A new project led by Dr Lulu Shi of the University of Oxford’s Department of Education aims to understand the economic and political agendas of technology firms and policymakers driving the digitalisation of education.
While experts hope that using digital tools and technologies for education will increase access, encourage inclusiveness and improve efficiency, the study will investigate whether the push for digital education may be driven by ulterior motives.
Dr Lulu Shi, Departmental Lecturer in Digital Education at the University of Oxford, said: “Education technology (EdTech) firms and national and international policy actors promote digital education, but they may not have the public interest as a core mandate.
“EdTech firms present their digital products as cost-saving solutions to problems in education, yet most of them are for-profit businesses and their driving interests and motivations need to be further explored. There have also been suggestions that the government’s promotion of digital education may reflect the ambition for positioning themselves favourably in the global competition of technology innovations, so I’ll be using the project to explore this.
“Making the power dynamics more visible and increasing awareness of the constantly evolving narratives around digital education will allow us to better evaluate the impact of using digital education tools, benefitting end-users including teachers, students and parents.
“It’s vital that we have a fully rounded picture of the growth of digital education given that it is only likely to increase as time goes on.”
The project is funded by a £5,000 grant from the British Educational Research Association (BERA) and will involve semi-structured interviews with various stakeholders from EdTech firms and policy-making groups. The final report will be released in 2024 and will offer recommendations for schools, teachers and regulatory bodies.
Neil Selwyn is a professor in the Faculty of Education, Monash University, Melbourne – having previously worked in the Institute of Education, London and the Cardiff School of Social Sciences. He has spent the past 25 years researching the integration of digital technology into schools, universities and adult learning.
Neil is recognised as a leading international researcher in the area of digital education – with particular expertise in the ‘real-life’ constraints and problems faced when technology-based education is implemented. He is currently working on nationally-funded projects examining the roll-out of educational data and learning analytics, AI technologies, and the changing nature of teachers’ digital work.
- Pangrazio, L. and Selwyn, N. (2023). ‘Critical data literacies‘ MIT Press.
- Andrejevic, M. and Selwyn, N. (2022). ‘Facial recognition’ Polity
- Selwyn, N. (2021) ‘Education and technology: key issues and debates’ Bloomsbury [third edition]
- Selwyn, N. (2019). ‘Should robots replace teachers?’ Polity
- Selwyn, N. (2019). ‘What is digital sociology?’ Polity
- Selwyn, N., Nemorin, S., Bulfin, S. and Johnson, N. (2018) ‘Everyday schooling in the digital age: High school, high tech?’ Routledge
- Selwyn, N. (2016) ‘Is technology good for education?’Polity
- Selwyn, N. (2014) ‘Digital technology and the contemporary university: degrees of digitization’ Routledge
- Selwyn, N. (2014) ‘Distrusting educational technology: critical questions for changing times’ Routledge
Valentina studied towards a PhD in Education and Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) at Moray House School of Education and Sport (MHSES), the University of Edinburgh. Her PhD was focused on ethically designing and evaluating digital technology, aimed at supporting young children’s play in a hospital setting. Towards this end, she immersed herself in a hospital setting, allowing her to work closely with children, parents and practitioners.
As a Postdoctoral Researcher, Valentina has been working on a research project aimed at exploring school-aged children’s perceptions of conversational assistants (such as Amazon’s Alexa) and artificial intelligence (AI). Together with Professor Judy Robertson from the Centre for Research in Digital Education, The University of Edinburgh, she has conducted a mixed-methods approach study with primary-school children in Scotland to understand their awareness and how they interact with such systems. Valentina has worked on various other research projects involving children, such as employing a participatory approach with primary and secondary-school children on a project focused on understanding children’s reading motivation.
Valentina’s research interests largely lie at the intersection of education and Human-Computer Interaction (HCI): educational technology, participatory approaches, inclusive design and evaluation of technology, ethics in technology design, AI ethics.
