People in the Field: Deb Chachra (edited – This is what I should have said)

As an Indigenous person, it was incredibly important for me to seek out a BIPOC member of the education community to lift up, and frankly to admire, even if ever so briefly in this fast-paced world. More importantly, however, it was about changing the discourse that seemed to be thick with the status quo.

I want to engage in topics that appear to be on the fringe and to bend them back into our conversations. I want to be helpful, and if that means something only for the community of learners for which I am responsible day in and day out, then that will suffice. For the moment.

Delving deep into issues of equity and social justice is exhausting work, but it is necessary.

I share with you Deb Chachra, Professor of Engineering at Olin College, a small undergraduate university in Massachusetts, USA. Dr. Chachra is an example of the spark that we all need every once in a while to get the fire started. I share her work because it has been a spark for me.

I was instantly struck by her enthusiasm, inspired by her energy, and by her views on education. Listening to her speak in Sources and Methods #30: Deb Chachra (2016), Chachra describes her article in the Atlantic, Why I am not a Maker, which deals with maker culture, the social history of makers-of-things as elitist and overvalued while calling out the stigmatization of those who do the labour. She speaks of how we learn from the making that we put out into the world, and of having a zibaldone, and of libraries. She speaks of education models, of how the factory model of education is about quality control and cost efficiency (which we see a lot of in Weller’s 25 Years of Ed Tech). In Gratitude for Invisible Systems: One way to improve democracy is for more people to appreciate its complex technological underpinnings, Chachra speaks of invisible systems that underpin our democratic society, systems that we subscribe to as members of citizenry and only notice when these systems fail (think pandemic). She also wrote Care at Scale, centring infrastructural citizenship that begins with place-based learning and reads like a manifesto where we follow Chachra on an analysis of interconnectivity. On Twitter, she shares variations on the intersections of education, engineering and science, gender studies, technology and culture, and the environment. She writes a weekly newsletter, Metafoundry, you can also find her on Instagram, and she is writing a book on Infrastructural Systems.

I hope you find value in her work, but if you do not, I challenge you to seek out BIPOC members of the international educational technology community and the work they are doing. There are many.

The Great Media Debate

Co-Authored by: Alisha and Angela

Perhaps the enduring quality of The Great Media Debate between Richard Clark and Robert Kozma lies in the tension between the romanticism of traditional learning and the techno-deterministic optimism surrounding digital media in education.

How interactive whiteboards took over

Interactive whiteboards, perhaps best known for the Smartboard brand, were first invented in 1990. Within a decade they flooded schools and many believed that they would revolutionize education. Fast-forward to present day: Many schools are phasing out these aging giants and defaulting to data projectors and analog whiteboards. Clark (1994) and Kozma (1994) might each argue different reasons for this, but we believe they would agree on one thing: Excellent learning methodology is key, regardless of media.

Clark’s stance on the replaceability test would argue that interactive whiteboards are really no different from data projectors combined with a traditional whiteboard or chalkboard. They are simply vehicles to deliver content and facilitate learning activities. Kozma would likely rebut that interactive whiteboards possess some unique attributes such as touch sensors that allow teachers and learners to employ different methods suited to their complex social and cultural contexts. Theoretically, these unique attributes contribute to greater engagement and learning, plus increased efficiency for teachers. Clark would be quick to point out that due to the high capital purchase cost, installation and maintenance, plus the ability to use other media for similar functions, they are unnecessary, or perhaps even irrelevant. In addition to these arguments, aging fleets of interactive whiteboards are declining in functionality and teachers often simply use them as projectors these days. 

Despite this, the industry is growing, and many teachers and learners use interactive whiteboards and other technology in innovative ways to support and further powerful social learning. We would ultimately support Kozma’s argument that media and method are linked, but we also agree with both Clark and Kozma, that excellent methods precede media.

Is TikTok the fastest growing social media platform in 2021?

The advent of TikTok has changed the way audiences receive and interact with media. It offers you 15 seconds to shine your light on the world and allows content creators to work through instant gratification to reel in views with hopes of signaling an algorithm that ensures virality. The impacts of TikTok extend beyond techno-determinism to outright validation; from news media and journalism to pop artists, content must meet a certain standard and reach new younger audiences. Musicians have also felt the consequences, affecting the way media is created, for example songwriting to fit the 15 second threshold. Artists have to consider the algorithms that dictate what is heard and how far content spreads, therefore creators must constantly adapt and be creative to remain relevant. In education, TikTok can be applied to pedagogy and practice for positive effects such as creative engagement, responsibility, community-building, and networking.

