Roaming Autodidact

A roaming autodidact is a self-motivated, able learner that is simultaneously embedded in technocratic futures and disembedded from place, culture, history, and markets. The roaming autodidact is almost always conceived as western, white, educated and male. As a result of designing for the roaming autodidact, we end up with a platform that understands learners as white and male, measuring learners’ task efficiencies against an unarticulated norm of western male whiteness. It is not an affirmative exclusion of poor students or bilingual learners or black students or older students, but it need not be affirmative to be effective. Looking across this literature, our imagined educational futures are a lot like science fiction movies: there’s a conspicuous absence of brown people and women.

Black Cyberfeminism: Intersectionality, Institutions and Digital Sociology by Tressie McMillan Cottom :: SSRN

Both of the aforementioned elements – what we think learning “looks like” and what we expect learning to “do” – clearly shape how education technologies are designed as well as how they’re promoted. But too often we imagine the “everyone” who will take advantage of the learning opportunities that technology may (or may not) afford not only as “roaming autodidacts,” as Tressie McMillan Cottom has called these idealized students, but also as untethered, entrepreneurial earners – that is, workers who can easily and upwardly navigate the labor market without any risks or restrictions.

Roaming Autodidacts and Entrepreneurial (L)Earners: The Stories We Tell about Lifelong Learning

[The] literature [on online education] was preoccupied with what I call ‘roaming autodidacts’.

The 100 Worst Ed-Tech Debacles of the Decade

The internet’s “condition of harm” and its direct relation to risk is structural. The tech industry – from venture capitalists to engineers to creative visionaries – is known for its strike-it-rich Wild West individualistic ethos, swaggering risk-taking, and persistent homogeneity. Some of this may be a direct result of the industry’s whiteness and maleness. For more than two decades, studies have found that a specific subset of men, in the U.S. mostly white, with higher status and a strong belief in individual efficacy, are prone to accept new technologies with greater alacrity while minimizing their potential threats – a phenomenon researchers have called the “white-male effect,” a form of cognition that protects status. In the words of one study, the findings expose “a host of new practical and moral challenges for reconciling the rational regulation of risk with democratic decision making.”

The Risk Makers. The nuclear, auto, and food industries… | by Catherine Buni and Soraya Chemaly | Sep, 2020 | OneZero

I, Ryan, very much resemble the roaming autodidact. Tech and open source are full of us. It took longer than I’d like to admit for me to recognize the white-male effect in my own thinking. “A form of cognition that protects status” is an apt summary, especially for roaming autodidacts who’ve lived and believe the meritocracy myth.

Further reading,

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Published by Ryan Boren

#ActuallyAutistic parent and retired tech worker. Equity literate education, respectfully connected parenting, passion-based learning, indie ed-tech, neurodiversity, social model of disability, design for real life, inclusion, open web, open source. he/they

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