- Andries, V., & Robertson, J. “Alexa doesn’t have that many feelings”: Children’s understanding of AI through interactions with smart speakers in their homes. Available as ArXiv preprint: https://arxiv.org/abs/2305.05597
- Constantin, A., Andries, V., Korte, J., Alexandru, C., Good, J., Sim, J., Read, J., Fails, J.A., & Eriksson, E. (2022). Ethical Considerations of Distributed Participatory Design with Children. In Interaction Design and Children (IDC ’22), Braga, Portugal. ACM, New York, NY, USA, https://doi.org/10.1145/3501712.3536386
- Andries, V., Niven, A., & Smith, C. (Sept 2021). Social Media Research: Ethical Guidance for Researchers at the University of Edinburgh. Centre for Data, Culture & Society, The University of Edinburgh. Available here: https://edin.ac/3hTvAhB.
- Andries, V., & Savadova, S. (2021). Understanding the Role of Digital Technology in the Transitions of Refugee Families with Young Children into A New Culture: A Case Study of Scotland. In Interaction Design and Children (IDC ’21), June 24–30, 2021, Athens, Greece. ACM, New York, NY, USA, 5 pages. https://doi.org/10.1145/3459990.3465185.
- Wilkinson, K., Andries, V., Howarth, D., Bonsall, J., Sabeti, S., & McGeown, S. (2021). Reading During Adolescence: Why Adolescents Choose (or Do Not Choose) Books. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 64(2), 157-166.
- McGeown, S., Bonsall, J., Andries, V., Howarth, D., & Wilkinson, K. (2020). Understanding Reading Motivation Across Different Text Types: Qualitative Insights from Children. Journal of Research in Reading, 43(4), 597-608.
- McGeown, S., Bonsall, J., Andries, V., Howarth, D., Wilkinson, K., & Sabeti, S. (2020). Growing up a Reader: Exploring children’s and adolescents’ perceptions of ‘a reader’. Educational Research, 62(2), 216-228.
- Andries, V., & Robertson, J. (2019). Designing Social Play to Support Young Hospitalised Children. In Interaction Design and Children (IDC ’19), June 12–15, 2019, Boise, ID, USA. ACM, New York, NY, USA, 6 pages. https://doi.org/10.1145/3311927.3325317.
- Andries, V. (2018). Play Technology with 3-5-Year Old Children in a Hospital Setting. In Proceedings of the 2018 Annual Symposium on Computer-Human Interaction in Play Companion Extended Abstracts (CHI PLAY ’18 Extended Abstracts, Melbourne, Australia). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 5-10. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1145/3270316.3270608.
- Savadova, S., & Andries, V. (2021). How can interactions with digital media foster refugee families’ transitions to a new culture in Edinburgh? British Educational Research Association (BERA) Annual Conference, United Kingdom.
- Andries, V., & McGeown, S. (2019). Growing up a Reader: Lessons learnt from training primary school students as researchers. United Kingdom Literacy Association Conference, Sheffield, United Kingdom. Paper presentation
- Andries, V. & Robertson, J. (2019). Ethics in participatory design approaches. Human-Computer Interaction – Centre for Intelligent Systems and their Applications (CISA) interest group at the School of Informatics. Invited speakers
- Andries, V. (2018). Ethics in practice: A case study of researching play technology with sick children. Children and Technology event organised by the Digital Education group at Moray House, in collaboration with the Scottish Informatics and Computer Science Alliance. Invited speaker
Louise’s research interests include social inequities and education, gender and feminist theories, children’s literature, and creative methods. Her ESRC-funded doctoral research, which she undertook at the University of Glasgow, explored how children respond to and engage with contemporary biographies about women. Louise has been involved in various research projects with children, both in the UK and abroad. Last year she worked with non-profit organisations in Canada to better understand how organisations are encouraging girls to engage with STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths), and acted as a research consultant on the international, SSHRC-funded project, ‘Kids, KidTech and the Metaverse: Global Childhoods in Digital Capitalism’.
Louise has extensive experience of working in educational settings. She managed a network of children’s learning centres across London for a number of years and has taught in Australia, China and the UK. Louise has also delivered training sessions for early career researchers focusing on creative methods, research ethics, and research with children.
Louise holds a BA in English Language and Literature from King’s College London, an MA in Gender Studies from UCL and an MRes in Sociology and Research Methods from the University of Glasgow.
Articles in Peer-Reviewed Journals
Couceiro, L. (2022) Empowering or responsibilising? A critical content analysis of contemporary biographies about women. Barnboken: Journal of Children’s Literature Research, 45. DOI: https://doi.org/10.14811/clr.v45.687.
