Kozma, Clark and AI Adaptive Learning

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Kozma (1994) put forth Clarke’s (1983) argument that media does not influence learning and needs reframing because separating the method and medium creates a division.  However, both are part of instructional design and should be addressed with integration in mind (Kozma, 1994). Clarke (1994) responded to Kozma (1994) and reaffirmed his position that media does not influence learning while arguing various points that critique his earlier findings.  Since 1994, media has evolved, and the use of media in education is not what it was.  As we look at two recent articles that convey the adaptation of Artificial Intelligence to create personalised learning experiences, we wonder if the debate matters in 2022 and if we (Gill and Michael) have moved beyond it.

Li (2022), introduces an upcoming product of the Google classroom suite called ‘practice sets.” The practice sets (interactive assignments) are designed by the teacher that uses AI for immediate feedback and can supply resources to help each student further their understanding of the topic (Li, 2022). What resources the student accesses depend on their responses and learning needs determined by AI (Li, 2022). Similarly, George (2019) introduces Priya Lakhani and her company CENTURY tech, which uses AI to improve learning outcomes through individualized learning and lessen teachers’ workload by decreasing assessment and feedback demands. The CENTURY tech platform hosts entire courses and all their parts, whereby students move through modules, lessons and assignments (George, 2019). Based on their responses, the technology determines how/ where they move next and what resources they need. The scale of CENTURY tech and “practice sets” is not the same (practice sets are still in Beta mode); however, they both utilise AI to create adaptive learning experiences for students while removing the need for teachers to provide individual feedback.       

Adaptive learning is a means of online instruction based on constructivism, whereby the learner gains a personalised experience that is data-driven and constructs the learning experience based on the learner’s prior knowledge and experience to learn the content (Shelle et al., 2018).  What would Kozma say in reaction to these programs and approaches to learning?  We think that AI-driven adaptive learning methods presented in the articles speak to his point that the future of media and their impact on learning will change the conversation (Kozma, 1994).  Advances in AI- technology, such as “advances in language models and video understanding” (Li, 2022 para. 6) we think are that tipping point in the conversation because he stated, “media must be designed to give us powerful new methods, and our methods must take appropriate advantage of medium’s capabilities” (Kozma, 1994 p.16) and that is what is occurring in AI-driven adaptive learning. By removing the traditional linear approach to learning and design, students have an opportunity to learn in a way that suits their needs to construct meaning and meet outcomes. Media does influence learning in these instances because the AI directs what the student uses to construct that meaning and in-turn what they learn.

Clark (1994) believed mediums are mere delivery devices for content. Content that clearly, efficiently and effectively communicates ideas and knowledge will do so regardless of the medium it is delivered on (1994). While Clark’s opinion may be valid for static content, it is less so with dynamic content that adapts to a learner’s abilities. According to constructivism theory, learners do not simply consume information in a one-way stream of information from the medium to the learner . Learners instead learn from their interactions with a medium and the world around them (University of Bufflalo, n.d.). For AI adaptive learning, the medium adapts and changes the content in real time based on the learner’s interaction with the AI. The medium’s content is dynamic and helps to construct the knowledge received by the learner. Clark might argue that other mediums can be adaptive as well. A human tutor given similar content would achieve similar results to an AI tool. Of course, providing every student with a human tutor is impractical, less efficient, and costly. Clark would welcome the medium of adaptive learning because it allows teachers to provide individual learners customized instruction based on each learner’s needs efficiently and economically, something that would not be possible with other static mediums.

