This paper examines the prevalence of technological interventions in education in emergencies through a case study of private participation in Syrian refugee education in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. This research is conceptually situated within critiques of ‘digital humanitarianism’, simultaneously interrogating the role of technology in humanitarian responses and the roles of private actors who promote this technology. Our study demonstrates that a pervasive optimism concerning education technology in emergencies accompanies a surge in private actor engagement in Syrian refugee education. Findings indicate that while access to technology in educational settings is important to the Syrian refugee populations, private actors’ disproportionate focus on technology is problematic, particularly when technological interventions are viewed as panaceas for refugee education; designed free from coordination; driven by profit motivations; and developed in a manner decontextualised from the learning context. This study attends to the necessity of countering the overwhelming optimism about technology as a panacea for refugee education, which fails to problematise the implications of interventions developed in the Global North for a distant ‘other’ in the Global South.

DOI: 10.1080/03054985.2019.1682536
ISSN: 0305-4985