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Provocation to Fail

Book cover image for Failure is an Option by H. Jon Benjamin
Image taken from: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/558430/failure-is-an-option-by-h-jon-benjamin/9781524742164/

Failure.  What a loaded word.  What a thing to be avoided.  Nobody wants to feel it, but the readings this week have provided some insight into leaning into the possibility, the potential, and ultimately the reality of failure, and perhaps even using failure to grow and develop our pedagogical practices and the learning experience.  I do find it somewhat ironic that we are engaging with this concept as we go into our final presentations and project submissions—none of us want to acknowledge that we might “fail” in our final or in the completion of our projects—but I believe that each of us can benefit from some reflection on failure.  Not just in the context of our ITP coursework, but upon deeper reflection of our pedagogical practices, the discussion of failure with our students, and also the failure(s) of the larger education landscape.

This semester, we’ve addressed flexibility, multiple modalities, and universal design as important practices to undertake in our pedagogy and I believe thinking these things through and adopting strategies that allow for openness and the unexpected to happen in our coursework is truly beneficial.  Nonetheless, we won’t be able to prepare for every possible outcome and will, very likely, fail in some of our pursuits. We will also be part of larger institutional systems that won’t always operate the way we think they should or need them to. For me, the last year in ITP has provided me with a critical lense for my pedagogical practice ensuring that I am always thinking of innovative strategies for teaching and learning, but also to be prepared for the unexpected and for the difficult situations.

I found Allison Carr’s essay, “In Support of Failure” the most compelling of this week’s readings as it provides a framework for defining, feeling, accepting, reflecting on, and using our own failure to create a “pedagogy of failure.”  It’s a very personal piece and reminds us that learning, and failure for that matter, are very personal experiences. We’ve all been there–writer’s block, the inability to comprehend or master a concept, failing a test or course, feeling like an imposter in an endeavor we don’t quite feel equipped for.  Carr wants us to explore what it means to fail–to fail in our own academic pursuits as students, fail in our pedagogical pursuits as instructors, and to encourage our students to recognize and embrace failure, too.

She states: “And though we experience and talk about failure in all realms of life, it is especially prominent in our classrooms, where failure is formalized with rubrics and learning outcomes and complicated metrics of assessment.  Yes, ‘failure’ (little f) becomes ‘Failure’ (big f) in our classrooms, the most extensive system of socialization available in the modern world. We are all inculcated into this reductive, do-or-die paradigm. We are entrenched.”  She goes on to say, “…failure—more specifically, avoiding failure—is the object around which school is structured.”  Yet, aren’t we also told that we should learn from failure? Shouldn’t the classroom be a safe space for trial and error, for attempting new things and to not always know what we are doing (because we don’t)?  Learning is an active and iterative practice.

Further, Carr states, “Our classrooms, I hope it is clear, teach us how to feel.  More specifically, they teach us how to succeed and how to fail, and with shame deployed as a tool of self-surveillance, it’s clear that our emotional education is intertwined with these more concrete lessons…As an outcome of assessment, failure makes us profoundly aware of our place in social and academic strata.  It makes the borders of our physical and emotional selves known to us, and it emphasizes our distance between ourselves and others.” She hopes that a deep study of failure will help one understand the “complex relationship between one’s emotions, one’s identity, and one’s (academic) performance…”

Failure and success are both a part of the learning process.  She’s coming at it from a composition instructor’s perspective and her discipline claims that writing is a process, but this ethos can be applied beyond the composition course.  Nonetheless, higher education, and education institutions more broadly, are fixated on “product-oriented concept of creative intellectual work” and often overlooks, or doesn’t make room for, the process of it all.  By acknowledging and focusing on the very personal experience of failure, Carr brings attention to the humanness of education. Although there are outcomes to be achieved and goals to be attained, critical attention to the process must be present as well.       

She proposes a pedagogy of failure that accounts for relationality as well as isolation and would incorporate unpredictability and improvisation, as well as acknowledge the felt experience of creative and intellectual work.  She poses the following:

  • I want to know what happens when failure isn’t the silent antithesis of success or the final and unspeakable consequence of struggle or deviance against social and/or pedagogical norms;
  • I want to know if it’s possible to fail without being erased, cast out;
  • I want to know what becomes possible when we stop thinking about education as a forward-moving, product-oriented march toward some mark of achievement, and instead we start thinking of it as something bent more towards chaos.  

