UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Deconstructing the Normalization of Data Colonialism in Educational Technology Kohnke, Lucas; Foung, Dennis


As learning analytics and educational data mining have become the “new normal” in the field, scholars have observed the emergence of data colonialism. Generally, data colonialism can be understood as the process by which data were considered “free” to take and appropriate. Building on this theoretical understanding, this study aims to contextualize data colonialism in educational technology by identifying and reviewing learning analytics studies that adopted a predictive analytics approach. We examined 22 studies from major educational technology journals and noted how they (1) see data as a resource to appropriate, (2) establish new social relations, (3) show the concentration of wealth, and (4) promote ideologies. We found evidence of data colonialism in the field of educational technology. While these studies may promote “better” ideologies, it is concerning how they justify the authorities capitalizing on “free” data. After providing a contextualized view of data colonialism in educational technology, we propose several measures to decolonialize data practices, adopting a postcolonialist approach. We see data colonialism not only as a privacy issue but also as a culture that must be challenged.

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CC BY 4.0