an individualized empirical record, “a biographical chart,” that the team of teacher, pediatrician, and psychologist maintained for each child and shared with parents.

she cautioned that the scientific observation of children, though necessary, was not the same as educating them; it was rather a necessary guide to their education.

clinical observation

For clinical observation to produce valid findings about children’s development and behavior, it needed to be free from unnecessary adult constraints so children could act to achieve their own growth and development.24 The educator could then prepare a structured learning space (the Montessori school) with the materials (the didactic apparatus), opportunities, occasions, and encouragement for children to interact with the environment in an educative way.

In the correct educational environment, the child has physical freedom to move that in turn nourishes “inner liberty.”

the five underlying principles of which would become the Montessori Method:

(1) each child, as an individual, needs to be free to work at her or his self-development; (2) children experience major stages of development for which there are appropriate educational activities; (3) the methods and materials used to train children with mental disabilities could be applied effectively to normal, indeed to all, children, throughout the world; (4) the clinical observation and diagnosis of children was a necessary prelude to planning their education; and (5) instruction needed to be calibrated carefully to the major developmental stage a child was undergoing at a particular time.

Neither the articles in McClure’s Magazine in 1911–1912 nor Montessori’s lecture tour in 1913 emphasized the role the Montessori school might play for working mothers. Neither did they emphasize the method as an educational strategy to improve the conditions of the working poor. Rather, the American interpreters of Montessori framed their message to correspond to the educational aspirations of progressive middle-class parents who read McClure’s Magazine.

She did not want the classroom furniture to limit the children’s freedom of movement as in traditional schools.

“Exercises of Practical Life,” which became a standard part of the Montessori school curriculum for all children.

the Montessori’s principle of child independence was implemented in practice.

Children who were independent could become their own moral agents. Furthermore, the skills of health, hygiene, and manners were the necessary features of a civilized society.

The children, eager to learn new skills, would stay with a task, repeating it, until they had mastered it. Montessori concluded that children did not have to be forced to learn; if permitted to choose between work and play, they would choose work. Montessori concluded that when a “child fixes intense attention” on an activity and “pursues and repeats [it] many times—this is [the] basis for auto-education.”

The apparatuses were self-correcting, in that the child could proceed only if she was using it correctly.

The self-correcting aspect of the apparatus was based on Montessori’s belief that children would acquire self-discipline and self-reliance by becoming aware of their own mistakes and repeating a particular task until they had mastered

Visitors to Montessori’s school were impressed with the sight of children working independently with a didactic apparatus. Some left thinking that the apparatus was the core of Montessori’s method.

Although Montessori was constructing a rather profound philosophy, the articles in McClure’s Magazine did not probe or analyze her philosophy of education. Written to attract the widest possible audience, they focused on the method’s more concrete features: the Montessori school as a structured environment; children’s freedom of movement and choice; the didactic apparatus; and especially the success in teaching very early reading and writing.

Montessori resented its popularization and often attempted to correct the more popular accounts.

Montessori. McClure, particularly McClure’s Magazine, played a key role in creating this climate, which he would use as a launching pad for his concerted campaign to promote Montessori from 1911 through 1914. The publication of an English translation of The Montessori Method in 1912 was also important.

“The principle . . . of the Montessori school is the ideal principle of democracy . . . that human beings reach their highest development (and hence are of most use to society) only when for the growth of their individuality they have the utmost possible liberty which can be granted them without interfering with the rights of others.”

meant freedom from any kind of despotism, including that of parents and teachers, that kept individuals dependent.

“Any attempt to use the Montessori apparatus or system by anyone who does not fully grasp or is not wholly in sympathy with its bed-rock idea, results inevitably in a grotesque, tragic, caricature of the method.”

Throughout the introduction of the Montessori Method in the United States, in books like Fisher’s and in the articles in McClure’s Magazine, didactic apparatus was prominently featured. This fascination with and promotion of the apparatus carried with it a contradiction.

Fisher fell into the contradiction, which would imperil her relationship with Montessori, when she advised her readers, “The first thing to do, if you can manage it, is to secure a set of the Montessori apparatus. It is the result of the ripest thought, ingenuity, and practical experience of a gifted specialist who has concentrated all her forces on the invention of the different devices of her apparatus.”

NOTE: You can see the class differences here -- US vs Italy -- wherein the former found Montessori pitched to affluent parents (in this case who were encouraged to buy the apparatus)

Fisher then entered a region that would cause severe consternation to Montessori. Might Americans adapt or add to the Montessori apparatus? Since Montessori said that her method was still incomplete, Fisher reasoned that others could add to the method. After all, Montessori, herself, had added to and revised the apparatus that Seguin had originally developed. Fisher, to her peril, misread Montessori. Only Montessori would complete her method and others, trained by her, were to replicate, not change it.

Books such as Fisher’s Manual and Tozier’s articles in McClure’s Magazine left Americans with the impression that the didactic apparatus was at the core of the Montessori Method.

Montessori wrote a letter that was published in the London Educational Times Supplement that pointedly disassociated her work from Fisher’s book:

Fisher had broken a fundamental Montessori rule: the method was not to be implemented by following instructions in a simple manual, like Fisher’s; it could be implemented only by directresses that Montessori herself had trained.

Montessori’s injunction that teachers should maintain a biological and anthropological record of each child’s mental and physical development.27

Although not obvious at the time, Montessori and Holmes, like other professors of education, held different conceptions of the scientific method applied to education. Believing her method of education to be scientifically rather than metaphysically based, Montessori meant that it was derived from her clinical observation of children at their work. These observations could be organized into a method much like one used by physicians in diagnosing and treating illness. Successful learning activities in children, like successful treatments in medicine, could be replicated if the teacher was properly trained. Holmes and many other professors of education saw observation as a first step in using the experimental method in education.

group games were highly imaginative and symbolic, the Montessori school’s activities were geared to performing the work of real life.34

A charge raised repeatedly against the Montessori Method was that it failed to encourage children’s imagination and creativity. Froebel’s kindergarten philosophy emphasized encouraging children to learn by freeing their imagination through play, stories, and arts and crafts. Rejecting fantasy for reality, Montessori stressed the need for children to learn the practical skills needed in real life.