Nearly 40 years have passed since Clark (1983) first posited that the media is merely a delivery device for learning material and does not on its own influence learning. A decade later, Kozma (1994) questioned this view. Kozma (1994) stressed the importance of a science that deals with learning production, that instructional designers understand the conditions that bring about learning. Kozma (1994) asks instructional designers to learn about the capabilities of a media, to maximize a media’s ability to foster an effective learning environment. Fast-forward to today (2022) and digital media has evolved far beyond the basic interactive video discs and simple computer games that existed during Kozma and Clark’s debate in the mid-1990s. AI-powered adaptive learning that is just now emerging allows media to adapt dynamically on the fly to each learner’s learning style and pace. We believe that Kozma and Clark would see the possibilities this new AI medium will open up. Kozma would want us as instructional designers to study and learn about the attributes of adaptive learning to use them effectively. Clark (1994), while arguing that it is still the message and not the medium that is of primary importance, would nevertheless see the efficiency and scale that adaptive learning enables in delivering tailored learning to individual learners. 

In summary, although we agree with Clark’s (1994) view that it is the method that is most important and not the medium, we lean more towards Kozma’s view that the medium and the method are intertwined and not separate. One influences the other. AI Driven adaptive learning is a powerful technology that is in its infancy. As Kozma (1994) states, it is essential that instructional designers understand this medium and how best to use it.

References

Clark, R. E. (1983). Reconsidering research on learning from media. Review of Educational Research, 53(4), 445–459. https://doi.org/10.3102/00346543053004445

Clark, R. E. (1994). Media will never influence learning. Educational Technology Research and Development, 42(2), 21–29. https://doi.org/10.1007/bf02299088

George, M. (2019, June 7). How AI can cut workload and create ‘super-teachers’. tes magazine. https://www.tes.com/magazine/archive/how-ai-can-cut-workload-and-create-super-teachers

Kozma, R. B. (1994). Will media influence learning? reframing the debate. Educational Technology Research and Development, 42(2), 7–19. https://doi.org/10.1007/bf02299087

Li, A. (2022, March 16). Google classroom ‘practice sets’ will give students real-time help as part of ‘adaptive learning’ push. 9to5Google. https://9to5google.com/2022/03/16/google-classroom-practice-sets/

Shelle, G., Earnesty, D., Pilkenton, A., & Powell, E. (2018, September 1). Adaptive learning: An innovative method for online teaching and learning. Journal of Extension, 56(5). https://tigerprints.clemson.edu/joe/vol56/iss5/17

University of Bufflalo. (n.d.). Contructivism. University of Buffalo. Retrieved September 24, 2022, from https://www.buffalo.edu/catt/develop/theory/constructivism.html

People in the field: Audrey Watters

When reading Weller’s (2020) book 25 Years of Ed Tech, a name kept popping up when Weller was bringing up points of view on education technology that I either strongly agreed with or could relate to. That name was Audrey Watters. Two key points in Weller’s (2020) book led me to take a deeper look into Watter’s work in education technology, 1) Watter’s opinion, as cited in Weller (2020, p. 73) concerning her belief that learners should have a place on the web that learners have complete control over, and 2) Watter’s thinking around how Artificial Intelligence (AI) and how it ultimately is created by humans who knowingly or unknowingly add in their own beliefs and biases to an AI system (Watters as cited in Weller, 2020, p. 160). While important to me, these two points were just the tip of the iceberg when exploring Watter’s contributions to the knowledge of ideas around education technology.

When looking for Watter’s about page, I found this humorous entry on her website:

“It’s a long story, and I’m in the process of rewriting the whole goddamn narrative arc.” (Watters, 2022)

As you can tell, she has a humourous side, which makes her writings on EdTech approachable and easy to digest. Watter appears to have taken a step back from active critiques of education technologies to focus on other aspects of her life. Still, in the recent past, she contributed to her blog on education technology called Hack Education and has written several books on the subject with titles that would be at home as 50’s horror movie titles (see resource list below). In addition to her writings on edTech, Watters has contributed to several academic and non-academic periodicals and websites over many years. Most interestingly to me as a web developer instructor is Watter’s (2015) book titled Claim Your Domain, which explains how students can and why they should own their data and the work that students publish digitally on the web.