Today, Clark (1994) would argue that TikTok is just another medium that requires teaching presence, that it does not meet the replaceability test, and that it is not a method because content creators are the instructors providing learning. Kozma (1994), on the other hand, would say that the relationship between users and the media of TikTok is interactive and reciprocal. He would say that TikTok asks creators to process and represent information within the parameters or requirements of the tool, therefore the media impacts the learning. Content creators must understand TikTok’s symbol systems, or rules, in order to interact with it, which in turn represents the user’s knowledge of the system. The only downside is that this media does not produce these impacts for viewers, only for content creators. In this regard, creators and viewers represent a limited segment of the population and one might wonder about the social impact and longevity of this and other social media.

References:

Clark, R. E. (1994). Media will never influence learning. Educational Technology Research and Development, 42(2), 21-29

Kozma, R. B. (1994). Will media influence learning: Reframing the debate. Educational Technology Research and Development, 42(2), 7-19

Is tiktok the fastest growing social media platform in 2021? (2021, July 13). W3 Lab. https://w3-lab.com/is-tiktok-the-fastest-growing-social-media-platform-in-2021/  

Vázquez-Herrero, J., Negreira-Rey, M.C., & López-García, X. (2020). Let’s dance the news! How the news media are adapting to the logic of tiktok. Journalism, 1-19. https://doi.org/10.1177/1464884920969092

Yoshida, K. (2021, February 17). How interactive whiteboards took over. Scot Scoop News. https://scotscoop.com/how-interactive-whiteboards-took-over/ 

People in the Field: Deb Chachra

I spent a fair amount of time searching before I found Deb Chachra, Professor of Engineering at Olin College, a small undergraduate university in Massachusetts, USA.

I was instantly struck by her enthusiasm, inspired by her energy, and by her views on education. Listening to her speak in Sources and Methods #30: Deb Chachra (2016), Chachra describes her article in the Atlantic, Why I am not a Maker, which deals with maker culture, the social history of makers-of-things as elitist and overvalued while calling out the stigmatization of those who do the labour. She speaks of how we learn from the making that we put out into the world, and of having a zibaldone, and of libraries. She speaks of education models, of how the factory model of education is about quality control and cost efficiency (which we see a lot of in Weller’s 25 Years of Ed Tech). In Gratitude for Invisible Systems: One way to improve democracy is for more people to appreciate its complex technological underpinnings, Chachra speaks of invisible systems that underpin our democratic society, systems that we subscribe to as members of citizenry and only notice when these systems fail (think pandemic). She also wrote Care at Scale, centring infrastructural citizenship that begins with place-based learning and reads like a manifesto where we follow Chachra on an analysis of interconnectivity. On Twitter, she shares variations on the intersections of education, engineering and science, gender studies, technology and culture, and the environment. She writes a weekly newsletter, Metafoundry, you can also find her on Instagram, and she is writing a book on Infrastructural Systems.

A Reflection on Martin Weller’s 25 Years of Ed Tech (Part 2)

Part One: Is the ed tech Weller describes relevant to my work?

In Chapter 11 of 25 Years of Ed Tech, entitled: 2004 Open Educational Research, Weller identifies impacts, possibilities, and limitations of Open Educational Resources (OER). One of the notable impacts of OER use is teacher reflection on practice which usually results in the inclusion of a ​​spectrum of content and approaches to their pedagogy (Weller, 2020).

I consider myself a secondary user of OER, and see myself moving to a primary user role, but the existing infrastructure is limited for the k-12 learner group. For example, Edwin is an online resource that has pulled materials from Nelson and other publishing companies to mirror what takes place in a face-to-face classroom for virtual teaching and learning. If you do a quick Google search, you’ll see it espouses itself as “tomorrow’s digital learning environment making education better for everyone today.” The content is the same however it is a new take, as it packages in-person learning by moving the textbook online in a user-friendly multimodal way. The thing is, many teachers have been doing this type of facilitating in their in-person classroom for as long as access to digital textbooks has been available. This self-proclaimed digital learning environment can easily be confused as “new” and absorbed into mainstream k-12 academia much to the chagrin of the potential of OERs. 

In a perfect world, I would not have to sign up for a webinar hosted by a math coach (who, as an aside, is wonderful), in order to learn about how to use the materials that I have access to in my digital dashboard. In a perfect world, this coach would post a blog every other day (or whenever convenient) about the day-to-day tips, tricks, and links to meaningful content for educators. This ease-of-use and sharing of knowledge would not only allow those who are least interested, or tertiary, to join in on the fun, and give their students access to the amazing ed tech that exists.