Carr goes on to propose six activities that can be introduced in the classroom to promote the pedagogy of failure:

  1. Failure Narrative.  Provide students with an opportunity to “write about or discuss their impressions of and experiences with failure.”  This exercise would allow students to “explore issues of success and failure in greater depth.”
  2. Failure Case Study.  Students would identify and research a community, organization, culture, or individual that perceives or works with failure.
  3. Low-Stakes Writing Binge, or “Try Again, Fail Differently.” Students would work over a period of days or weeks on one topic or theme writing, editing, reworking consistently to work out how to say the same thing differently, or from a different perspective, or in fewer words. Carr suggests that this be supported with reflective journaling to see how/why the changes make the piece better, worse, or different and so that the students can witness how this process makes an emotional impact on them.
  4. Unlearning.  Students should identify something they believe they are in an expert in and then “unlearn” it by identifying other ways one can become an expert which should lead to some understanding of the often arbitrary ways we learn and become experts.
  5. Novice Narrative. Students should identify something they’ve always wanted to learn, but never attempted and then spend weeks learning that thing.  As they learn, they should keep a journal, blog, blog, or record in another way their progress and struggles of learning and recognizing the difficulty of failure.
  6. Assessing “Quality of Failure.” From Edward Burger’s “Teaching to Fail.” Burger provides his students with an opportunity to get an A grade in his course if they must demonstrate considerable failure by taking on and pursuing ideas in the coursework that may not seem safe.  Students are then encouraged to share their failures more widely with the class leading to a universal “feltness” of failure with fellow students.

Lastly she goes on to remind us that these exercises are designed to allow the student to keep “tabs on one’s emotional proximity to one’s work and to the manner in which one’s work or one’s ways of knowing and doing work undergo change.”  She suggests that work should allow for flexibility, improvisation, discomfort, restlessness, and causing notices. She claims that recognizing her failure has made her more inquisitive and become a more curious learner, less risk-averse, and more emotionally cognizant of the impact different kinds of work have on her.  If we know our place in relation to our failures and triumphs, we will be better educators too.

As I said, Carr’s piece captivated me the most this week, but Brian Croxall and Quinn Warwick also provide some discussion of failure in the classroom.  Mostly, they are looking at what happens in classrooms that engage with various forms of technology, but they recognize that the acceptance of failure in the classroom is a universal motivator both for the instructor and the students.  The instructor would want to present material more effectively if they are not reaching their students. They present four “tiers” of failure and a real world case study is provided to illustrate each tier:

  1. Technological Failure” – Technical glitches: whenever a technology is introduced in the classroom, there is a possibility of a glitch and the authors suggest having a contingency plan ready, but they also recognize that these types of tier one disruptions, although disruptive, provide opportunities for engaged learning where students see the instructor as fallible and that such obstructions can be overcome.
  2. “Human Failure” – Tools function, but students encounter difficulty using them or seeing how they will transform their understanding of a humanistic problem.  
  3. “Failure as Artifact” – Students should seek out failure in their own work and learn from it
  4. “Failure as Epistemology” – Students should be actively encouraged to fail in their work and break the digital tools their tasked with engaging with.

I want to wrap up my post with one final list of the best practices (or “what I learned from things going wrong”) that I gleaned from the JITP readings, but what other practices have we identified this semester that can be added to this list?  Further, can  you foresee any failure in your pedagogical and academic process?  

  • Ask students how they want to learn. Open up the opportunity for them to contribute to the content of the course.
  • Don’t provide too much guidance or structure to the point of inflexibility, but do provide enough context and assistance so that students can complete the work you are asking them to
  • Don’t take on too many new things at once.  Scaffold the work you are requiring and again, provide context when possible.  

I hope that each of us will go back into our classrooms a little more invigorated and motivated by our successes AND failures, and that we will each continue to develop a caring, reflective, and critical pedagogical practice.  

But first, we must make it through our final for ITP! 🙂

Also, if anyone is interested here are some more listening / reading pleasures:

  • Audrey Watters provided an interview on the WET (Writing, Ed, Tech) podcast with Erik Marshall http://www.thewetpodcast.com/wet001-audrey-watters-educational-technology/ that goes into quite a bit of the failure theme from this week in addition to various other edtech thoughts.
  • Hannah McGregor’s Secret Feminist Agenda podcast on failure (thank you, Maura, for the recommendation!): https://secretfeministagenda.com/2018/03/01/episode-2-7-playing-losing-failing/
Cover art for Judith Halberstam's The Queer Art of Failure book
Image taken from: https://www.dukeupress.edu/the-queer-art-of-failure

 