Although Watter did not create some fantastic piece of software that doubled learning outcomes for students or made a digital platform in use worldwide, this does not diminish her contributions to the knowledgebase of information around education technology. Water is an intelligent critic of edTech, which is not to say she does not embrace or use technology, more that she asks us as educators not blindly to embrace the next big thing in edTech and instead take a critical look at any new technology and to make sure we use it responsibly, equitably and ethically in a way that benefits both learners and educators.

Links to Audrey Watter’s Work

Blog

Books

References

Watters, A. (2022, June). Audrey Watters. Audrey Watters. Retrieved September 13, 2022, from http://audreywatters.com

Weller, M. (2020). 25 Years of Ed Tech (Issues in Distance Education) [E-book]. Athabasca University Press. https://doi.org/10.15215/aupress/9781771993050.01

The Relevance of Education Technology Tools

These middle chapters of Weller’s (2020) book on the history of education technology introduced us to technologies that are the genesis of the technologies in use today in many classrooms throughout the world. Two technologies discussed by Weller that stood out to me and which I found relevant to classrooms I teach in were Learning Management Systems (LMS) and e-portfolios.

LMS are very relevant to our web development program at BCIT. As Weller (2020) mentions, prior to LMSs’, educators had to rely on a “variety of tools” (p. 73) to equal the feature set available in an LMS. With an LMS, tools such as a community forum, online grade book, news posting system (blog), and a course calendar are all found in a single location. Both students and instructors can load one piece of software or visit a single web site for all their course information.

Weller brought up some weaknesses which centred around the propietary nature of LMSs. That an LMS can lock institutions in to a single peice of software due to the cost involved in training instructors and the even higher cost of switching to a new LMS or other set of tools. LMSs also lock students work and data inside the LMS system, hindering transportability and shareability of students work. Even with these weaknesses, LMS are still a powerful tool, especially for our program at BCIT. Using an LMS means instructors who may be less tech savy only have to learn one tool. For students, they get (if implemented across the institution) a consistent user experience from course to course to course. This lowers the technical barriers to learning technology and allows learners and educators to focus on the course content instead of spending time learning how to use a piece of educational technology. The other weakness of LMSs is data transportability, this is minimized in our program by encouraging students to develop a digital portfolio outside of our LMS, which leads us to our next tool, e-portfolios.

Prior to reading this book I had not heard of the term “e-portfolios”. In reading Weller’s (2020) the chapter on e-portfolios I first got a sense that e-portfolios were just like the name on the tin, they were a digtial version of what a physical portfolio might be. A collection of an individual student’s work that demonstrates their work, abilities and accomplishments. Further into the chapter where Weller discusses the weaknesses and the reasons why e-portfolios did become more widely adopted, it appeared as if e-portfolios were proprietary and relying on a connection to an institutions technology stack. For our web development program at BCIT, our students create a digital portfolio but it is independant of any technology used at the institution. Our students create a web portfolio which is hosted on servers and domains that they control. They use open web standards to create these portfolios. This allows students to take their work anywhere and share it with anyone without relying on a propietary tool set.

I teach web development, so a web based digital portfolio that students created was a natural fit for our program, but I think an open web based portfolio that is not linked to any one educational institution could be beneficial to students in a wide variety of programs from liberal arts, to engineering, to history. Our MALAT program is a good example of this. Many of my classmates probably had very little to zero experience creating an open and shareable web site showcasing their writing, but I think all of my classmates were able to get a blog based on an open-source blogging platform (WordPress) up and running quickly and easily. I think the concept of e-portfolios would be more widely adopted if they were not linked to propietary institution technologies and instead relied more on open web standards. This would lead to students work being easily shareable and transferable.

References

Weller, M. (2020). 25 Years of Ed Tech (Issues in Distance Education) [E-book]. Athabasca University Press. https://doi.org/10.15215/aupress/9781771993050.01

Critical Analysis of Chapters 1-8 from the Book: 25 Years of Ed Tech

The first eight chapters of Weller’s (2020) book 25 Years of Ed Tech were an exciting look at the early years of digital learning. It was fascinating to discover what seeds were planted many years ago that created the bountiful choices of online digital learning that learners have access to today. The main things that stood out to me in these first eight chapters were ease of use and access to ed tech tools and how this relates to technology adoption. Throughout the first eight chapters, a theme emerged that showed that the more accessible a tool was to use and access, the higher the probability of becoming widely adopted.