Part Two: Between the Chapters #11 sharing about OER & our open practices with @judyphalet, @catherinecronin, @vrodes, & @marendeepwell

I have been toiling with the notion that what has taken place within education over the past 18 months should not be taken for granted. I felt that a shift to a more substantial use of technology would enhance our practice (as k-12 educators). When Judith Pete spoke of the new norm where institutions “cannot sideline the use of technology” (Weller, 2021, 4:47), the notion revealed itself to be the possibility of a new standard of what learning could mean for educators and for students. It would be a stark contrast to the rhetoric of subscriptions to publishers, where “content is king” (Weller, 2020, p.78), and the expectation that funds be used for this content alone. It could mean a reinvention of the school day.

This optimism is in direct contrast to a return to the status quo. The potential for change and for a better quality of life for those who work within the walls of educational institutions and those who enter day in and day out, deserve a better experience. We have a collective responsibility and a collective opportunity to do better now that we have metaphorically seen the light.

 

References

Weller, M. (2020). 25 Years of Ed Tech. Athabasca University Press.

Weller, M. (Host). (2021, January 21). Between the Chapters #11 sharing about OER & our open practices with @judyphalet, @catherinecronin, @vrodes, & @marendeepwell [Audio podcast episode]. In 25 Years of Ed Tech. Athabasca University Press CC-BY-NC-ND. https://25years.opened.ca/2021/01/27/between-the-chapters-oer/

A Reflection on Martin Weller’s 25 Years of Ed Tech (Part 1)

I had experienced the shift from in-person to virtual teaching when Covid-19 hit Ontario in 2020. As a middle school teacher (grades 7&8), I was relatively comfortable with the shift, but I knew I had a lot yet to learn, and felt I had just scratched the surface of ed tech in my programming. 

Weller contends that “one of the recurring themes in ed tech [is] that the implementation of technology makes people evaluate what is core in education itself, which had hitherto been implicit” (Weller, 2020, p.24). In my K-12 experience, this statement presupposes educators are reflective. 

I was on leave for the first instructional term of 2020, and when I returned to teaching in 2021, it was to a virtual classroom. I had assumptions of what was taking place throughout the school year: students engaging in various platforms and apps, amongst other inquiry and problem-based activities. To my shock, I found that the instructor prior to me had been employing an instructivist, lecture-based model. I wondered, how could this be the case in 2021? 

In Chapter 4: Constructivism, Weller looks at professor of social anthropology Michael Wesch’s 2008 work on student perception of a lecture hall, or the learning environment. It revealed student experiences such as “to learn is to acquire information,” to “trust authority for good information” and to “follow along” (Weller, 2020, p.32). As I was introducing lessons and activities to my class, I was met with this type of thinking. My students were prepared to follow along with anything I had to say and to copy documents, rather than engage, develop ideas and collaborate. They simply did not have the digital literacy, nor the digital skills, in the virtual setting to do so. As this was the first year of virtual school for students in elementary school, the onus was placed on the instructor. In Wesch’s A Portal to Media Literacy, he reflects on his role as instructor, or facilitator, in a collaborative and shared learning environment. What had happened with the students in my virtual class was akin to a university lecture hall in the pre-ed tech era, due to a lecture-style learning environment. Even though the classroom was 21 students in size it might as well have been a lecture hall with 200+ students, awaiting instruction from an authority figure, a knowledge-keeper. While the internet was literally at their fingertips. I suppose this is a danger of the virtual classroom (K-12), where an instructor can negate the possibility of learner agency.

References: 

Weller, M. (2020). 25 Years of Ed Tech. Athabasca University Press.

Research: A Few Notes from Dr. George Veletsianos

It is a curious endeavour, listening to experts share understandings. A requisite to this listening is open-mindedness undoubtedly, but it is also a matter of reciprocity. If I am able to absorb the content shared with me and recognize its value, I may in turn produce a meaningful byproduct. A student listening to a professor speak their expertise begs a curious question of inevitably: how do I not incorporate this value into my construct of knowledge in this subject matter? The expertise can either affirm prior knowledge, or it can provide new insights, both benefiting the listener.

In our LRNT 522 course conclusion, students were given the opportunity to seek understandings from Dr. George Veletsianos through a set of interview questions. The responses are honest and they engender considerations for action. Here are my takeaways from Dr. Veletsianos (G. Veletsianos, personal communication,  August 11, 2021):

    1. Stay true to yourself: Focus on what interests you.
    2. Make sure what you’ve chosen to focus on is applicable (social benefit).
    3. Discover what others have said, and be informed by what has come before you (scope).
    4. Try to answer your research question by what others have said; how do you add value to what is already out there? (depth)
    5. Literature Review: consider it as a meaningful review of literature that relates to your topic, as an exercise in how your topic compliments what has been researched.