While teachers in conventional elementary schools took center stage in their classrooms, Montessori’s directresses were to quietly guide children to teach themselves.47

Montessori’s relationship to her trainees was that of the mother-leader and her students were her disciples. The word disciple is deliberately used here since that is exactly what Montessori expected—directresses who would be devoted to her and to her method.

George, who gained notoriety as the pioneer American Montessori educator, established the country’s first Montessori school at the home of Edward Harden in Tarrytown, New York, in October 1911.50 Her school, supported by Frank A. Vanderlip, exemplified the patronage of Montessori schools by wealthy individuals who supported the method.

Montessori claimed that she had discovered the universal laws of childhood development. George had observed that cultural and socioeconomic differences also had an impact on how children learned.

McClure’s campaign to popularize Montessori was most unusual for an educator and an educational method. Articles about educational methods typically appeared in educational journals, not popular magazines. Written by professional educators and professors, these articles were descriptive, evaluative, and cautious, not rave reviews.

“For the first time, I believe, in the history of educational thought, a new movement has come to the front through the medium of a popular magazine, instead of by means of a scientific treatise by a specialist in education, which would naturally have a limited appeal.

NOTE: Lots of parallels here between how Montessori became popular and how ed-tech did

Tozier deliberately highlighted the principles that would most appeal to middle-class, educated, progressive American parents: auto-education, children’s liberty, the use of didactic apparatus, and the almost spontaneous development of reading and writing. Many parents wanted something better for their children than the rote recitations, drills, rules, regulations, and discipline that they themselves had experienced in late–Victorian era schools.

Presenting Montessori’s alternative to teacher-dominated learning, Tozier told her readers that auto-education meant that the children were their own instructors, with teachers present to guide but not control the learning process.

Children needed to be in a preorganized structured learning environment, a Montessori school, stocked with the apparatus and materials that motivated them to learn. Remembering their own education, the progressive parent saw auto-education as a way in which their children could learn without being prodded or coerced.

For Montessori, the movement to independence not only means that the child has acquired a skill but also develops the moral value of staying with a challenge until it is mastered.

While progressive parents wanted their children to enjoy their promised freedom to learn, they also wanted them to acquire the literacy synonymous with middle-class economic and social success, the mastery of reading and writing.

Tozier’s emphasis on the Montessori Method being based on empirical observations of children fit well with the scientific method’s growing credibility among the educated public.

The claim that Montessori education would improve the human condition resonated well with those readers who supported the Progressive ideology. These Progressives believed that the application of the scientific method to government, society, health care, and education could and would make life easier, more efficient, and better.

Some progressive and kindergarten educators criticized Montessori’s emphasis on the child’s individualized self-learning, which neglected participation and socialization in the group.

“collective education.”

The graded school, heralded as an educational innovation, had replaced the one-room multiage school where instruction tended to be by individual recitations. Group learning, according to educational administrators, was more efficient and effective in that a group, using standardized textbooks, could be taught the same skill or subject at the same time.

By individualizing learning, Montessori limited the group’s educational role.

self-discipline

For the orthodox kindergarten educators who followed Friedrich Froebel’s Idealist philosophy, Montessori had seriously minimized the educational potency of the child’s imagination.

By the time of McClure’s promotion of Montessori education, the kindergarten, a nineteenth-century import from Germany, was well established in many American public-school systems.

Montessori materials, the apparatus, itself, corrected the child who would repeat the task until it was mastered.64

the availability of purchasing Montessori’s didactic apparatus to be used at home without the supervision of a Montessori directress and Montessori’s injunction that only teachers trained by her in the use of the apparatus could correctly use the method.

Montessori materials and didactic apparatus were being manufactured and sold in the United States, as they were in other countries, on a for-profit basis. Included in their purchase was a handbook on how to use the materials. In addition to this pedagogical dichotomy, there was an entrepreneurial commercial issue, which would eventually lead to troubled relationships between Montessori and American business people.

critics decried its commercialism.

The Bells and the Montessori Educational Association played a significant but an often unclear role in the introduction of the Montessori Method in the United States. The centerpiece of the introduction of Montessori education was Maria Montessori’s lecture tour in 1913, which was officially sponsored by the association.

one may well have grave doubts, about how it will go with ‘auto-education’ when Maria Montessori’s personality is removed.”

her view of the school as a laboratory

as a community setting, with broad social implications.

misquoted her.

By 1913, the use of motion pictures to illustrate lectures had become highly popular.

While his statement was important in giving Montessori even greater national attention, the power of the US Commissioner of Education was very limited. In 1913, the commissioner of education headed a bureau within the Department of the Interior. Rather than a policy-making office for education at the national level, the Commissioner and the Bureau acted as a clearing house on educational statistics, enrollment trends, and state expenditures for schools.

one has to wonder what John Dewey thought

how some parents had misinterpreted her idea of liberty.

The House of Childhood, the company that manufactured and sold Montessori’s didactic apparatus in the United States, was a pivotal financial issue with unfortunate consequences for the business relationship between Montessori and McClure. Montessori had authorized similar companies to manufacture her didactic apparatus in Italy, England, Germany, and China, but the United States posed special problems for her.4 The original American franchise holder of the House of Childhood was Carl Byoir, a young man from Iowa who first learned about Montessori education in the pages of McClure’s Magazine. Sensing a profitable financial opportunity because of American parents’ enthusiastic response to Montessori’s method, he acquired the franchise for the House of Childhood from Montessori in 1911.