“What was required for it [BBS] to become a mainstream part of the educational technology landscape was the technical and social infrastructure that removed the high technical barrier to implementation.” (Weller, 2020, p. 24)

The above quote is related to BBSs but is also relevant for other ed tech tools. For Wiki’s, Weller mentions a primary reason for adoption was ease of publishing for both learners and educators. While Wiki’s were easy to use and enjoyed moderate success, learning objects (LO), which promised easier course creation, ended up being challenging to create and maintain; this, in turn, led LOs to not being adopted widely.

“For the rich metadata required for learning objects, the human labour required was excessive. An educator would spend time crafting a useful activity and was then presented with pages of metadata to describe it, which often required more effort than the initial content.” (Weller, 2020, p. 70)

As an instructor of web development, I am familiar with object-oriented programming. The promise of learning objects (reusability, standardization and interoperability of course material) sounded intriguing. Why, as an educator, hadn’t I heard of learning objects before? I think it came down to ease of use. Weller (2020) pointed out that LOs required rich metadata to work correctly, but creating that metadata was almost as labour-intensive as creating the course content for an LO. This made implementing LOs complex, which in turn hindered their adoption by educators. Once again, the theme of ease of use became one of the reasons why an ed tech was or was not widely adopted.

Even though some tools from the early day ed tech succeeded and others did not. I think these early tools helped lay the groundwork for the rich digital learning tools we have access to today. I look forward to learning about some of these more modern tools in the following chapters of Weller’s book.

References

Weller, M. (2020). 25 Years of Ed Tech (Issues in Distance Education) [E-book]. Athabasca University Press. https://doi.org/10.15215/aupress/9781771993050.01

Thoughts on Dr. George Veletsianos’s Answers to Our Questions

After listening to the answers Dr. George Veletsianos provided for the class questions, I came away with three main takeaways.

  1. Let the research question dictate the research method
  2. Look at creative ways to leverage new technologies in the classroom
  3. Read broadly on your research topic

For the first point, Dr. George Veletsianos (2022a) stresses that one should not discount any research method. Instead, a good researcher should look at the question they want to answer and then find a research method that will help them best answer that question. The question dictates the method.

In regards to new technologies, I appreciated Dr. George Veletsianos’s (2022b) take on new technology, where he said that new technology is exciting, but what is more exciting is figuring out or discovering other educators who use new technologies in creative ways. So, the new tools are exciting, but what is more exciting is the unique ways those tools are used.

Lastly, Dr. George Veletsianos’s (2022c) advice to read broadly on a topic is good. Veletsianos even suggests reading about areas that may initially seem unrelated to your research topic but could help give you a different perspective on your primary research topic. Veletsianos also indicated that research is not just about finding flaws in current research but is more about a researcher taking ideas from previous research on a topic and synthesizing them to develop new perspectives on a research topic.

All in all, Dr. George Veletsianos had some excellent advice I hope to use as I move forward in my research learning journey.

References

Veletsianos, G. (Executive Producer). (2022a). Team 3. [Audio Podcast]. https://www.dropbox.com/s/s16oclir5605hgp/team3.mp3?dl=0

Veletsianos, G. (Executive Producer). (2022b). Team 4. [Audio Podcast]. https://www.dropbox.com/s/n54h2hgtnmliezz/team4.mp3?dl=0

Veletsianos, G. (Executive Producer). (2022b). Team 5. [Audio Podcast]. https://www.dropbox.com/s/728rygem4qdftmn/team5.mp3?dl=0

What Makes a Good Research Question

  1. Research questions should be “testable and refutable” Johnson & Christensen, 2014, p. 19). A research question should have two possible outcomes; either data supports the research question or does not support the research question (Johnson & Christensen, 2014, p. 9).
  2. A good research question should be “specific and focused” (Vert, 2022, p. 2). Having a specific and focused research question allows your question to be easily tested by other researchers. A detailed research question also keeps a researcher’s research pointed in a particular direction and helps the researcher stay on track regarding providing evidence for a thesis. Finally, a focused research question allows the researcher’s readers to more easily place the research in the context of a more general area of study (Vert, 2022, p. 2).