Gaming and Learning

As a fledgling educator, I am very much interested in exploring teaching practices that can help make my classes seem less like “work” and more like “play” (both for my students and for myself!).  Although turning one’s classroom into a kind of “playground” might make some educators rather uneasy, the research does seem clear:  incorporating elements of play into the teaching/learning process greatly increases learning outcomes. Whether it be Prof. Smale’s Game On for Information Literacy card game, the University of Texas at Austin’s computer game Rhetorical Peaks (a mod of the game engine for Neverwinter Nights, adapted to teach students basic rhetorical concepts), or Lee Sheldon’s experiment in “gamifying” the entire structure of his class, each of these examples paved the way for a much higher level of student engagement. In fact, it could be said that, by trying out such experiments, we as educators begin to erode the binary categories of “playing” and “working” altogether, for nearly all games ask us to do things that would be considered “work” if we were required to do them in any other context.

I think Erica Kaufman poses a very important, fundamental question: how do we get our students to really be interested in their own learning? Aside from her attempts at using Makey Makey to inject interest in the writing process (which does indeed sound like a great deal of fun), I think she implicitly points out one of the main roots of student disinterest when she notes that in an environment where students are perpetually “on some kind of rubric quest,” interest can become secondary to grades and credit-mongering. This is one problem that I think games and play can directly respond to, at least in the structure of our classes. When one is playing a game, for instance, what you’re doing in the game doesn’t typically matter “outside” the domain of the game itself.  In other words, there are no “real” consequences to your actions in the game. One of the problems with tradtional pedagogy is just the reverse: it matters all too much.  An incredible pressure is placed upon college students to succeed and “achieve.” But by incorporating elements of play into our pedagogical approach, we could allow our students a sort of “zone of no consequence” wherein they could learn freely and without the counterproductive pressure and stress.

Although I could continue for quite some time to promote the benefits of bringing gaming into the classroom, I do want to note a potential obstacle that has lately occurred to me. As we know, any good and engaging game requires us to learn as we play, such that playing the game is equivalent to learning it. We learn what we need to by interacting with the system and seeing it evolve, instead of just being told everything at the beginning. Although this game design principle works very well for keeping players engaged, and could plausibly be adapted as a guiding principle for classroom learning, there could be some downsides to this as well. As Kahdeidra pointed out in a recent class, sometimes students simply aren’t told enough. Many students will go through their entire college careers not being told the important, practical things they need to learn. The “fend for yourself” attitude of gaming and the need to provide students with appropriate guidance should therefore be carefully balanced.

In general, I think gaming creates some very exciting new possibilities for our teaching practices.  However, these possibilities should be not be limited only to the classroom environment.  I think it also very important that we use what we learn from gaming to identify problems that arise at the administrative and institutional levels, for perhaps it is there that we could effect the greatest change.

 

 

Ethical Pedagogy within Unethical Networks

When was the last time you used a landline?

We’ve moved gradually to cellphone and non-phone communication networks over the past few decades. Our old copper-line infrastructure sits largely unused, and now companies like Verizon are moving to scoop up this valuable and unused copper while forcing users onto a fiber network. My parents upstate finally made the switch a few years ago, as their old landline (one of few numbers I remember) only received calls from telemarketers. Since then, however there have been several storms which wipe out their power. After such a storm, their phone’s charge percentage serve as a countdown to total isolation.

It’s not just that “new isn’t always better”, but that the new can make the old worse. The Network Effect is a catch-22 which makes a service valuable only once a significant number of people use it. The inverse, the “No Network Effect” means that even if you don’t like cell phones or emails or whatnot, you WILL upgrade or be removed from society.

” The heartfelt tune it plays is CC licensed, and you can get it from my seed on JoinDiaspora.net whenever that project gets going.”
xkcd 743 from 2010(!)

This concept is an important addition to the readings, particularly when we think of questions of consent. We may know about algorithm bias, digital redlining, and disparities in how infrastructure services the privileged v the vulnerable. The current platforms are unethical, but what good does knowing do us as individuals? Even if we don’t wish to consent to the current network, it is arranged so that the alternative is being rejected by society.

The questions I tend to focus on in terms of digital pedagogy are (1) how do we build/adopt inherently ethical networks (e.g. FLOSS)? And (2) how do we divest from or break unethical networks? Any educator plays an important role tools and platforms for their students, and these choices are inherently political. Teaching photoshop over GIMP; using SPSS over R; or accepting ‘.docx’ over ‘.odt’, are all choices which reduce or promote our students digital rights. How do we also balance this influence with what the Network Effects of industry standards?

