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When considering the topic of this week’s debate concerning corporations’ impact on educational technology the answer that springs to mind is – it is everywhere so of course it is part of this sector as well. Whether we want to admit it or not, I think the neo liberal agenda has cast its influence across much of the globe. Educational technology is not immune to this mind set and so the tendrils of corporate influence have most definitely become a part of the foundation of this area of education. Technology will continue to be an irreplaceable part of education. The important thing then becomes how do we work within this structure to encourage students to embrace social justice? How do we take advantage of the tools corporations provide to ensure our students receive the best possible education we can?
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It is unfortunate that in today’s world education is underfunded and teachers and students are not provided with the materials they require through public funding of education. In Saskatchewan we are in the midst of a funding crisis and the lack of commitment to education by the government certainly seems to negate the importance of education in our society. Educators tend to be resourceful by nature, and so when they can receive materials and equipment that fundamentally benefit kids, they are apt to take advantage of such, even if this means entering into unsavoury agreements with the corporations that are providing the much needed resources. This situation can be compared to the old cliché; you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. I think it is important to weigh the pros with the cons and use this process as the determining factor as to whether the capabilities associated with the product the corporation is offering are worth the price of entering into the agreement. Our guests indicated that some corporations do have morals and values that promote student achievement and what is good for education. These companies may the lesser of the business evil.
I believe another important consideration highlighted during the presentations is that funding actually controlled by school division personnel often seems to be spent in questionable ways. Again, I believe we see the influence of corporate friendships, but I also think that those who make these spending decisions are often very far removed from the reality of the classroom and the needs students and teachers have. This disconnect often negatively influences the allocation of scarce financial resources. This in itself is a tragedy; the little funding that is available is wasted on resources and materials that have no practical impact on student achievement. Those who make these spending decisions would serve the system well through connecting to those on the front lines and gathering input from teachers and even students before squandering precious dollars.
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At the end of the day I believe that educational technology will remain as an integral part of education’s future. Unless the public and governments prioritize adequate funding for education, resources will continue to be inadequate, and educators will be forced to engage in partnerships with corporations. The key to the success of these friendships will be to align with companies with a strong values associated with increased student achievement and social justice.