Chapters in Books
Couceiro, L. (2020) Disorientation and new directions: developing the reader response toolkit. In: Kara, H. and Khoo, S.-M. (eds.) Researching in the Age of COVID-19: Volume 1: Response and Reassessment. Policy Press: Bristol, UK, pp. 30-39. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctv18gfz2s.8.
Couceiro, L. (2022) ‘Online Research with Children: Cultivating Better Practice with the Beauty of Hindsight‘, SAGE MethodSpace (27th July 2022).
Couceiro, L. & Strobel, M. (2022) ‘The Work of Annika Thor: Relatable, Entertaining and Brimming with Enthusiasm‘, iBbY UK Blog (17th February 2022).
Couceiro, L. (2021) ‘Contemporary Children’s Biographies About Women: A Laudable Endeavour, but Critical Reading Remains Crucial‘, UWE Education Blog (22nd December 2021).
Couceiro, L. (2021) ‘Facilitating Group Discussions With Participants on Zoom‘, SAGE MethodSpace (21st January 2021).
‘Education and Roblox’ (2023) Kids, KidTech and the Metaverse: Global Childhoods in Digital Capitalism, Phase 1 Symposium, York University, Canada.
‘Contemporary Children’s Biographies: How are children responding to and ’empowering’ stories of ‘inspirational’ women?’ (2022) Emergent Femininities and Masculinities in 21st Century Media and Popular Culture Conference, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece.
‘Contemporary Biographies: What are the implications of inviting children to ‘change the world’, in a way that foregrounds specialisation?’ (2022) The Child and the Book Conference, L-Università ta’ Malta, Malta.
‘Children’s Biographies in the Nonfiction Renaissance: Analysing the relationship between readers’ responses, the pedagogic and the aesthetic’ (2021) IRSCL 2021 Conference (online),
Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Chile.
‘Sexual Education, Sexual Pleasure and Sexual Violence: A case for considering how queer theory can aid understandings of the hidden inequalities and challenges faced by individuals with learning disabilities’ (2021) ESA 2021 Conference (online).
”Fantastically Great Women’ and ‘Rebel Girls’: Do children’s biographies about women inspire or responsibilize young girls in their conceptions of girlhood?’ (2020) Conceptions of Girlhood Now and Then: “Girls’ Literature” and Beyond Conference (online), Linnæus University, Sweden.
‘Why Legislative Change is Not Enough: Critical discourse analysis of news reporting surrounding Scotland’s LGBTI inclusive education’ (2020) ECER Conference (cancelled due to Covid-19), University of Glasgow, Scotland
Lulu is a departmental lecturer at the Department and a research associate at the Oxford Internet Institute and Sociology Department Oxford. She is a sociologist and her research spans technology, education, work and employment and organisations.
Lulu leads a project funded by the British Academy, which investigates how educational technology (EdTech) transforms education. Specifically, the project studies the role of EdTech firms – who can be seen as the architects behind the technology – in shaping education by considering the socio-political contexts they are embedded in.
She also works on the project DomesticAI at the Oxford Internet Institute. In this project she focuses on the transformation of paid and unpaid work in the age of AI and robotics. With her team she designed a cross-national harmonised factorial survey experiment.
During her doctoral studies, she researched on the labour market, skills formation systems and organisation studies with a country comparative focus.
Lulu teaches the MSc programme Digital and Social Change and supervises MSc students, focusing on technology and society.
Peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters:
- Lehdonvirta, V., Shi, L.P. (corresponding author), Hertog, E., Nagase, N., Ohta, Y. (forthcoming): “The Future(s) of Unpaid Work: How susceptible do experts from different backgrounds think the domestic sphere to automation”, In: PLOS One, https://osf.io/preprints/socarxiv/vzwyd/
- Shi, L.P., Di Stasio, V. (2022): “Finding a job after unemployment – Education as a moderator of unemployment scarring in Norway and Switzerland”, In: Socio-Economic Review, p. 1–25. https://doi.org/10.1093/ser/mwaa056
- Shi, L.P., Wang, S. (2021): “Demand-side consequences of unemployment and horizontal skills mismatch across national contexts: An employer-based factorial survey experiment”, In: Social Science Research, p. 1-12. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ssresearch.2021.102668
- Imdorf, C., Shi, L.P., Sacchi, S., Samuel, R. (2019): “Scars of early job insecurity across Europe: insights from a multi-country employer study”. In: B. Hvinden, C. Hyggen, M. A. Schoyen and T. Sirovatka, Youth Unemployment and Job Insecurity in Europe. Problems, Risk Factors and Policies, 1st ed. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing, p. 93–116.