A new question that came up for me this week was, to what extent are we also responsible to address these issues as they pertain to our students out-of-class lives? It’s one thing to not use facebook for class discussions, but our students are still on the platforms which don’t respect consent. (Platforms such as facebook go through great lengths just to avoid basic protections)

While this discussion is not at all relevant to most of our fields, should we dedicate some class time to it regardless? Similar to questions of litteracy, the curriculum fails to address these concerns anywhere along k-PhD.

I suspect I will in the future, if for no other reason than to justify why I am asking for “.odt” files. I’m interested in your feedback on what feels useful and what you imagine students would stick to, so I’ve prepared an example of a mini-cryptoparty-worksheet I might present to future students (in addition to discussing the issues above).

Have fun 🙂

Cryptoparty Worksheet

Even if you don’t care about your data, you should care about your shadow! Watch:

Data detox basics:

  1. Go through settings! The defaults are always worse than they need to be.
  2. Install these browser extensions: HTTPS everywhere, Privacy Badger, Terms of Service; Didn’t read, and uBlock Origin (Firefox/Chrome)[not the other adblockers out there!]
  3. Avoid using your phone! Computers give you much more control.
  4. Keep detoxing here: https://datadetox.myshadow.org/detox

Before using any tool or service, ask yourself:

      1. Is it free and open source, or is it proprietary?
      2. What do you know about the company which owns the service?
      3. What are the terms of service?
        “Lost in the small print” Helps make things more readable
      4. Has the tool been security audited?
      5. Who carried out the security audit?

     

  1. Don’t like the answers? Find alternatives!
    https://prism-break.org/en/
    https://alternativeto.net/

Provocation: Wikipedians

I did not know that 90% of Wikipedians were male. And this is not just in the U.S. but internationally, according to Ayush Khanna’s report: Nine out of ten Wikipedians continue to be men: Editor Survey. (2012)

On Saturday, I will be part of a group of writers joining in The Asian American Writers’ Workshop for a Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon for Asian American Literature. In this, we won’t separate Asian American women writers from male authors. But after reading the New York Times article by Amanda Fillipachi on wikipedia gender segregating American novelists, I wonder if we should also invade the American novelists Wikipedia page and add Asian American authors like Ed Lin, Carlos Bulosan and etc.

How have these statistics changed in the past six years?

I see that Wikimedia has become more active in bridging these gaps in gender and race (the Asian American Literature edit-a-thon is co-sponsored by Wikimedia). Is there more attention paid to recruiting grassroots community organizations built around identity to contribute?

In Feminist WikiStorming   The best lesson a professor can teach seems to be one in which the student is given the tools to become a producer. And by structuring assignments that encourage students to edit and create Wikipedia pages for artists overlooked by the typical editors, then it becomes one way to break these hegemonic narratives.

What topic-specific kinds of wiki-storming would you participate in or initiate with students?

I’m definitely enthusiastic about having students edit and create Wikipedia pages!

Digital Ethics Pre-Provocation: Data Selfie

Hey everyone, I will be writing a provacation on digital ethics later this week. I’m planning to make it very interactive, however one activity I’d like people to try does require a few days notice.

For folks who use Facebook on Firefox/Chrome, there is an open source extension I encourage you to install this week called  DataSelfie.it. This extension collects the same sort of data Facebook does, but stores information on your computer (not online) for your own analysis. The results give you a pretty good sense of what Facebook thinks of you, and what Cambridge-Analytica was actually up to with your data.

The extension: Firefox/Chrome

Here is a video to explain:

Wish everyone the best in today’s storm ~

Provocation – “Digital Literacy”

Sara Erenthal, a Brooklyn-based, multi-disciplinary artist, draw this onto the abandoned television in front of my apartment building in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (Photo taken by Kyueun Kim on April 13)