These five points are but a few of the key ingredients that make up the ever-evolving journey of a MALATian, students in the Master of Arts Learning and Technology program.

What Makes a Good Research Question?

A research question forms out of a necessity to delve deeper into a subject matter and becomes the foundation for a study. A good research question “…aims to explore an existing uncertainty in an area of concern and points to a need for deliberate investigation” (Ratan et. al., 2019, p.15).

A good and effective research question should be:

      • specific, well-conceived, and define what you will examine
      • clear and concise, yet open to interpretation and argument
      • based on good research and evidence

A good research question will:

      • be relevant, addressing a problem that has yet to be unpacked
      • guide the study design through an applicable methodological approach
      • utilize the FINERMAPS acronym: feasible, interesting, novel, ethical, relevant, manageable, appropriate, potential value, publishability, and systematic (Ratan et. al., 2019).

Developing a research question requires time and thoughtful consideration. Remember the acronym for the characteristics of a good research question: FINERMAPS, feasible, interesting, novel, ethical, relevant, manageable, appropriate, potential value, publishability, and systematic. Incorporating these considerations will allow for the creation of a strong and impactful research question.

References

Ratan, S. K., Anand, T., & Ratan, J. (2019). Formulation of Research Question – Stepwise Approach. Journal of Indian Association of Pediatric Surgeons, 24(1), 15–20. https://doi.org/10.4103/jiaps.JIAPS_76_18

Impact of Digital Learning on the Existing Digital Divide in Canada

For this activity, I partnered with Anabella and Jolee to discuss the impact of digital learning on the existing digital divide in Canada. In doing so, we gathered information to highlight the plans and policies in place to reduce the digital divide and increase digital literacy and inclusion, as well as articulate the impact on academic performance.

Please hover over the hotspots to find articles to support our research.

Unit 3 Reflection

In my initial post for my Digital Presence and Digital Identity Plan, I used narration to paint a picture of Teacher Presence (Garrison, 2000, p.87), and the role of teaching within a closed group (Dron & Anderson, 2014). After reading several works and gaining a better understanding for the definitions, concepts and competencies found within digital learning environments, I will return to modify my plan to include specific language. For example, I will include the Community of Inquiry model (CoI), and extend this to include the “three elements deemed essential to successful educational transactions: cognitive presence, teaching presence, and social presence” (Dron & Anderson, p.110). Further to this, I intend on developing considerations around collaboration, specifically how it relates to learning, where “[c]ollaboration is seen as an essential aspect of cognitive development since cognition cannot be separated from the social context” (Garrison, 2000, p.92). If the end result is that digital learning environments create critical thinkers who develop knowledge acquisition, through social interactions, that take place in and across multiple nets and sets, then I’m all in!

 

References:

Dron, J., & Anderson, T. (2104). Teaching Crowds. Athabasca University Press.
https://www.aupress.ca/books/120235-teaching-crowds/


Garrison, R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in text based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education.
The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2–3), 87–105. https://ezproxy.royalroads.ca/login?url=http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1096751600000166

Visual Network Map

The networks presented in my Visual Network Map are indicative of the various areas of interest and intersections of both my work and personal endeavours. As Dron & Anderson (2014) point out in Teaching Crowds, “[e]very individual’s network is different from those of others because it is defined by social connections and therefore it matters whose perspective and connections are being observed” (p.76). It is through this relationship of perspective and observation of connections, that I have constructed the networks presented here. My professional network is simply labeled Education Network. The modes of interactions in this network are primarily one-to-one, although some are one-to-many. Included in this map are my peers within the MALAT program, a network connected to my higher education pursuits. The Volleyball Network is a blend of professional (coaching) and participation in sport (athlete), where both have allowed for many meaningful connections. The Personal Social Network is made up of friends and family, where primary interactions are one-to-one, or one-to-many, and are done through social media tools such as Instagram and Facebook.

I have used Kumu to complete this mapping task. Kumu offers ease-of-use and accessibility for even the most inexperienced user. If you have a LinkedIn account, you will delight in its features of importing csv. files and modifying where needed. It offers tutorials and how-to’s if you ever run into trouble. There is one drawback from my experience, in that it does require some time to edit if you are not importing a large network of connections from LinkedIn.

Angela’s Visual Network Map

 

References:

Dron, J., & Anderson, T. (2014). Teaching Crowds. Athabasca University Press. https://www.aupress.ca/books/120235-teaching-crowds/