Global Teacher Movements Contra EdTech: Taking on Inequality and Resisting Neoliberal Education Reforms in the Time of COVID

Carol Anne Spreen, Lucas Cone

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Over the last few years, educators and workers across the world have taken historic stands against the neoliberal policies that have starved and privatized public services since the early 1980s. Drawing on previous research, the chapter illustrates how teacher movements and union struggles are beginning to share a “logic of resistance” (Wolfson, Treré, Gerbaudo, and Funke, 2017) to neoliberalism and most recently to the education technology (EdTech) industry. This year, the COVID-19 pandemic provided a new challenge to educators, halting schooling for millions bringing a rapid shift to remote online learning. This pivot represented a whole new manifestation of commercialization of education bringing the technology sector front and center into public education at worldwide scale. As school closures swept across the world, the challenge for teachers was how to make remote learning feasible, requiring a substantial technical infrastructure. While many students and schools were struggling with shifting content and using online tools, tech companies lined up to “help” keep the wheels of teaching and learning turning, seeing great opportunities to profit and increase public opinion of their brands from the shock of the pandemic. Initially the pandemic was characterized as a historic opportunity for reform and pivoting to remote learning was considered by some to be the “greatest EdTech experiment” in history, yet many teachers and parents have grown increasingly skeptical. Building on these current observations, this chapter contextualizes teacher resistance against neoliberal reforms, and examines the new conditions under which teachers have been compelled to teach during the COVID pandemic including the growing commercialization of education through digital technologies. While illustrating how the COVID pandemic opened the classroom door for EdTech companies, this chapter also raises issues around the long-lasting implications of remote and tech-based teaching and learning that have yet to be understood. Building on earlier work with teacher union organizations like Education International, which have served as important institutional resources to document and support the development of struggles against neoliberalism and commercialization of education, this chapter provides insights into the realities of global educator struggles against neoliberalism, and concludes underscoring the importance of maintaining these broader struggles against commercialization and privatization of public services, long after the pandemic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHandbook of Critical Approaches to Politics and Policy of Education
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9781000573848
ISBN (Print)9780367702717
StatePublished - Jan 1 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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