Two aspects of the Byoir-Montessori relationship were unusual. One, the usually suspicious Montessori was agreeable and open to the young American businessman; two, the beginnings of Montessori education in the United States, unlike most other educational movements, were marked by profit-making commercial motives as well as pedagogical ones.

He was a public relations pioneer who worked for the Hearst organization and served on the Creel Committee on Public Information in World War I.

Because of the extensive publicity in McClure’s Magazine about the Montessori Method, allegations were made that the magazine’s owners profited from the sale of Montessori’s books and educational apparatus. A Montessori enthusiast raised these concerns with the editor of McClure’s Magazine, “I take the liberty of asking you whether anything you could say or do to refute the false idea that has been such a drawback of this wonderful system of education,—that it is only a money making scheme because patents have been taken out and the price of the materials used having been so high that only the rich can possibly obtain them.”

“This Company will have to be renamed and the name “Montessori” must be left out of the new title. Dr. Montessori does not allow the use of her name without her consent. So please give another title to the Company without using the name Montessori.”136

At the very time that Montessori education was being introduced to an American audience, Progressive education was starting to dominate teacher education programs in colleges and universities. As public enthusiasm for her method waned, professional educators, especially Progressive professors of education who adhered to John Dewey’s pragmatic Experimentalism, grew more openly critical of Montessori and her method.

Walter Halsey, a professor at the University of Omaha, decried Montessori’s method as a “fad promoted and advertised by a shrewd commercial spirit” that had been foisted on an ill-informed “novelty loving American public.”1 Halsey was condemning the entrepreneurial efforts to manufacture and sell Montessori didactic apparatus.

Kilpatrick summarily dismissed Montessori’s assertion that her method was based on scientific findings. Kilpatrick found her method was deeply flawed by her limited knowledge of contemporary educational psychology.

professor, the Montessori Method was definitely not innovative, modern, nor experimentally scientific.

The Montessori Educational Association, which had been organized in 1913 by McClure, Mabel and Alexander Graham Bell, and Anne George, was still functioning. McClure, a key mover in the association’s founding, was no longer active but continued as the association’s second vice president and as a member of the Board of Trustees. The Montessori Educational Association, with nearly seven hundred members including a number of prominent individuals, had functioned throughout 1914 and remained a presence on the country’s educational scene in 1915.

The ending of the uneasy relationship between Montessori and the Montessori Educational Association closes the curtain on the first phase of Montessori education in the United States.

She wanted it understood that as the Montessori Method’s originator and patent-holder, the method was legally hers alone. No local society would be allowed to use the name “Montessori” in its title without her expressed authorization.

and in April 1916, the Montessori Educational Association officially voted to dissolve.

Instead of acting as Montessori’s American surrogate, Parkhurst’s attention shifted to developing and promoting her own version of Progressive education, the Dalton Laboratory Plan.

Parkhurst, as a teacher educator, developed a plan for a reorganized school in which pupils, between eight and twelve, worked on a unit in a particular subject in educational laboratories. In this new type of school, pupils “would enjoy more freedom” and “their studies” would be organized into sections, or laboratories, in which “each instructor” would be a specialist.

Although Parkhurst’s aim to reorganize the school “so that it can function like a community whose essential condition is freedom for the individual to develop himself” had a Montessori-like resonance, she positioned herself as a Progressive educator rather than a Montessorian.

1920. In practice, the subjects in the curriculum were divided into units, or “jobs.” The student, who signed a contract to complete a particular job within a month, worked cooperatively with other students who had made similar commitments in an educational space, called a laboratory. Each student worked from a “job-book,” a guide with instructions, suggestions, questions, and activities related to the monthly contract.

Though taught according to Parkhurst’s Progressive method, the standard secondary curriculum—mathematics, history, science, English, geography, and foreign languages—required in most high schools and tested on college entrance examinations— remained in place.62 However, the co-relationship of subjects, such as literature to history and science to mathematics, was emphasized as integrated, not isolated, areas of teaching and learning. Based on her work at the Massachusetts school, Parkhurst renamed her method the Dalton Laboratory Plan.

Parkhurst’s ideas gained considerable popularity in the United Kingdom where they were implemented in several British schools.

Deciding that she would no longer delegate authority for Montessori education to others, Montessori, with her son, Mario, as her agent, established the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) in 1929 as the official organization to control and supervise all Montessori activities, including training programs, throughout the world.

The Montessori school would be located at the periphery of the public educational system but in the 1950s would gain a strong presence in private early childhood education.

By the mid-1950s, Progressive education, which had eclipsed the first attempt to introduce the Montessori Method in 1910–1920, was itself declining.

Gentile arranged a meeting between Mussolini and Montessori in 1924 at which the Duce expressed an interest in establishing Montessori schools. Mussolini was impressed by a method that instilled discipline and order and in which children learned to read and write at age four. He also wanted to use Montessori’s name and her associations and societies in other countries to promote his Fascist ideology.

In 1926, Montessori was recognized by the Tessera Fascista, the Fascist women’s organization, and made an honorary party member.

Mussolini, whose slogan was “Everything in the State, nothing against the State, nothing outside the State,” was determined to instill the Fascist ideology throughout Italy, including its schools and youth organizations.24 The Fascist regime was also tightening its control of Italy’s schools with all teachers required to take a loyalty oath.25

government responded to Montessori’s intransigence by closing Montessori schools and suppressing Montessori education.26 Maria Montessori left her native Italy as an exile.

