Audrey Watters Casts a Skeptical Eye on Tech Boosters (CHE)

April 20, 2015

By Jennifer Howard

Audrey Watters describes herself as a Cassandra of educational technology, but the comparison is only partially apt.

Like the Greek prophet, Ms. Watters tells people things they often don’t want to hear. Unlike Cassandra, though, her clear-eyed analyses do find an audience. Her Twitter feed has more than 28,000 followers. Her blog,weekly newsletter, and year-end roundups of top tech trends are must-reads for many in higher education and the tech world. She’s in demand as a conference speaker. (She recently published a collection, Monsters of Education Technology, which features 14 of the talks she gave in 2014.)

A self-employed writer, Ms. Watters, 43, speaks with an independent voice. She doesn’t run ads on her site or take money from sponsors. Beholden to no institutions or companies, she’s free to critique them. She supports herself through her writing and speaking and through donations that readers make to her blog, Hack Education.

Animating her work is a conviction that technology needs to be not just used but questioned, its power structures and exclusions challenged, its makers’ narratives not taken for granted. She explained why this matters in a recent talk, “Men (Still) Explain Technology to Me,” also posted as an essay on her blog. It’s a tech-infused riff on the phenomenon of “mansplaining” identified by the writer Rebecca Solnit. But Ms. Watters looks beyond gender to explain why the trend is a serious social problem.

“The problem isn’t just that men explain technology to me,” she says in the essay. “It isn’t just that a handful of men explain technology to the rest of us. It’s that this explanation tends to foreclose questions we might have about the shape of things.”

About Ryan C. Fowler

Ryan is a curricular fellow at the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington D.C. He also teaches at Franklin and Marshall College and Lancaster Theological Seminary.
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