References

Johnson, R. B., & Christensen, L. B. (2014). Educational Research: Quantitative, Qualitative, and Mixed Approaches. SAGE Publications, Inc.

Vert, P. (2022, February 28). The Three Most Common Problems with Thesis Statements. Royal Roads University – ASAW020b Academic Writing and Critical Thinking. Retrieved June 25, 2022, from https://csonline.royalroads.ca/moodle/pluginfile.php/159680/mod_page/content/84/The%20Three%20Most%20Common%20Problems%20with%20Thesis%20Statements.pdf

Digital Privacy and Policy

Digital Privacy and Policy in education is a broad topic, and it isn’t easy to discuss all aspects of digital privacy in a short blog post. With that said, our group has decided to focus on a few digital privacy and policy areas. They are:

  1. Privacy Training
  2. Privacy Breaches
  3. Control of User Data
  4. Networks and Student Privacy
  5. Video Conferencing and Privacy (Zoom)
  6. Creating Policies that Support Privacy

For items 1 & 2 please visit Heather’s blog and for items 5 & 6 please visit Agia’s blog. I will discus items 3 & 4.

Just 20 years ago, many educators were naive about digital networks. Educators only saw the fantastic learning opportunities that free and open online networks would create. Educators were correct in that belief. Online Digital networks have opened up new avenues of learning for anyone with a digital device and a connection to the internet. Since online networks are digital, their information is easily searchable, scalable, and replicable (Boyd, 2010). To those three, I would add ease of access. Social networks thrive when the user community grows (Dron & Anderson, 2014). Consequently, accessible online social networks make it as simple as possible for new users to join and become familiar with the network by developing user-friendly user interfaces (Dron & Anderson, 2014). Accessible online social networks create fantastic and free learning opportunities that we sometimes forget who pays for these networks. Very few Social networks have a paid tier. To recoup the immense cost of running and maintaining a free social media network, companies turn to the lucrative area of collecting and selling user data.

I will focus on Facebook, but most social media networks function similarly. 98% of Facebook’s revenue comes from selling Ads (Franek, 2021). Advertisers love Facebook because it collects a lot of user data which allows for very targeted ads. Most people don’t mind targetted ads so much; the problem lies with how that data about our likes and dislikes, our friends, and our general personal characteristics are stored and who has access to this data. Users are critical to Facebook, but advertisers keep the lights on. Data privacy is said to be essential, but data breach scandals such as the Cambridge Analytical scandal (“Facebook–Cambridge Analytica Data Scandal,” 2022) show that data privacy is an issue with Facebook.

As educators, we must tread carefully when adding social media to curriculums. Students must be aware of how free social media networks make revenue on their data. Social networks create wonderful learning opportunities but understanding how Social Media networks operate can allow students to decide whether to participate in a network and what data to share with them. Educators should provide alternatives to students that wish to not participate in specific networks. Choices should be free and be presented as equal options. We live in a beautiful world where anyone can, with a few clicks, learn about a far off land or read about the latest theories and ideas in any area of interest, all for free. Still, we as educators must make sure that our students understand how much of that information is paid for by their data.

