The problem with educational consumerism….

So as I was reading about more iPad deployments today, I realized that what really bugs me about the iPad is it is a consumer device. Not an enterprise device or an educational device, but a method by which to consume information and applications. I thought wow, I just coined a new phrase. Alas, Google tells me that not only did I not coin a phrase but it is in the title of a fascinating article in ERIC titled, “Educational Consumerism: Etiology and Antidotes.” by Roy Schwartzman.

Schwartzman goes on to point out that thinking of a student as a customer drives us towards certain notions about learning and knowledge (some of the parts that I thought were most interesting):

  1. Students, as consumers, will often pick a curriculum based upon what is easiest not what is most rigorous and challenging
  2. When we portray knowledge as a commodity, then we imply that it should be as easy as buying something to learn
  3. The burden of creating value for education is entirely on the vendor (i.e. teacher)
  4. The burden of improving the product(i.e. education/learning) is solely the responsibility of the vendor (i.e. teacher)

The list actually goes on but I think you should read it yourself.

When you take what he says about educational consumerism and think about how you are using an iPad is he right? If you take what he says and apply it to many of the various tech tools folks go gaga over, are we really doing what we need to do as educators or just perpetuating a myth that quality education is like a great wardrobe and can be bought?

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