As I walked past my apartment’s trash bins on my way to a cafe to write this post, I came across Sara Erenthal’s street art that turned an abandoned television into an artwork. The word, “Real News,” framed in a television-trash (in a literal sense), immediately captured my attention. When did we start to put “real” in front of the word “news” or “fact” (with or without irony)? Do the words such as “real” or “news” (or fact, truth, etc.) still have as much credibility in the age of the Internet and social media as they used to have (mostly in the age of more traditional forms of journalism)? What constitutes real, fact, news and who approves the validity? Although the contents and the specific contexts of this week’s readings are in a wide-range, I think these are some of the basic and recurring questions. I spent more time than I expected to in doing both close and “lateral reading” (Sam Wineburg) of this week’s articles (i.e. following the hyperlinked texts, Googling some names or websites as suggested, skimming through the Wikipedia talk pages, etc.) and I needed to stop reading at a certain point, because otherwise I wouldn’t be able to write a post. I think this discursive journey reflects the process of reading and writing from/on the digital platforms, as the sources on the Internet are abundant (with or without multiple hyperlinks or further-related readings). Compared to my previous provocation for the ITP Core 1 class, which was a close reading of the chapters 3 and 4 of Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, the experience of reading and writing about “digital literacy” already embodies the different nature of knowledge/information production and circulation system. This is more personal remark based on my experience of writing, so if it doesn’t make any sense here I hope I can articulate it more in class. But the reason why I brought up the experiential layer is to emphasize the that digital literacy is a different mode of literacy, thus should be taught differently. The question is, HOW?

Sam Wineburg, Barbara Fister, Alex Juhasz all share similar anxieties over the culture built on the Internet–the circulation of misinformation/disinformation. I think all of them are good at identifying the problems and arguing for the changes, but I think the solutions they are providing should be more concrete and specific.

Sam Wineburg mentions four steps to “combat” fake news very briefly and generally. His article ends with saying “Schools must prepare kids for the real world instead of shielding them from it,” and I agree with his general idea, but I was not sure if he is proposing an individual teacher’s role and/or more organizational-educational reform. He emphasizes the teacher’s role and suggests, “Make sure teachers are trained on the matter.” However, I think the part of anxiety or struggle over this issue is that “adults” (as opposed to the digital natives) are not sure where we are heading towards, and there’s not always clear consensus on this issue. Barbara Fister’s article is also good at identifying the problems that Twitter, Facebook, Google produce, but again her article ends with “I don’t even know where to start”—which was a bit disappointing to read at this moment.

How can we move one step further to think about what we can teach more concretely–starting from where the authors left off? In the context of Facebook data breach and Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook hearing, how can the educators take advantage of it as a teaching moment? How can we concretize individual educator’s role but not lose sight of the institutional and societal aspects?

One of the hyperlinked articles from one of the readings this week—“Media literacy in 2016: Strategies to decipher what is real and what is fake news on your newsfeed”— includes some key questions we should be asking about our media consumption (not only limited to digital media):

Who is the sender of the message?
What is their motive or intent?
Who benefits from the message?
What tips and tricks do they use to get their message across?
Who is their intended audience?
What are they leaving out?
How could others interpret the message differently than you?

Do you think we need to add more questions specifically relating to digital media consumption? What are some questions that you can think about to add-on in general or more specifically relate to your field of study? How can we think about digital literacy and digital platforms beyond moralizing ground (meaning beyond just blaming the individuals or organizations spreading propaganda-fake-misleading information)? Do you think “reading laterally” is a good way of critically consuming information? I had an impression (and correct me if I am wrong) that much discussions around digital literacy are still focusing more on words and not much on the visual side of it. What was your impression?

 

OPEN ACCESS JOURNAL

 

Number 3. 

 

Open Access  Sources and Journal  first appear as an alternative  to standard or traditional sources that were viewed as costly, , selective and restricted to minorities or under privileged groups. The idea behind the creation of these sources was to promote the diffusion at lower cost to knowledge worldwide. Unfortunately,  observed some advocates of open sources, they are  still fighting against resistances widely spread about their  supposed cost and affordability.

For Peter Suber, Open Access to academic research is still a ‘hot’ topic that is unfortunately held back by people who should know it better. He identifies 6 main myths that need to be overcome in order to fully understand and then make good use of open access journals

The first stereotype is that ‘‘the only way to provide open access to peer-reviewed journal articles is to publish in open access journals’’. Beneath this myth, according to Suber, is  the misunderstanding of the  term journal  itself.  At this point, the difference between gold (from source journal or publisher) and green access (from repository or institutional website) seems to play a major role.

 The second myth is that ‘all or most Open Access Journals charge publication fees’ whereas facts, from  2006 -2012, are that more than 67% of OAJ are free while at the same time about 75% of  conventional non open journal actually charge fees. Consequently, it’s become clear that publishing in open access would be less expansive than doing so in a non-conventional journals.

The third myth asserts that ‘most author-side fees are paid by the authors themselves’, whereas  they are paid by funders (54% )or by universities (27%).  Moreover, it is only 12%  of that author fees that are actually paid out of author pocket.