References

Boyd, D. (2010). A Networked Self: Identity, Community, and Culture on Social Network Sites (ed. Zizi Papacharissi), pp. 39-58). https://www.danah.org/papers/2010/SNSasNetworkedPublics.pdf

Dron, J., & Anderson, T. (2014). Teaching Crowds: Learning and Social Media (Issues in Distance Education). Athabasca University Press. https://www.aupress.ca/books/120235-teaching-crowds/

Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal. (2022, May 24). In Wikipediahttps://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Facebook%E2%80%93Cambridge_Analytica_data_scandal&oldid=1089492883

Franek, K. (2021, April 4). How Facebook Makes Money: Business Model Explained. KAMIL FRANEK | Business Analytics. https://www.kamilfranek.com/how-facebook-makes-money-business-model-explained/

Unit 3 Reading Reflections

People collaborating around a map

I have only just begun the unit 3 readings, but the two pieces I have read thus far have opened my mind to new perspectives.

In the first major takeaway, was Garrison et al.’s (1999) ideas about effective learning networks. Garrison et al. outlined three main things which every effective learning network should contain:

  1. Cognitive Presence
  2. Social Presence
  3. Teaching Presence

Cognitive means critical thinking and making sure your learners have the ability to think at a higher level about topics brought up in the learning network. Social is the ability of learners and instructors to interact with each other. Enabling collaborative learning where learners can learn from each other is essential in higher education. Finally, we have teaching. The exciting thing is teaching can be either teachers or learners. Allowing learners to be teachers on the network helps learners gain confidence and encourages an equal learning environment, where the responsibility of teaching can be taken up by either instructors or learners.

Building on Garrison et al. was Blayone et al.’s (2016) writing on Fully Online Learning Communities (FOLC). Like Garrison, Blayone et al. also mentioned the importance of collaborative learning and stressed the importance of letting learners take on more control of an online learning environment. With more control, learners have space to encourage each other and explore the material presented.

Between Garrison et al.’s and Blayon et al.’s writing, the key takeaway for me is to let go of some of the control when facilitating a learning environment. Let the students take on more responsibility for their learning, and let you as the facilitator become more of a guide, keeping learners on the correct path. Stepping back a bit will allow learners to gain more confidence in themselves and their learning.

References

Blayone, T., van Oostveen, R., Barber, W., DiGiuseppe, M., & Childs, E. (2016, November). Developing Learning Communities in Fully Online Spaces: Positioning the Fully Online Learning Community Model. Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE). https://moodle.royalroads.ca/moodle/pluginfile.php/931916/mod_book/chapter/213431/vanOostveen%2C%20R.%2C%20DiGiuseppe%2C%20M.%2C%20Barber%2C%20W.%2C%20Blayone%2C%20T.%2C%20%20Childs%2C%20E.%20%282016%29.%20New%20conceptions%20for%20digital%20technology%20sandboxes.pdf

Garrison, D., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (1999). Critical Inquiry in a Text-Based Environment: Computer Conferencing in Higher Education. The Internet and Higher Education2(2–3), 87–105. https://doi.org/10.1016/s1096-7516(00)00016-6

Image Credit

Image by rawpixel.com

Visual Network Map

Michael Whyte's visual network map
My visual network map. Click here to view a larger size of this image

One of the first things we learn when learning to become a web professional is what is a network. Not networks in the public or personal sense, but computer networks. Students learn that the web is a public network that is a sub-network of the internet and the internet has millions of private connected networks called intranets. This public/private divide of computer networks is how I also view my online social networks.

I consider private networks to be places where I can interact with many people at one time in a space that is not openly available to the general public. These include my Slack workspaces, Zoom, Google Docs and two Learning Management Systems. My public networks are networks that I belong to or are web spaces that I control that are available to anyone.

For my private networks, I feel pretty comfortable with them as they are. I hope to discover some new collaboration tools from classmates and instructors in the MALAT program as I progress through the program. My public networks are more of a representation of what I hope my network map will look like in the coming years. Some of these public networks are somewhat fleshed out and pretty good but could still be improved, while my other public networks are merely placeholders that I hope to develop soon.

Image Credits

The following graphics have been used per the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC 3.0) license.

