The Blogsphere is Hot….with Edtech Angst

The above video has been the source of an ongoing joke at Reclaim Hosting for many years now. I’ve been carrying the blogging torch and this has been my referent point for a time when blogging was so popular and “hot” it was actually the butt of elaborate video jokes. Well, nothing gold can stay, or can it? I’d hate to jinx it, but the blogsphere truly is hot these days, unfortunate’y the spark seems to have been Audrey saying goodbye to edtech —everything comes at a cost. But hey, maybe blog vinyl is back?

That might be wishful thinking, but this morning I’m still making my way through the seemingly endless examples of amazing edtech at TRU thanks to Brian Lamb’s opus “A Trailing-Edge Technologies Share-a-thon,” that post goes a long way to remind me why I fell in love with this field to begin with. But that is just the most recent post, there is Anne-Marie Scott’s recent blog chorus “from little things big things grow” should be the tagline of the “Summer of the Blog”—I’m a big fan! And then Alan did what Alan does and mashed up 70s horror film posters with the recent spate of edtech corporate shenanigans while asking “Who we are?” Are we not edtechs? WE ARE TRAILING EDGE LION PUNCHERS*! I really appreciate Alan’s lingering a bit longer on the news cycle of folks turning their back on their roots for what can only be understood as profit. And that’s just a few posts, there are many, and something strange happened this week at work, folks at Reclaim Hosting are linking to these posts and talking about them. The idea, as Martin Weller noted in his “Review of the ed tech angst,” of an edtech community of practitioners felt real, and I felt excited that maybe my ongoing “the blogsphere is hot” joke might be grounded in some reality, even if only for a moment.


What’s more, Martin’s post inspired something in me I had not felt in a long time, the desire to discourse. The idea that someone said something in a blog post you want to respond to, but not in 140 characters and no with a like or heart, but right here in the bava. Whether or not this is a good thing may still be a question 🙂

Anyway, one of the things Martin noted about a couple of posts I wrote was that I might be coming off “like grumpy old music fans who preferred a band before they sold out.” I understand where he is coming from, that there might seem a bit of snobbery in me suggesting that folks traded cachet for cash, but at the same time it’s what happened. I mean Lumen did offload OER courses to Course Hero in what we can only assume was a deal with a questionable company. I don’t think I am exaggerating here, and the schism in the open community that has been happening for years is no longer being whispered at parties, it’s pretty apparent for all to see. I have never been a fan of the OER movement, it has monopolized most of the grant money and oxygen in the broader field of edtech using a series of what appear, in retrospect, cynical frames around affordability and access. But I also struggle with how narrowly OER are defined as open-licensed textbooks, Downes did a great job several years ago pushing back against that frame and that is a future of open resources that is far more compelling and relevant.

The bit that stuck in my craw a bit from Martin’s post was the idea that “a lot of new ed tech people are driven by values, such as social justice, rather than an interest in the tech itself.” I don’t discount this, and speaking just as anecdotally I can see it in the next generation of folks working at Reclaim Hosting. That said, this idea that understanding the tech and remaining interested it what it affords is somehow different than being a critical participant paints a myopic picture that the previous generation of edtechs were simply navel gazing around the latest tools. I’m not sure that’s the case, in fact Brian Lamb’s linking to our “Never Mind the EDUPUNKs” article in his latest post reminded me that understanding and being familiar with the potential of the tech and how these infrastructures work was a source of critical power. And the seemingly false dichotomy between engaging the new tech and being able to remain critical seems to suggest our jobs as ed techs is not about the tech, which seems odd to me. Now I may be reading too deeply into this, or even carting my own baggage here, but I feel like my job as an edtech is to understand the larger shifts technically and culturally so that we can work with faculty and students to provide options that enable empowerment. The risk of critical edtech devolving into malaise of critique without alternatives has never been greater. In fact, seems to me the cynicism in our field is not limited to OER given the leaders of the digital pedagogy movement centered on social justice have also re-framed their mission as one of token critical voice inside the corporate machine. Good ed tech is like good reading, you have to engage the technical  and pedagogical work, try and understand it deeply, and then critique as part of the larger landscape while being honest about its affordances at the same time. It is a balancing act that can too easily devolve into “it’s not about the tech…”

All that said, I understand righteousness can come at a great cost, but I find you only have to pay when you actually sell out 🙂 Long live the!


