A commercial highway in every classroom: Investigating Web content in United States schools
Bettina Gazella Fabos, The University of Iowa, United States
The University of Iowa . Awarded
As governments and corporations continue to pour money into classroom Internet technology, little public attention is given to the World Wide Web content students are accessing in school. Classroom Web content is the focus of this dissertation, and more specifically, the commercial Web sites that are increasingly making their way into classrooms and student research papers. Commercialized Web content has begun to play a dominant role in student classroom Web experiences because (a) in-class Web research using commercial search engines is the most common way students in grades 5–12 use the Web in school and (b) commercial search engines and portals, which are still widely regarded as neutral pathways to a “vast amount of information,” are increasingly using deceptive ways to expand revenues, resulting in the prioritization of commercial sites. In considering these developments, this dissertation asks the following questions: How are teachers and students understanding the rapid commercialization of Web content, and hidden practices such as prioritized search engine results? What sort of critical conversations about the Internet are they having with their students? And what sort of critical conversations could they be having with their students? In other words, how can teachers better understand and evaluate the role of Internet technology in the context of all commercial media?
I use two methodological approaches for examining “educommerce” in the classroom: historical analysis and case study. Taking a political economy perspective, I historically situate present-day Internet educational content in terms of previous educational media (film, radio, and television), an emerging youth market, a growing social acceptance of corporate-sponsored educational content, and the rise of Internet use in schools. I then complement this historical analysis with the results of a year-long case study that tracked the everyday use of commercial Web content in three technologically-advanced schools.
Fabos, B.G. A commercial highway in every classroom: Investigating Web content in United States schools. Ph.D. thesis, The University of Iowa.
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