Proactive Union and Teacher Strategies for Shaping Technology in Education

A special issue of the New England Journal of Public Policy (Vol. 34, Issue 1, Spring/Summer 2022) featured essays on the topic of the Future of Work which were solicited by the American Federation of Teachers for a conference on the subject it jointly hosted with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Albert Shanker Institute on July 13, 2022. This is the second of these essays.1>

The future is already here. Educational technologies and artificial intelligence are being utilized by schools and governments across the planet, and the frontiers are constantly expanding.

Artificial intelligence and related technologies will have profound effects on the future of work in all industries and occupations, including education. But technology has no predetermined effects. How it will change work, working conditions, and the performance of organizations depends on who participates in the key decisions that (1) define the problems technology is asked to solve, (2) set the design parameters that shape specific applications, (3) link new technologies and work processes, (4) ensure the workforce is well-prepared to use advanced technologies, (5) determine who controls the data generated by these tools, and (6) address the needs of workers whose jobs may be at risk. Yet in the U.S., workers and their unions are too often limited to negotiating over the impacts of technology on wages, hours and working conditions long after many of these critical design choices and related decisions are made. Unions in general, and teachers unions in particular, need a proactive strategy to gain a voice in each stage of the technology development and use process. This paper outlines the elements of a proactive union technology strategy for teachers and their unions.

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