Today was commencement at Columbia University. I didn’t march (because I’m not graduating), but the Spencer Fellows did get a certificate so I agreed to show up to the J-School ceremony this afternoon. I’m not so into the pomp and circumstance, but I get it: rituals help us mark beginnings and endings, and certainly graduation ceremonies do just that. (And I’m glad I did because Ira Glass delivered a really great speech.)

I am more than a little sad that my Spencer year is over. It’s been pretty incredible to have the time and financial resources to think deeply about education technology without worrying about “the hustle” of being a self-employed writer. I have read a lot of books. I have done a lot of research. I’ve still managed to churn out a fair number of words on Hack Education. I’ve created over one hundred data sets tracking ed-tech investments and investors (and I’ve got an article forthcoming this fall in The Baffler on the networks that really drive ed-tech products and policies). And most significantly, I think, I have a very good book proposal and sample chapter.

So, what’s next? Finish Teaching Machines. Really.

I sent my materials off to an agent this week, so hopefully I’ll secure representation and then a book contract. I plan to keep working on the research and reporting for the book over the summer. I’ve scheduled a trip to the Harvard University archives to look at B. F. Skinner’s papers and one to the Stanford University archives to look at Patrick Suppes’. I’m still looking for Norman Crowder’s papers, if anyone has any leads.

I have started accepting speaking gigs once again, and – book contract not withstanding – I’ll go back to supporting myself primarily through that work (along with the donations I receive for my writing on Hack Education).

But I’m really hoping that I can use the line on my CV that reads “Spencer Fellow 2017–2018” to make the move to book-writing full time. (Editors and agents: hit me up!)

Audrey Watters


Audrey Watters


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