Audrey Watters

Twitter and an Infrastructure of Hate

2 min read

This is a comment I left on Sherri Spelic's blog post "Nobody's Version of Dumb"

I think there are massive problems with Twitter. It is, by design, a platform for harassment. Think, for example, of how easy it is to retweet something in order to create a “pile on.” @-mentions pile up. The app becomes unusable. And there is nothing in Twitter’s architecture or in its business model to stop you being DDOS’d like that. Twitter is a platform for anger. George is right about that.

But that does not mean that Twitter is a homogenous, “safe” space and we are only exposed to ideas we agree with. A great deal of what happens on Twitter is wildly unsafe because of vicious, vicious disagreement. We all experience that differently, of course, based on identity — race, gender, religion, and so on.

Twitter is also, by design, a platform of brevity. It’s so easy for 140 characters to be insufficient — even when threaded together into longer arguments. It’s so easy too for 140 characters to be taken out of context. Again, by design.

Twitter is also, by design, a platform of celebrity. If you have the blue checkmark, as celebrities and media personalities and whatnot do, you are granted a “quality filter.” I’m not sure what that entails — my god, what constitutes “quality” on Twitter?! Who decides?! But I gather it means you are less likely to see the things that the unverified masses (that you do not follow explicitly) tweet. Celebrities tend not to be part of communities. (They really can’t be, because people can be ridiculous.)

All this makes Twitter a terrible place for community, but humans’ desire for community and communication are much more powerful than that. In the face of all the infrastructure that encourages us to clap back, there is at the very same time (and often in the very same users) a strong incentive on Twitter to care.

Audrey Watters

Advice from TNC

3 min read

We had a substitute teacher last night for the first session of our seminar on Opinion Writing. Professor Jelani Cobb couldn’t make it, so he sent his friend Ta-Nehisi Coates.

I should have taken notes. Instead I sat there starstruck as TNC graciously answered the class’s questions on writing. Those questions were wide-ranging: how long does it take him to write a book; what’s that process like; where do his ideas come from; how has celebrity changed how he works; how does he choose his subject matter; and so on.

Strangely, being in the room with such greatness helped me feel better about my own position as an opinion writer. I’ve been really feeling anxious about my fellowship, feeling like I don’t belong at this prestigious J School. I signed up to for Jelani Cobb’s class on opinion writing – even though that’s largely what I do for a living already – because, while many of the other Spencer Fellows sit in on education classes, I felt like I needed to do much more to hone my craft in journalism itself. I’m not a journalist by training, after all.

I do have plenty of ideas and plenty of opinions. But turning those into long form isn’t so easy. And frankly, sometimes I feel guilty that I don’t have “takes” on everything that happens in ed-tech, even though I certainly have thoughts on all of it.

TNC talked a bit with us about the difference between opinions of the sort you toss out in conversations with friends – on- or offline – and those that you develop into an article. He talked too about how he writes in anger – I can relate – but how he doesn’t feel compelled to weigh in with a knee-jerk response but rather builds on that anger until there’s a deeper, richer, more powerful argument. (He’s out today with a new article “The First White President” that really exemplifies this.) There’s a difference between the kind of opinion you tweet, he told us, and the kind of opinion that’s worthy of building out into an opinion piece.

There’s something about the demands not just of social media but, more structurally, of the job of an “op-ed writer” (particularly those columnists at The NYT – you know who I mean) that almost requires people write silly stuff. When you’ve got to come up with two opinion pieces a week, there’s no time for research, no time for contemplation, no time for much more than a very routine and empty 800 words. A waste of time, and TNC insists that he never wants to waste anyone’s time.

I don’t want to waste my own time this year. It’s a huge privilege to have 9 months to think and to write and to not have to worry about my usual hustle. After last night, I’m feeling more confident I can do this, and I’m feeling less pressured to just publish because the Web demands more “content.”

Audrey Watters

Open Pedagogy and Social Justice

4 min read

I was asked to give a "provocation" to the Open Pedagogy and Social Justice track at this year's Digital Pedagogy Lab in Vancouver, BC. Here's (roughly) what I said:

When Rajiv and Robin sent me an email, asking me to pop into the class and say a few words to you, I immediately said “yes,” in part because I think the theme of this track is so important. “Open Pedagogy and Social Justice.” I think it’s important – crucial even – that the theme is explicit about its politics, that it centers “social justice” as part of its project. In fact, to me, that’s the important part: “social justice.” Not the “open” bit.

Too often, I think, open education has come to rely on that adjective “open” to stand in for an assumption about politics, an assumption about good intentions and social change. Open education has acted as though “open” – as a label, as a license – is sufficient, as though the social change fostered by “open” will 1) happen and 2) be progressive.

If we look at history – hell, if we look around us today – we can find plenty of examples (in education and elsewhere) where “open” is not aligned with social justice. MIT researcher Justin Reich, for example, has found that open educational resources – MOOCs, Khan Academy, and so on – can actually expand education inequalities by disproportionately benefitting the affluent. “Open” is not enough – you have to be explicit, as this strand does, and orient your work towards social justice. “Open” does not necessarily address structural inequality at all.

Indeed, “open” without this orientation towards justice might make things worse.

I’m guessing that many of the conversations you’ve had and will have in this track involve definitions – the often competing definitions – of “open.” Does “open” mean openly licensed content or code? And, again, which license is really “open”? (People love to argue about this one.) Does “open” mean “made public”? Does “open” mean shared? Does “open” mean “accessible”? Accessible how? To whom? Does “open” mean editable? Negotiable? Does “open” mean “free”? Does “open” mean “open-ended”? Does “open” mean transparent? Does it mean “open for business”? Who gets to decide? That is, whose stories about “open” get told?