*Is that a blog comment conversation I spy? I am sure Tom Woodward doesn’t know what to do with himself when anyone else but Alan leaves a comment 🙂

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10 Responses to The Blogsphere is Hot….with Edtech Angst

  1. Hey Jim – thanks again for another great post. I now have about 3 things I want to write in response to it. So that’s my weekend effed eh? However, I want to pick up one teeny wee thing here. That phrase “from little things big things grow”. First time I used it in my blog I linked to a Wikipedia article about a song in part written by an Aboriginal Aussie musician called Kev Carmody. I do stupid stuff like this hoping people will go deeper and explore the stupid elaborate metaphors I build in my head 😉 The song is about Vincent Lingiari and the Gurindji strike (Wave Hill walkoff). It’s a song about refusal to work for poverty wages for a foreign master, and a demand for the return of land. It took 9 years and included a lot of advocacy by Vincent Lingiari in particular, but they were successful. And this strike and the return of lands sparked the Aborginal land rights movement in Australia and resulted in legislation. There’s still a long way to go in Australia and here in Canada too, but, from little things big things grow. Refusal, protest, holding onto the idea of a different future. I don’t want to appropriate the Indigenous land back movements that I see in various places, but you’ve often use the metaphor of a garden. I want our garden back. The bigger issues of power, control, the right to self-determination. That’s what I want back for education. BTW – if you have a mo, read a little about Kev Carmody’s university experience. Thanks to racist assimilation policies he didn’t have great reading and writing skills, but he was a fine communicator in the oral tradition. Completed 2 degrees presenting his work in oral / musical form. Imagine how easy that is to accommodate with today’s technology and what that could mean, especially in a university like mine in a country like Canada. That’s the kind of cool mashup of excitement for tech and the potential for more inclusion and more just outcomes that’s my sweet spot.

    • Reverend says:

      Anne-Marie, Comments make the blogsphere hot 🙂 Thanks for this, and I should have followed the trails in your original post, but having you frame this all in blog post length comment here is just a dream. I do think of those green spaces a lot, and I feel that sense of an alternative future as something to hold onto, no matter how dire or irresponsible it seems to others. The critical lens on this work has been truly important, but then sense of futility and meaningless it often lands on makes the very act of interrogation seem pointless. I am a true believe in the power of folks to do amazing things, I have seen it here on the web and I believe if we just say no long enough, call out the bullshit and do good stuff sooner or later the seed will grow. These are all things you have already said much better, but I feel honored to be able to parrot it back to you on the bava rather than some third-party tool that has no soul 🙂 I await you missives with zeal.

  2. Blogging dialogue like it’s 2007! Sorry Jim I obviously didn’t want to say anything that would stick in your craw, I just think us old timers need to be careful of the “it was better in my day” rhetoric, as new generations of ed tech practitioners will shape it in their own image. Anyway – you should blogging.

    • Jim Groom says:


      Fair enough, I was probably over-reading based on my own bias to lead with tech alternatives, which is definitely a product of how and when I started with WordPress. I guess my fear is the tech will be relegated to the dustbin of critical history when in many ways it establish the means of both imprisonment and liberation. Anyway, my attempt at dialogue may have been too soon and too opinionated. Which means I have not grown up yet 🙂

  3. Amanda Schmidt says:

    As an edtech newbie— working in this space for a mere four years— the conversation traversing the blogsphere at the moment is both familiar and formative. When I’ve taught students about looking critically at digital practice, both in their academic and personal lives, I’ve relied heavily on advocating for a healthy dose of Luddism as described in Torn Halves’s “Toward a Luddite Pedagogy” article in Hybrid Pedagogy. This whole angsty dialogue only makes me more enthusiastic about and confident in the potential voices like these in edtech have to teach students about paths toward responsible digital citizenship. We gotta make sure this new generation isn’t afraid to “break the machine” when they need to.

    • Reverend says:

      Yeah, yeah, YEAH! We should have a reading list with some of the stuff you are putting together in your course because I think Martin probably has a point in my wanting edtech now to be edtech then, but wouldn’t a healthy melding of the two work as well? 🙂

    • Chris L says:

      Luddites were misunderstood, yes. We can learn something from them, of course. That story has been recounted hundreds of times. But “Toward a Luddite Pedagogy” builds and burns some of the most strawy of straw men. The author creates something that does not exist then proposes something that further doesn’t exist to correct it. I would ask WTF? but I know exactly what it is: a desperate attempt to differentiate writing about the same-old, same-old.

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  5. Tom says:

    The “angst” label has been bugging me. It makes it seem like these concerns are an emo phase that you’ll outgrow to become a productive member of EdTeCh society. I think the awfulness is real, widely distributed, and weaponized. That concerns me. At the same time, it’s not all that different from what it was. There was no edtech Eden no matter how far back you go, yet good things are still possible. The glass is half full of water and half full of air. Fight me.

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