This work focuses on the question: What might be wrong with large-scale approaches to learning? In posing this question, my purpose is not to suggest that large-scale approaches have no role to play within a complex educational landscape. Rather, I seek to introduce a starting point for more critical and nuanced approaches to achieving proper scale within digital learning, whether big and small. Organized around a series of stories from a train-ride home, I introduce a series of process-based “technologies” as defined by Skinner (1971) and Foucault (1988). After contrasting key concepts of Skinner and Foucault, I apply Foucault’s framework of “the technologies of domination and of self” to explore the potential risks of the Global Learning XPRIZE, a privately funded competition to develop open source and scalable software to promote numeracy and English language literacy among students in Tanzania. The discussion considers how the technological tools that support the XPRIZE agenda, and the language that surrounds the initiative both shape and are shaped by deeply entrenched neoliberal power structures. This work further questions the capacity for autonomy among the Tanzanian children who participate in XPRIZE learning, and explores our roles and responsibilities as educators to consider more critically the risks and ramifications of XPRIZE and other large-scale learning initiatives.


Global Learning XPRIZE, educational technology, large-scale learning, rhetorical analysis, structuralism, post-structuralism, behaviorism, digital literacy



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