Database as method: Exposing ‘data’ about educational technology through a design intervention

As part of my work at the Centre for the Digital Child I have been working with colleagues on the political economy of Edtech. Here is one preliminary article exploring some of these themes.

Ubiquitous datafication of children and families in educational and everyday settings is both a result of and catalyst for power asymmetries between digital platforms and their users. These platforms seek to know their users by extracting and analysing various streams of personal information, often discreetly. However, the users are rarely equipped to do the same to the platforms as information about these platforms is often obscured, convoluted, or simply unavailable. This article explores the possibilities of reversing such power imbalance via the design intervention of an Australia-focused educational technology (EdTech) database developed by the authors of this article. Employing a design intervention method, the database is a collection of publicly available information about EdTech companies and products that target young children and their parents or educators in Australia. This alternate commentary article presents and discusses the ongoing processes of developing the database to reflect on what it says about the power relations between EdTech providers and their users. It demonstrates how the database works as a pedagogical space where people learn how to critically unpack and think about contemporary EdTech platforms. The database is positioned as a point of convergence for different actors involved in children’s digital learning to collectively understand what needs to be done to enact and protect children’s digital rights in education.