The fourth  myth, establishes that ‘publishing in a conventional journal closes the door on making the same work open access’. At this stage, he underlines the point  that authors  might ask for addendum (a proposed contract modification which the publisher might or might not accept). Furthermore,  there is still the option of  ‘rights-retention policies’  on the side of faculty at the university level. These rights  ”assure that faculty may make their work open access even when they publish in a non-open access journal, even when the non-open access journal does not give standing permission for green open access, and even when faculty members have not negotiated special access terms or permissions with their publishers”

The fifth most recurring myth is related to the quality of  Open Access Journals . In that vein, it is commonly believed that ‘Open Access Journals are intrinsically low in quality’. That belief is proven to be false by Marie E. McVeigh. Indeed, in an article written in 2004, in the Thomson scientific, she reveals that “there was at least one open access title that ranked at or near the top of its field in citation impact”.

The six myth lays on the assumption that ‘Open Access mandates infringe academic freedom’. This myth is completely irrelevant according to Suber, because only ‘one-third of peer-reviewed journals are open access, requiring researchers to submit new work to Open Access Journals would severely limit their freedom to submit work to the journals of their choice’

Have you ever had any resistance to publish in an Open Journal? If yes, does any of your fear(s) to publish in Open Journal fall in one of Suber classification? Do you agree with any of Suber’s mythification of  common resistance to Open Journal?  If   yes which one and why? Are you convinced by the counterarguments he elaborated to breakdown these myths?

Hybrid/Online Learning II

I approached this week’s readings keeping last week’s readings in mind because this week’s class is Hybrid/Online Learning, Connectivism, and the University II, while also considering the prompts from the syllabus and the larger context of the Digital Pedagogy Unit we’re currently studying. At times while reading, reviewing last week’s readings and “task-switching” to print important pages and/or look up terms in the readings, it felt like juggling with all the balls in the air at the same time. But the good news is that by this morning, the readings’ content and their context started to gel.

I’d like to focus on Chapters 4-5 and Appendix in Digital Technology as Affordance and Barrier in Higher Ed (Smale and Regalado, 2017) and leave the remaining readings for class. I’m really intrigued by the very vast quantitative study that Smale and Regalado undertook, the extreme detail they went into with each participant and constituency, and their findings from a such labor-intensive research project for both participants and researchers.

Chapter 4 “College Students, Technology and Time” treats the concepts of  time and space in tech. I must admit, as I stare at 4 major projects on my  desk and desktop with deadlines all close to each other within the coming weeks, reading about time and time management in academic work with the task of being this week’s motivator was pushing my buttons. Still, the concept of time + space in tech is larger than my own personal situation. For example, we all experience that “digital devices teleport work into spaces and times once reserved for personal life” (Wajcman 2015, 137 in Smale and Regalado 2017, 60) and while this can be great it is also be really tricky to manage.

So I pose this opening question: how do you manage tech in spaces and times once reserved for personal life?

I myself have maintained “sacred times + spaces” such as meals with family, mornings, bedtime, and DRIVING, during which no tech is allowed. This has been a tech battle with my teen since her high school teachers use Remind apps, Google classroom, etc. and often post important info very early in the morning on the day of classes or late at night the night before classes. I get aggravated by this because I feel it erodes all the years of my parenting/modeling “no tech” at such times.

Start the day with a sun salutation not a Facebook update, please!!!

Chapter 4 also speaks to the need for students to be “adaptable” due to the vicissitudes of tech (slow wifi, smartphone charging, power outages due to weather, etc.) As a freelancer (which we’re not supposed to say anymore, I believe the correct term is now “flex time worker”) and adjunct professor, in my “lived experience”, adaptability is essential.

Do you find your students to be rigid, adaptible/flexible or just simply not skilled enough yet with tech? What are some of the affordances and barriers you encounter as teachers and in your students?

I’ve thought about this often in the context of “the trope of the digital native” (Smale and Regalado, 80). I, too, agree Smale and Regalado, who are in agreement with “Bennett and Maton (2010) who suggest we must move beyond the ‘digital natives’ debate as it currently stands” (Smale and Regalado, 75) or as Ryan Cordell articulates in “How Not to Teach the Digital Humanities” (a reading from Core 1) “digital native does not equal mastery”. (Debates in Digital Humanities 2016, 464)

In Chapter 5 “Recommendations for Technology in Higher Education” the researchers “found that fixed tech’s greatest restriction on students’ academic task-scapes is that it requires them to create academic space for themselves in locations that may be occupied by multiple other people engaged in a variety of activities… Mobile tech can allow students to transcend place… affording them the opportunity to reduce the distractions of others” (Smale and Regalado, 74) to which I’d add, provided their own distractions (notifications, updates, Snapchat selfie taking etc.) are turned off or silenced while they’re working academically, in order to amplify/maximize/dedicate time. I heard a study cited–I can’t remember the name or group which conducted it at the moment–which reported that it is estimated that women in college spend 10 hours PER DAY futzing on smartphones–why the study singled out women I don’t know–but still, this is staggering!)