If you’re familiar with my work, you know I spend a lot of time looking at the financial and political networks of education technology. And so this question of open education being so deeply intertwined with business – with venture capital and venture philanthropy – is something I’m quite concerned about. And I think that’s probably one of the greatest challenges that open education faces: can it extricate itself from the forces of education reform that are strikingly neoliberal, imperialist, and exploitative? As public education is under threat – from budget cuts, Betsy DeVos, and tech billionaires alike – will open education resist the dismantling of institutions, or will the movement (I guess it’s a movement) ally itself with libertarians who seek to place all risk and responsibility onto the individual, place all teaching and learning under the rule of “markets”?

And will education – public education, open education – address its own history of white supremacy, exclusion, exploitation?

If I had one big concern personally (which is always politically) – and I realize my time is almost up here – it would be that I see “open” being weaponized by those who are, in my estimation, the very antithesis of social justice. This is the Julian Assange model of “open,” if you will. Weaponized transparency.

What does “open” mean in a world of Wikileaks? I think, in part, it means we need social justice. Indeed, we need to put social justice at the center of our work. And it means, dare I say, we distance ourselves from those for whom “open” is weaponized (or readily weaponizable) against marginalized people.

Audrey Watters

Ed-Tech and Neo-Feudalism

7 min read

I'm posting my responses here to a friend that's working on a story on neo-feudalism. I think there are some interesting ideas here that could be developed more...


One of the reasons I wanted to talk to you was because it occurs to me that this use of the term ‘neofuedalism’ seems to represent an acceptance of (or fear that) the myth of meritocracy has finally failed, and that class structures are being ‘firmed up’, or even formalised. As such it feels a little like an admittance that large scale social mobility has ended, Considering your research interests - especially in relation to education and technology - what are your thoughts on this?

In some circles, education has long been touted as “the silver bullet.” (I think there’s a famous quotation from The West Wing that makes such a claim. I dunno. I’ve never watched the show.) If we just improve access to a good education – to higher education in particular – then all sorts of other problems will be ameliorated. Poverty, for example. Bigotry. Ignorance.

Education isn’t the fix for inequality. It does not address structural issues like racism. It does not redistribute wealth. Black people are paid less than whites at every education level. A college degree is clearly not enough.

A college degree is, of course, a signaling mechanism. It’s not just about what you know. It’s about where you went. Higher education is very bunch bound up in our notions of prestige and social hierarchy.

But many in Silicon Valley – and that’s are the stories I pay closest attention to – claim that one needn’t go to college. They point to Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs as college dropouts. Those in Silicon Valley like to suggest one can simply take a MOOC (a massive open online class) or get a badge or attend a coding bootcamp instead. As long as one can demonstrate “skills,” one can do anything. It’s the classic meritocracy mythology, and I see the tech sector as one of the myth’s greatest promoters. But if we look more closely at the powerful entrepreneurs and powerful investors and powerful companies in the tech industry, we can see there are powerful networks. And these networks often involve where people went to college: Stanford. MIT. Harvard. Even the famous dropouts – Zuckerberg, Gates, Jobs – had wealth and, of course, their whiteness to connect them to these networks.

The tech industry remains overwhelmingly white and overwhelmingly male, and yet it insists that it’s a meritocracy. This insistence allows Silicon Valley to continue to ignore the structural inequalities at play – who gets hired, who gets funded, what technologies get built, and so on. This has grave implications for the future, no doubt, as computing technologies are increasingly central to all aspects of our lives – professional, personal, political.

Again a very wide, general question - sorry! - but in what ways are you observing a transfer of power and decision making when it comes to education from government to private corporations? And is that leading to a two (or more) tier model for education? How is technology accelerating this?

Schools have always relied on private companies to supply things like desks and chalkboards and textbooks. So in some ways, new computing technologies are no different. But if we think of these technologies as simply upgrades to textbooks, we might be able to recognize the ways in which textbooks have long served to diminish the expertise of the classroom teacher. That is, content expertise resides outside the teacher. It’s in the authors of the textbooks, perhaps. It’s in the publisher itself. With new technologies, we see expertise – content expertise, technical expertise – increasingly moving outside of the school. Schools readily outsource all sorts of administrative and pedagogical functions to companies.

One of the most important transfers of power involves the role of technology entrepreneurs as education philanthropists. The Gates Foundation, for example, is a $44 billion endowment. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the venture philanthropy firm founded by Mark Zuckerberg, was started with $1 billion worth of Facebook shares. Both of these organizations have a vast, and I’d argue incredibly anti-democratic, influence on US education policy. These organizations help shape the narratives about “the future of education” – which of course will by highly mediated and monitored by computer technologies (unless you attend an elite private school as Bill Gates’ children do or Gates and Zuckerberg did). We can see this currently with calls to “personalize learning” – this isn’t so much about the adoption of progressive pedagogical practices, but rather the adoption of data-driven teaching machines.

Our historical concept of feudalism is always tied to relationships to land - and digital platforms and data are often referred to as a new form of real estate. In what ways do you see platforms (and the control/ownership of data) the new land of neofeudalism? In the same way that serfs worked on land they didn’t own, are we producing data we don’t own in spaces we don’t control? Are we being locked in to feudal relationships with those that own and control the online spaces we inhabit and the data we produce?

We do use the language of labor to talk about learning – schoolwork, homework – but students have never really had much control over that process at all. They have – arguably – been able to “own” their work. That is to say, at the end of the school year, they could walk away with a manilla envelope containing the worksheets they’d filled out and the essays they’d written and the pictures they’d drawn. But as school work becomes digital, there’s no manila envelope. Often what students do is trapped in a piece of proprietary software. And these software systems don’t just administer and store assignments and grades; they track all sorts of additional data: what time the student used the software and for how long; where the student was located when she used the software; what other applications are on her computer. All this data feeds the narrative of “personalized learning” that Zuckerberg and Gates and other technology investors like to push. But this data also feeds the algorithms and the knowledge base of these software makers. Students see no remuneration for this work. Nor do the schools that buy or license the software. And often, students and schools seem quite unaware that their data is being harvested and mined this way.