- Parsanoglou, D., Yfanti, A., Hyggen, C., Shi, L.P. (2019): “The impact of active labour market policies on young unemployed: A comparison between Greece and Norway.” In: B. Hvinden, J. O’Reilly, M. A. Schoyen and C. Hyggen, Negotiating early job insecurity. Well-being, scarring and resilience of European youth, 1st ed. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing, p. 90–114.
- Shi, L.P., Imdorf, C., Samuel R., Sacchi, S. (2018): “How unemployment scarring affects skilled young workers: evidence from a factorial survey of Swiss recruiters”. In: Journal of Labour Market Research, 52, p.1–15.
Project working papers / policy briefs:
- Shi, L.P., Hertog, E., Nash, V. (2022): Written evidence on technology and data privacy. House of Commons, Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee. https://committees.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/109471/pdf/
- Shi, L.P., Imdorf, C., Sacchi, S., Samuel, R. (2017): “Employers assessments of young job applicants: Findings from a comparative study”. European Policy Brief, no. 6, p.1–5.
- Imdorf, C., Shi, L.P., Sacchi, S., Samuel, R., Hyggen, C., Stoilova, R., Yordanova, G., Boyadieva, P., Ilieva-Trichkova, P., Parsanoglou, D., Yfanti, A. (2017): “Explaining employers’ hiring decisions: A comparative study of employers’ risk assessment”. NEGOTIATE Working paper No. 7.3, p.1–35.
- Imdorf, I., Shi, L.P., Helbling, L., Sacchi, S., Samuel, R. (2016): “Institutional Determinants of early job insecurity in nine European Countries”. NEGOTIATE Working paper No. 3.4, p.1–43.
- Kilchmann, V., Kobler, C., Shi, L.P., Imdorf, C. (2016): “Strategies to improve labour market integration of young people: Comparing policy coordination in nine European countries”. NEGOTIATE Working paper No. 8.2, p.1–27.
- Hyggen, C., Imdorf, C., Parsanaglou, D., Sacchi, S., Samuel, R., Stoilova, R., Shi, L.P., Yfanti, A., Yordanova, G. (2016): “Understanding unemployment scars: A vignette experiment of employers’ decisions in Bulgaria, Greece, Norway and Switzerland”. NEGOTIATE Working paper No. 7.2, p.1–66.
- Abebe, D.S., Bussi, M., Buttler, D., Hyggen, C., Imdorf, C., Michoń, P., O’Reilly, J., Shi, L.P. (2016): “Explaining consequences of employment insecurity: The dynamics of scarring in the United Kingdom, Poland and Norway”. NEGOTIATE Working paper No. 6.2, p.1–50.
- Shi, L.P., Imdorf, C., Samuel, R. (2015): “Studying employers’ risk assessment and the role of institutions: An experimental design”. NEGOTIATE Working paper No. 7.1, p.1–25.
Researchers from the University of Oxford have been awarded funding from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), to look at the impact of technology on educational and social equity in schools in England.
Funded via the ESRC Education Research Programme, the project, which is being led by the Department of Education in collaboration with the Oxford Internet Institute, was one of only nine to get funding.
Professor Rebecca Eynon, who is leading the project entitled ‘Towards equity focused approaches to EdTech: a socio-technical perspective’, said: “For decades, technology has been promoted as a way to address inequity in schools with advocates suggesting that more digital resources lead to greater educational and social equity. We know that the provision of resources, such as systems designed to provide students with extra support in and outside the classroom, or automating certain tasks to free up time for the teacher, can be highly significant. However, such a view tends to assume technology is a neutral tool that can be relied on to bring about uniformly positive effects for education.