To the point of time usage and economy, the students revealed a finding that the “most useful” tech was for “managing time or time-saving”. But while “technology can certainly be harnassed to provide support for student time management” (Smale & Regalado 81) I find the use of remind apps to be another tricky thing to manage in and of themselves. They’re great when the remind is programmed or the event info is input by students themselves, but if it’s part of a larger automation I think it takes away from learning the very valuable and essential time-management skills, that are also a BIG part of learning and researching.

In summary, Chapters 4, 5 and Appendix bring to light the “lived experience” of tech, or as Laurie Hurson said during a TLC workshop that I attended (which Jing and Kyueun also attended) on Teaching With the Commons when WordPress hit a bump during a demo, “this is when tech gets real”.

I’ve found that the use of tech is always about “the time created with one digital technology evaporate[ing] due to the barriers of another” (Smale & Regalado 64) and that we must CHOOSE WISELY as educators and students ourselves.

Chapters 4, 5 and Appendix also bring up the concept of BOUNDARIES in TIME/SPACE/PLACE and made me examine the following questions in regard to academic work, which: -Where do I want to work? -What time/s can I work? -WHEN do I work best? WHEN does my sched allow me to work? (often the ideal/optimal/desired times do not correspond to deadlines.)

Perhaps we could create a check list of FUNCTIONS of TECH in HIGHER ED:

-Learning

-Teaching

-Exchanging: academics, relevant anecdotes in both academic content and academic tech

-Streamlining! Less is more

What would you add this this list?

Finally, how do you think these chapters speak to the syllabus prompts:

“What are the biases of the technologies we’re using, and how can we interrogate those biases from within the environment they have created?”

It’s clear from reading Smale and Regalado’s comprehensive research that tech access + digital literacy are matters of social justice. I really liked the professor in an allied health department at City Tech who said, “as faculty we teach content, but I like to think that we, more-so, facilitate learning through technology”. (Smale & Regalado 80)

Indeed, I find this to be the mandate we face as educators.

In closing, please find photos of my own personal remind system, the very high tech Post-It Note attached to my smartphone and clothing. The most important thing about tech, low or high, is that it must work for you.

Works for me!

Measuring Student Work

My provocation builds off one of the many questions from last week’s class–how can we teach “off the template” in a way that still teaches technique? In other words, how can we teach our students to engage critically with the course material without employing convenient but stale “templates”? In teaching writing, for example, are we bound to teaching the five-paragraph essay or paragraph structure, in order to understand the function of claims, evidence, and analysis in written work? Isn’t that template the easiest way?

After this week’s readings, it seems to me that the problem goes deeper than this question of method. It goes to the very assumptions of the course itself, which is tied to specific learning objectives. These learning objectives assume that “learning” occurs when the student can demonstrate her skills for “critical thinking” and “analysis”. For example, I’m including the learning objectives from the English 220 course I teach at Hunter college.

  1. Write thesis-driven analytical essays on all three genres (Poetry, fiction, drama) that incorporate evidence from the literary texts and demonstrates close reading skills.
  2. Write an analytical research paper of at least 6-8 pages that demonstrates close reading skills and the appropriate use of evidence from literary texts; the ability to create a clear thesis statement; and the ability to incorporate and engage scholarly critical sources as part of a well-organized, thesis-driven argument.
  3. Discuss fiction, poetry, and Shakespearean drama verbally through the use of close reading skills and, where appropriate, basic literary terminology.
  4. Demonstrate some familiarity with literary criticism in class discussion or writing, or both.
  5. Demonstrate the ability to compare and/or contrast literary works.

All of these objectives boil down to some basic requirements: demonstrating “close reading skills”, the “appropriate use of evidence”, argumentation, “familiarity with literary criticism” and ‘basic literary terminology”, in the form of “thesis-driven analytical essays” and class discussion. Reading over these requirements, it seems to me that the course is not so much encouraging students to think critically as it is teaching them to mimic a process that has been time-tested in teaching literary analysis. If the student can demonstrate familiarity with literary terms, criticism, and close reading skills, and the proper use of evidence and argumentation, all within thesis-driven essays, then she will have passed the course. But none of these requirements address the student’s personal response to the text, what she brings to the table, and her grappling with the text.

