Digital Citizenship Means Criticizing Tech Giants

Recently, my Facebook page has lit up with articles about Google guys who have criticized standardized tests. It's a subtle message: Google is now on our side. Isn't that great?

They're the good guys, the ones who support critical thinking and creativity and believe in a mantra of "do no evil." They're the ones giving us really cheap Chromebooks and free apps. They're at the cutting edge of innovation, right?

But here's the thing: it's okay to think critically about things you like. I'm not unpatriotic to point out where our nation is screwing up. I'm not anti-school if I mention ways we should transform the classroom. I'm not anti-Jesus if I am honest about where churches are failing.

People are quick to criticize the large education companies (Pearson, etc.) but slow to criticize tech giants who often lobby for particular policies and have a vested interest in creating new tech consumers who will use their products -- be it devices or apps or advertising.

Something as small as a user interface is an inherently social and political document. The "tools" we use are also sites with social norms. Every tech platform has some level of social engineering. It's not a bad thing. It's how technology works. But it's also something students need to make sense out of.

I am not opposed to Apple or Google. I use their products with students. However, in an era of globalization, when companies are so actively involved in the economic, social and political systems of our world, we need to teach kids that "digital citizenship" is much more than making sure to take good care of your Google Glasses.

Photo Credit: by richibando
John Spencer

Professor. Maker. Speaker.
I want to see schools unleash the creative potential in all teachers to transform classrooms into bastions of creativity and wonder. Read more →
Email me at john@educationrethink.com for speaking inquiries on design thinking and creativity.


  1. Mr. Spencer,
    My name is Kaitlyn Parker. I am a student in EDM 310 at the University of South Alabama. I think people have the privilege to like a certain brand of technology more then another because everyone is entitled to their own preference. I also think that each brand has their own positives and negatives and is better or worse then another in different categories. One is not better then the other so it is helpful, especially in a classroom as a teacher, to be open to different ones and be able to use the technology and utilize the best you can in your classroom.

  2. Hi Kaitlyn,

    I think you will find that John agrees with you if you read his post again. What he's suggesting we all do, regardless of the tech we love, is to be thoughtful about what is 'behind' the user interface and what agendas these companies might have. Check out this old but sage article "In the Beginning was the Command Line" by Neal Stephenson: http://artlung.com/smorgasborg/C_R_Y_P_T_O_N_O_M_I_C_O_N.shtml

    Sarah (@Edustrategies)


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