Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Phil Hill has been writing what has turned out to be a series on how the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation approaches ed tech. It began with a post on the Gates Foundation messaging machine, which we covered here. It was followed with an update suggesting Foundation research outcomes are predetermined. "They declare that building awareness and adopting courseware are crucial and produce results." The third item then offers "the longest disclosure post in EdTech history" detailing the history of the relationship between the Gates Foundation and MindWires, Hill's and Michael Feldstein's consulting company. "The Gates Foundation was going all in on scale, with courseware as the core, and they were creating the Digital Learning Solutions Network (DLSN) (more)." MindWires was sort of onboard for a while there, but ultimately decided to opt out. I can't say how much of their coverage was influenced by Gates funding at the time, but the Foundation certainly has a pervasive influence on ed tech, as this diagram shows.

P.S. it's pretty easy to criticize from the outside, and I do (because that's part of what OLDaily is about), but I do wonder how I would have responded had Gates thrown a few million dollars my way to support its work. Would I have felt I could 'influence them from within?' Would I have altered my OLDaily coverage to align with their priorities? I'd love to say I would have been above it all, but I know myself better than that. The patterns of messaging and influence are structural, they're built into the system, and it takes extraordinary restraint (or financial independence) to stand against them.

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Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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Last Updated: Nov 28, 2023 12:15 p.m.

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