The problem, it seems to me, is that we are measuring students on performance, on the final product, rather than on process. Amelia Abreau writes about the difficulty of quantifying moments of struggle and emotional toil, which often occurs in caregiving. She begins her article by saying that, currently, there is no way to quantify caregiving (such as the work of caring for a young, dependant child), and suggests that we ought to imagine data gathering in ways that empower caregivers and other low-wage laborers, rather than aim for “near-perfect, near-universal metrics”. Abreau questions: “Rather than seeking to perfect measures and standards of that work through statistical working-over, can we envision workers taking their own data to management to improve working conditions?” Abreau’s article encourages us to apply quantification in new ways, in order to measure what has previously been overlooked or has been unmeasurable.

My provocation, then, takes this example from caregiving into the classroom: How can we assess students on their moments of difficulty and struggle, rather than on the final product? What specific ideas do you have for “measuring” student’s challenges with the course material?

And, to take this in another direction—how can we employ the “connectivist” nature of learning with digital tools (a topic touched on by many of our readings) in order to enhance the way that we measure moments of difficulty and struggle? I’m thinking specifically of the opportunities opened up by collaboration and group work across networks. The Femtechnet Manifesto, for example, asserts that “Collaboration is a feminist technology”. How can we make the struggle that students undergo when grappling with new concepts more visible by assigning collaborative work?

Motivation: 3/12 Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age

“Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age” December 12, 2004 George Siemens

As an educational technologist, I was at first skeptical since this was published in 2004. Sometimes reading articles, research, or theories about technology or our approaches to it, I am skeptical that it could be a bit outdated in 2018. However, I believe that Siemens brings up fundamental concepts concerning our approach to technology and the theoretical frameworks that shape our thinking that is relevant in educational environments. I even think he shares some prophetic truths our students and teachers are facing today. In fact, I think I found my new favorite learning theory!

I spend a lot of my time thinking about the best approaches Schools of Education should take in teaching educational technology for pre-service educators because of my unique positioning as a high school English teacher and Adjunct Professor. In NYCDOE schools, I feel like the conversations Siemens wants us to have are happening within clusters of very passionate educators who understand the way that technology can transform classroom learning. However, this seems to be happening in the K-12 environment since it is absent, or not refined, in the Higher Education sphere.

Ultimately, no matter what the learning environment, there are fundamental similarities about the way that we learn that we must consider when thinking about pedagogy. Siemens writes that “Technology is altering (rewiring) our brains. The tools we use define and shape our thinking.” As a millennial who grew up without smartphones, went to school without interactive whiteboards, and is a teacher where technology is everywhere, I also consider the way that technology has re-wired our approaches to teaching environments.

Another part of the text that struck me is when he writes that “Informal learning is a significant aspect of our learning experience. Formal education no longer comprises the majority of our learning. Learning now occurs in a variety of ways – through communities of practice, personal networks, and through completion of work-related tasks.” This made me question, well, what is formal education anymore?

I enjoyed the concept of Connectivism as a theory since I think it encompasses, or perhaps even perfectly summarizes, my approach to education: “Connectivism is the integration of principles explored by chaos, network, and complexity and self-organization theories. Learning is a process that occurs within nebulous environments of shifting core elements – not entirely under the control of the individual.” To me, this translates to that learning is continuous and not limited to the classroom and that we can use technology to empower us as educators and learners. Technology can bring learning alive and — in its own way — is nebulous too.

____

Provocateur questions:
Siemens closes his essay writing that “The field of education has been slow to recognize both the impact of new learning tools and the environmental changes in what it means to learn.”

1. I am curious as to what ways people think they have seen this statement as True or Not True according to their own experiences in education (K-12 or Higher Ed).
2. When Siemens references nebulous, he says that “learning occurs within nebulous environments.” When looking up nebulous, one of the definitions describes “in the form of a cloud or hazy.” I think it’s ironic (and potentially prophetic) that we now collaborate and operate a significant portion of our technological lives in “the cloud.” How has cloud-based learning (like Dropbox, drive, iCloud) enhanced the meaning of connectivism since 2004?
3. The other day, the company Mursion was brought to my attention by a technologist colleague. They are a VR/AR company that simulates real-life experiences to refine essential skills for practitioners. How can the idea of connectivism play a role in learning with new and innovative technologies that are now emerging like these?