DATAFIED: A study on the (re)construction of schooling in an increasingly datafied world

Abstract

 Presenter (s) Sigrid Hartong, Helmut-Schmidt-University Hamburg; Vito Dabisch, Helmut-Schmidt-University Hamburg; Ben Mayer, DIPF Frankfurt

Addressing the call for contributions on the role of emerging technologies in reimagining and remaking processes of educational governance and practices, this poster introduces the joint research project DATAFIED (Data For and In Education), funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) 2018-2021. The project builds on an expanding field of research on the increasing datafication of schooling, which seek to specifically understand the role and impact of data infr astructures and data practices as powerful new tools of relation-making in school monitoring, leadership and classroom practice (e.g. Williamson 2017, Manolev et al. 2018, Landri 2018). The project hereby follows an exceptional, comprehensive approach by examining not only (digital) data tools used in teaching and learning, but also its interlinkages with data infrastructures within the administration and supervision of schools (and vice versa), addressed via four sub-projects: (1) sub-project one (“School monitoring and leadership”) examines the interface between school supervision agencies and the school, focusing in particular on practices of evaluation and school/classroom development consultation; (2) sub-project two (“School management and information systems”) considers the information systems used by school management, which also includes the relationship between schools and school management system providers; (3) sub-project three (“Teaching so ftware”) unpacks the digital tools used in classrooms, analyzing the interface between digital learning software (providers) and classroom practice; and (4) sub-project four (“Teachers and students”) studies the interface between teachers and students in the classroom. Each DATAFIED sub-project applies a carefully selected set of methods, including a) documentary analysis, b) interviews with school supervision/consultancy experts, headmasters, school secretaries, software providers, teachers and students, c) software studies of selected digital tools (e.g. reverse engineering of school information systems), as well as d) classroom observations. By testing and combining these different approaches, we also aim to contribute to methodological innovations in the field of tracing and make visible data infrastructures and flows. Referring to our initial results, the project reveals what Selwyn (2013: 198) has described as ‘messy’ realities of technology and education, in which the production, processing and use of digital data entangles very different logics, translations, practices and problems. In fact, one goal of the study is to actively embrace and acknowledge this messiness. Still, we also identify key mechanisms, commonalities and also differences (between the sub-projects, the different data practices/digital tools or between the selected schools under study) that present somewhat typical effects or ambivalences of datafication. Hereby, datafication does not seem to produce single centres of calculation and data power, but rather constant mediation, e.g. between software/coding activities in a narrower sense and the wider embedding of these kind of activities into institutional and human practices. Consequently, the project not only contributes to a better understanding of shifting roles and social/pedagogical relationships in an increasingly datafied world, but also of how people actually deal with data and technologies. In doing so, despite its one-country focus, it also has important (empirical, but also methodological) implications for international/comparative educational research on spheres ‘beyond the human’.

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