We’ve long been threatened in school with the saying “this will go down on your permanent record.” But now, with this massive data collection, it just might. We don’t have a lot of insight into how decisions are made based on this data – how algorithms are designed and implemented, how algorithmic decision-making in education is made. It’s a “black box,” as Frank Pasquale calls it – a “black box society.” Rather than being a silver bullet, this might make our education-related data trail precisely the thing that maintains social inequalities, but in ways that are even more opaque.

Finally: what’s your job title/how would you like to be described?

Writer and scholar who focuses on technology and education. Spencer Fellow at Columbia University School of Journalism. (Gotta take advantage of that prestigious title while I can.)

Audrey Watters

My Twitter Advertisers

11 min read

Twitter has updated its privacy policy, indicating that it plans to use our data more extensively. I requested a list of advertisers whose "audiences" I am apparently a part of. (This is odd since I block ads and block any promoted tweet,)

The list (a 33-page PDF):

@1199seiu @12monkeyssyfy @13hours @1776 @1800contacts @2020companies @20jeans @23andme @365ninja @3drobotics @6fusion @76 @7eleven @a_i @aarp @aarpacademy @aasincco @abc_thecatch @abcsharktank @abercrombie @abetteror @academy @accatrackertm @accenture @accenturejobsfr @accionus @acedge @achievers @ackeeapp @acorn_stairlift @acquirent @act @actstudent @acura @acuracanada @adaptive_sys @adayinriyadh @addesignshow @adeccofrance @adl_national @adska360 @adstest6 @adultswim @adveronline @adviacu @aerie @affinio @ageofish @aha_io @ahmadshafey @ahs_careers @aibgb @aiginsurance @aip_publishing @airtable @ajenglish @ajitjaokar @albertandp @alexandani @alfredstate @all_laundry @alloresto @allstate @allyapp_de @alongsidehr @alterrecrute @alzassociation @alzregistry @amarlakel @amazon @amazonjp @amazonkindle @amberbezahler @amctheatres @amdocs @amediacompany @amercharities @americanexpress @americanfunds @americanxroads @amexopen @amfam @amplify @amtrak @angieslist @angietribecatbs @anthembusiness @anthology @apalon @apartnerships @aperolspritzita @appanniejapan @appexchange @appirio @applebees @applegate @appliedsystems @appointmentplus @arabicfbs @archerfxx @areyouthirstie @argos_online @armtheanimals @asana @asentaes @ashfordu @ashleybridgetco @asklloydsbank @aspcapetins @aspiration @aspokesman @astrazenecaus @ataleunfolds @atlanticnet @atomtickets @atosfr @att @attdeals @attsmallbiz @audi @audible_com @audienseco @audiuk @audubonsociety @autosoftdms @autotrader_com @auviknetworks @avado_finance @avanadefrance @avvo @axios @axon_us @babiesrus @backchnnl @badmoms @balajipalace @baltimoresun @bananarepublic @bankofamerica @bankofireland @bankofscotbiz @bantbreen @barclaycardus @barclaysuk @barcorp_news @baristabar @basecamp @battlefield_es @bauschlomb @baydin @bayesiannetwork @baytobreakers @bayviewfunding @bcbcnj @be_the_book @beef @beenverified @beepi @believeagaingop @belk @belllabs @belvita @bench @benchmadeknives @bentleymotors @berkeleydata @berniesanders @bestfriends @bestselfco @besttimeever @bestvaluecopy @betabrand @betfair @bettercloud @betterworks @bgconoxygen @bhillsmd @bicrazors @bidelastic @bigdatato @biggerbooks @bigstock @billgates @birchbox @bitly @bizfinyc @blackbaud @blackhatmovie @blackrock @bleacherreport @blizzheroes @blizzheroesde @blizzheroesfr @blocknload @blookupnews @blowdrystyle @blueapron @bluediamond @bluehost @blurbbooks @bnbuzz @bnymellon @bobsredmill @bodomelockport @bodyfortress @bofa_news @bofa_tips @bombas @bonobos @bookingcom @bookingcomnews @boombeach @boomerang @boomerangtoons @boostinsider @boostmobile @box_europe @boxhq @bp_america @bpkleo @bpkleo2002 @braindeadcbs @braintree @brilliantearth @britausa @brocade @brookstreetuk @brr_karent @bscacareers @btenergy @buddygit @budlight @budlightca @buildup_io @bukalapak @bulbapp @bullet_news @burtsbees @busbud @bushel @businessontapp @busytreats @buyinsnet @buzzfeednews @buzzfeedpartner @buzzsumo @bvex_emea @c2montreal @cadillac @calabrio @calcasinsurance @callofduty @calpizzakitchen @camletmount @camtasia @canarylearning @candycrushsoda @candysodajp @canonusa @canonusabiz @canonusaimaging @canonusapro @capitalone @capitalonecb @capitalonespark @capphysicians @captainamerica @car2goaustin @car2gocalgary @car2gocolumbus @car2godc @car2gomiami @car2gomontreal @car2goseattle @car2govancouver @carbonite @careactionnow @caredotcom @careersatcrown @careersmw @carlsjr @carolinabio @carolrundle @carphoria @carrierebancair @carsdotcom @castandcrewnews @cavalia @cbre @cdotechnologies @cdwcorp @cedatotech @cellpressnews @cengagelearning @century21 @centurylinkent @centurylinkjobs @cfainstitute @champssports @change @chappycpga @charmin @chartmogul @cheapflights @checkmarx @cheesecake @cheezit @chevrolet @chfund @chicagotribune @chickfila @chipotletweets @chipsahoy @choicetechgroup @cholulahotsauce @christicraddick @chromecast @chrysler @chubb @cibc @circlebackinc @cisco @cisco_germany @ciscocollab @ciscofrance @ciscomfg @ciscorussia @ciscosecurity @ciscosp360 @cision @ciszek @citibank @citizensbank @ck12foundation @clashroyalejp @classflow @classk12 @classroomgenie @classy @cleanmaster_jp @clearwaterps @cleclinicmd @clickmeeting @clickviewau @clickviewuk @climatereality @cloudinary @cloudllycom @club4growth @cmt @cnn @coachdotme @cobiasystems @cocacola @cocacolaco @coconala @codecademy @codefights @cogecopeer1 @cognizant @cognizanttalent @colehaan @collisionhq @comcstspotlight @comedycentral @comedydottv @comixology @communitytv @comparably @comprenditech @comthingssas @concur @concurrencyinc @conoco @constitutionctr @converse @convince @coolsculpting @coopuk @coorslight @coorslightca @copromote @cordblood @coreonapp @corespaceinc @cornellmba @corvilinc @couchbase @courvoisierusa @covetfashion @cppinc @cq_chat @craft_ryan @cranecareers @crashplan @cray_inc @creditkarma @crewlabs @cricketnation @criticschoice @crnc @crossroadsgps @crrsinc @crunchyroll @crushpath @cspac @cspenn @cspire @css_hero @ctcorporation @ctgla @cugelman @culturrh @cunyjschool @curesimple @cvspharmacy @cxsocialcare @dailydot @dailydotmedia @dailysignal @dairyqueen @damrap @daniellemin @dapulselabs @darkmushroomau @darylurbanski @dashboardapp @dashhudson @dashlane @datadoghq @datasift @davis_support @dazsi @ddmsllc @deadpoolmovie @dearwhitepeople @defianceworld @defymedia @deichmann_de @dellemc @dellemc_ci @dellemcdssd @dellemcecs @dellemcisilon @dellemcscaleio @dellenterprise @dellevents @dellsmbus @delmonte @democracycolor @demoversion1111 @dennym15 @desk @dfeley365 @diamondcandles @dice_techuk @dicks @difficultonhulu @digipillapp @digitaldealer @digitalocean @dinkoeror @directv @directvnow @discoverglobal @dish @disney_it @disneyaulani @disneystudiosla @divergent @dnbus @dnncorp @docusign @dodge @dollarshaveclub @dominos @domotalk @donotcrack @door2doorhq @doordash @doritoscanada @dotandbo @dotdebug @dots @doubledutch @dove @dowjones @draftkings @dragoncitygame @drewglick @drivemaven @dropbox @dropboxbusiness @dunkindonuts @dynatrace_ruxit @eagletalent @eamaddenmobile @eat24 @ebarproductions @ebay_uk @ebayinccareers @ecampusdotcom @ecco_usa_shoes @eciconsulting @ecommission @econocom_fr @econsultingrh @ecrpubconnect @eddievs @edgeendo @edible @edintfest @edmundoptics @edtrust @edutopia @eehlee @efcollegebreak @effenvodka @efmurphyiii @eiuperspectives @ekhoinc @ellemagazine @emailage @emaze_tweets @emily_is_emily @empirefox @empowertoday @enterprise @envisagelive @envisioninc @envoy @eqdepot @ericgreitens @esade @eset @esteelauder @esurance @ethoswatches @eugenesymphony @eventbrite @eventbriteatl @eventbriteuk @everlifeparis @evernote @evidos @evonomicsmag @exactonline @executrade @exelate @expedia @experis_us @expertspool @ey_performance @ey_tas @eyeem @ezyinsights @facetuneapp @fairmonthotels @falconio @famousbirthdays @famousfootwear @fanbasenet @fandangomiles @fandangonow @fantv @farfaria @farmfreshtoyou @fedex @feliciamupo @fenwickwest @festivalflix @fetc @fiftyshades @fiftythree @filmstruck @first_backer @fisherhousefdtn @fitbit @fitstar @fiverr @fixautousa @flightcentreau @flightdelays @flipboard @floatapp @flonase @fluentconf @flylaxairport @fontainebleau @footerfamily @footlocker @forcepointsec @ford @fordfusion @forduk @fortunemagazine @forty3north @fotosearch @foundertees @foursquareguide @fpcnational @frankandoak @freeenterprise @freepeople @freshgrade @frontierbiz @fti_us @ftreports @fuelgoodprotein @fujitsu_global @fujitsu_uk @fullscreen @fundingcircleus @fusion @fusiontv @futureadvisor @futurereadysg @fxbusa @g5games @ga @gadventures @gain @galka_max @gallofamily @gameit_app @gap @gapkids @garagedoorsvc1 @garanti @garantione @gatesfoundation @gatorade @gb_recrute @gdms @gdnhighered @ge_europe @geekwire @geico_jobs @generalelectric @genesisusa @geoffreyac @geoffsdesk @getbridge @geteero @getresponse @getspectrum @getstocks @gett @gett_uk @gettyimages @getzeel @gge4k @gifkeyboard @gigya @gillettevenus @gilt @giltman @giphy @github @gitlab @givingucashback @glade @gluereplyjobs @goairguard @goanimate @gocompare @godaddy @goldengoosepro @goldenvoice @goldieblox @goldmansachs @golfnow @golfshotgps @gomodev @googleanalytics @googlecloud @googlehome @gopro @gosolaramerica @gotodaydotcom @gozaik1 @gozcardstest1 @gozcardstest10 @gozcardstest15 @gozcardstest2 @gozcardstest3 @gozcardstest4 @gozcardstest6 @grammarly @grantamag @greatindoorscbs @greenhouse @gregabbott_tx @greyhoundbus @groundfloortbs @groupon @groupsjr @grubhub @gs10ksmallbiz @gs10kwomen @gsuite @guardiangdp @guardianlife @guruenergy @guvera @gwsphonline @haagendazs_us @hackreactor @hallmark @hamiltonjeweler @handy @hangtime @happify @hardees @harrisjb @harrys @harvardbiz @hayscanada @hbo @hbonow @headspace @healthiergen @heart_of_vegas @hearthstone_de @heineken_us @hello @hellothinkster @henryholt @herobaby @hersheys @highimpactlaw @hillaryclinton @hiltonhonors @hired_hq @history @hlinvest @holidayclaims0 @holidayinn @hollisterco @homedepot @homejoy @homesweethome @hometownquotes @honda @honda_uk @honest @honeymaidsnacks @hootsuite @hortonworks @hostgator @hotdogcollars @hotelsdotcom @hoteltonight @hover @howaboutwe @hpe @hpe_smb @hrc @hrchaostheory @hsbc_ca @hsbc_uk @hsbc_us @hsbcukbusiness @htcvive @htmlwasher @htsi @hubspot @hubspotacademy @hulu @hunterselection @hyattregency @hyatttweets @hyphenapp @hyundai @hyvee @iagdotme @iberostar_eng @ibm @ibmanalytics @ibmbigdata @ibmcloud @ibmcloudant @ibmpolicy @ibottaapp @ice_markets @icebreakernz @iconohash @icontact @ideou @idgtechtalk @ifonly @ifsabutler @ihgrewardsclub @ijm @iloveindique @imaterialise @immoverkauf_de @immunio @imperva @incisivecareers @indeed @indeedau @independent_ie @indignationfilm @inficon @influitive @infusionlounge @ingramcontent @inliving @insideamazon @insidemancnn @insightpool @instasupply @insuremypath @intel @intel_italia @inteliot @intelitcenter @intellabs @inteluk @intercom @interoute @interstatebatts @invescous @invisionapp @ioi_lc_vacature @iopa_solutions @ipswitch @irobot @isexperiment @ishares 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@landroverusa @larrykim @laserfiche @latimes @latonas @laundrapp @lays @leadpages @leadsift @leanercreamer @learnvest @lelo_official @lenarachel @lenovoeducation @lenovogov @letgo @letgoturkiye @letote @levelupvillage @lexisnexis @lexus @lexuscanada_fr @librarianstnt @lifeatgozaik @lifeatpandora @lifeextension @lifelock @lifetimetv @lifetouch @liftmaster @lightercapital @limearita @lincolnmotorco @linkedin @linkedinbrasil @linkedineditors @linktv @linkup_expo @lipton @liquidgrids @litter_robot @littlebits @livefyre @livethelooknow @livingsocial @livingspaces @lloydsbankbiz @loadimpact @localheroesuk @logicalisjobs @londonfallen @lotame @lovemyphilly @lovingthefilm @lovoo @lowes @lt_careers @ltirlangi @lucidchart @luminafound @luminessair @lumosity @luxury @lyft @lynda @lyonsmagnus @madeinal @magentobi @magicianssyfy @magnumicecream @mahabis @mahlknecht58 @mailchimp @mailup @mailup_us @makerbot @manpower_us @mapp_digital @marcaria @marchmadness @marketchorus @marketingcloud @marketo 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@zadarastorage @zaggdaily @zapatomundo @zapproved @zarbees @zetta_corp @zhihao @zillow @zingypet @zipcar @zipcaru @zipjetuk @zomato @zomatouk @zoom_us @zoosk @zters @zulily