“What is needed is more research that aims to theorise the technology itself – for example to unpack the implicit biases and values EdTech may encode and promote – alongside a richer understanding of how EdTech is actually used in the classroom, how it reconfigures pedagogical relationships, and how its use varies across different school contexts.”
Taking this socio-technical perspective, the study will conduct seven ethnographies in secondary schools in England to capture and explore the multi-faceted implications of the use of technology and the ways it can reinforce or reconfigure educational and social inequity.
The second central aim of the study is to engage with social scientists, data scientists, EdTech companies, policy makers, teachers, students and the wider public to inform the design and implementation of equity-focused approaches to EdTech in the future, through a range of activities including the creation of educational resources for data scientists and EdTech developers, and a series of futures workshops for all stakeholders.
Outputs to disseminate the work will also include blogs, videos, podcasts, academic papers, a book, conference presentations, reports and datasets for the UK data archive.
Rebecca continued: “The research hopes to significantly enhance academic, practice and policy understanding and shape future EdTech design and use in England and beyond.
“We’re thrilled to be undertaking this much needed rich ethnographic study which will contribute to academic understandings of the relationships between equity, digital technologies, teaching and learning.”
The research will be conducted by Professor Rebecca Eynon of the Department of Education and Oxford Internet Institute, supported by Dr Laura Hakimi of the Oxford Internet Institute, two post-doctoral researchers at the Department of Education – to be appointed – and an advisory group consisting of experts from policy, practice and academia. The advisory board will provide feedback on early stage research findings and facilitate knowledge exchange and impact.
Professor Alison Park, Interim Executive Chair of the Economic and Social Research Council, said: “Through the Education Research Programme, ESRC is funding important new research that will generate insights and help address ongoing challenges for the UK’s compulsory education systems, including how to attract, educate and retain excellent teachers, and how to adopt and harness the benefits of new technologies.
“The programme will support both teachers and children by tackling issues such as resilience, participation, recruitment, training and retention.
“The research will use the power of social science to generate a range of exciting outputs that have the potential to directly transform UK education and create a more inclusive and supportive learning environment.”
Professor Gemma Moss, Director of the Education Research Programme, said: “This is an exciting opportunity for the education research community to work in partnership with other stakeholders and find new ways of tackling some long-lasting challenges in school-based education.
“The programme recognises the devolved nature of education in the UK and in this context is looking to develop stronger links between research, policy and practice that can generate new insights relevant to local contexts.”
Cindy works at the intersection of learning, design, and technology, with a keen interest in the orchestration of future-ready tech-enabled learning.
She is curious how the deployment of adaptive learning systems to schools will impact classroom learning and hopes to learn more about the human-machine partnership in education. Specifically, her research is concerned with the implications that the use of such systems has on teacher-student interactions, as teachers grapple with balancing personalised learning and learning in community, as well as curriculum demands and student interests. These are some tensions which could potentially be exacerbated by affordances of adaptive learning systems.
Prior to embarking on the DPhil in Education at Oxford, Cindy worked as the Lead Specialist in Technologies for Learning at the Educational Technology Division of Ministry of Education, Singapore. She had previously completed graduate studies at the National University of Singapore and Stanford University where she was awarded Master of Arts in English Studies and Master of Arts in Education.
Laura’s postdoctoral research uses ethnographic methodologies to explore the ways in which digital technologies are being used in classrooms and how the use of such systems can reinforce or reconfigure existing educational and social inequity.
Laura completed a DPhil in Education with the Learning and New Technologies research group at the Department of Education in 2015, and also holds an MSc in Evidence for Public Policy and Practice from the Institute of Education. She is a strong advocate of participatory methodologies and action research.
Hakimi L, Eynon R, Murphy VA. The Ethics of Using Digital Trace Data in Education: A Thematic Review of the Research Landscape. Review of Educational Research. 2021;91(5):671-717.
Denton-Calabrese, T., Mustain, P., Geniets, A., Hakimi, L., Winters, N. (2021) Empowerment beyond skills: Computing and the enhancement of self-concept in the go_girl code+create program. Computers and Education Vol.175
Geniets, A., O’Donovan, J., Hakimi, L., Winters, N. (eds) (2021) Training for Community Health: Bridging the Global Health Care Gap: OUP