Wednesday, 18 October 2017
Rewiring Education: Building data infrastructure in schools and school systems
Dr Sam Sellar, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK
‘Datafication’ has been described as the great infrastructure project of the 21st century and it is advancing rapidly in schools and school systems. Infrastructure building is a modernist project that operates in an aesthetic mode to symbolize progress. The politics of datafication in schooling has developed in response to this symbolism and is often polarised between positions that endorse the acceleration of datafication or those which contest promises of better education through data. As a result, relatively little attention has been paid to the everyday work of infrastructure building and how it affects schools and education systems. In this paper, I will introduce an empirical example of the mundane technical work of software developers who are implementing interoperability standards to provide a national data infrastructure for schools. Drawing on the growing literature in infrastructure studies, and the writings of Emmanuel Levinas and the American novelist David Foster Wallace, I will argue that carefully engaging with the quotidian dimension of infrastructure can help us to resist the seduction of abstract utopian and dystopian imaginaries. I will conclude by tentatively sketching out an ethico-political perspective on the rewiring of education through datafication.
Biography: Dr Sam Sellar is Reader in Education Studies at Manchester Metropolitan University. Sam’s research focuses on intersections between education policy, accountability and data. With a team of colleagues, Sam is currently working on an international comparative study of data infrastructure in schools and school systems in Australia, the USA, Canada and Japan. Sam also works closely with teacher associations around the world on issues of datafication, commercialization and accountability. Sam is co-author of Globalizing educational accountabilities (2016, Routledge) and co-editor of National testing in schools: An Australian assessment (2016, Routledge).