Worth noting the education- and ed-tech-related accounts...

Audrey Watters

Deleting the Network

3 min read

Bryan Alexander wrote this morning that he was making his “ruthless Facebook purge of spring 2017,” announcing his plans to remove some of his “friends” on Facebook. I don’t have nearly as many connections on Facebook – no doubt because I deleted my account a few years ago and only signed up again for a new one. I’ve been fairly cautious about who I “friend” there, as I am uninterested in having a large Facebook network to manage. I have a Facebook page for Hack Education and a page for myself as a writer. I figure that folks can follow along there if they want updates about what I’m working on.

I do regularly unfollow people on Twitter. A few years ago, I trimmed my follow numbers by about half. I now follow about 800 people, which doesn’t seem like too few or too many. (I also rely on lists of journalists and news organizations rather than following these accounts directly.)

Bryan’s efforts seem to address culling the composition of the network. What I’ve been doing recently – and I’m thinking now about how similar or different this might be from what Bryan is up to – is culling my own history on the network.

I now delete all Facebook and Twitter posts that are older than 90 days*. I also delete all email that’s older than a year. (This past week’s phishing scam using a fake Google Docs app alongside the hacking attack on the Macron campaign demonstrated, I think, how vulnerable all our documents and messages and connections are in email. I mean, I thought we’d have learned it earlier thanks to Wikileaks’ release of the DNC’s emails. But hey.)

I think Bryan is severing ties to certain accounts on Facebook because he wants to see better information and he wants his own posts to be more readily seen. Me, I am deleting information because I am not interested in the retention of data as part of a weaponized information gaze. But by deleting “friends” and by deleting posts, we both are actively and willfully reshaping our social networks. We are making adjustments to the reach and level of activity that will certainly alter our “presence” online – in no small part too because these networks increasingly display us information algorithmically.

 

 

* In order to delete my tweets, I used Tweet Deleter, which did require me to sign up for a premium account in order to delete everything. In order to delete my Facebook activity, I used F___book Post Manager, which is a Chrome add-on. Before deleting anything – Facebook, Twitter, Gmail – I made sure to download a copy of my data.