  1. Students / Classmates
  2. Instructors
  3. Public
  4. Web Pros

Digital Indentity and Digital Presence Plan

Social networks and digital spaces are everywhere in our modern connected world. Boyd (2011) states that social networks have introduced large populations to the “trials and tribulations” (p. 14) of social networks. Social Networks permeate almost every aspect of modern western society. Government policies are delivered via tweets, Facebook’s algorithms can influence elections, and personal lives are often managed through online digital networks. Most people today (especially those who are reading this post) probably have a digital presence and digital identity. Creating a digital identity is not the problem; the problem is how we manage our digital identity to effectively reach the audience we wish to contact and communicate the ideas we want to share. In the following paragraphs, based on readings on the subject matter, I want to share how I have created an early plan on how I intend to shape my digital presence and identity throughout the MALAT program and beyond.

Digital Network Filter

When thinking about my Digital Identity and Digital Presence Plan (DIDP), I kept coming back to the idea of a filter. I am a science fiction nerd, so I thought about the Drake equation. The Drake equation estimates the number of civilisations in the Milky Way galaxy (“Drake Equation,” 2022). It does this by creating a series of filters. Each number is a result of the filter that preceded it until, in the end, you can estimate the number of alien civilisations in the galaxy.

I thought of this filter concept when determining which networks I should focus my attention on that will most effectively develop my digital presence. Some of these filters will be discussed in detail below. All will be discussed in my final course paper.

Digital Indentity and Digital Presence filter
Digital Indentity and Digital Presence filter

My digital network filters are:

  1. Data Portability
  2. Accessibility
  3. Personal Relevance
  4. Audience Relevance

Each filter filters out which networks I wish to focus on. I might start with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, TikTok, Snapchat, Reddit and many others on the left-most filter and then end up with only one or two networks. This, I hope, will prevent me from trying to be everywhere for everyone and instead allow me to be on just the networks that are relevant to me, meet my ethical standards, reaches the audience that I want (or need) to reach and are networks where my audience will want to be.

I wish to discuss two of these filters for this post. As I mentioned above, all these filters will be flushed out for my final course paper.

Data Portability

I am a firm believer in allowing a person to control their data. Jackson states (as cited in Watter, 2015) that he wanted to show his students “the control that they are giving up” (para. 13) when they use social networks such as Facebook. Watters (2015) mentions the importance of data portability when she describes a student’s work as their work, and they should be free to take that work and move it to a space of their own. A student’s (or any user’s) data should not be locked into a proprietary Learning Management System or a proprietary hard to convert data format.

As a web developer, I understand that having data in standard open languages such as plain HTML or on networks you control, such as a WordPress blog hosted on your domain, is ideal for maximum data portability. The downside is the high technical barrier to entry and the skills needed to create these spaces. I am fortunate that my audience is student web developers, and they are willing to put in the time to learn and master these technologies. Not everyone has an audience like this. Even still, free open source platforms like WordPress allow people with only writing skills and an afternoon of training to create a space on the web that they control.

Personally controlled spaces on the web offer the most control over one’s data. Still, they may not allow students or teachers to reach the widest audience or offer the ability to interact directly in real-time with their audience. On the other hand, social networks trade some control of data portability for the potential to reach a wider audience. Dron & Anderson (2014) lays out how social networks facilitate one-to-one, one-to-many, many-to-many and many-to-one communications. Dron & Anderson continue by saying that social networks support synchronous and asynchronous communications. Social networks offer more options and more effective tools for two-way communications with an audience. They do so while also having an easy to learn user interface and providing a shallow barrier to entry for those with limited technical skills.

In a perfect world, I would like everyone to have personal blogs where all users share discussions in spaces that individual users control. In the real world, educators have to be flexible and understand that some social networks are more effective in some areas than our privately owned public spaces on the web. As long as a social network offers some form of data portability, it can be an effective tool along with a privately controlled public place on the internet in helping to develop our digital presence on the web.

Accessibility

My second filter is accessibility. In my mind, this means fair and equal access for all, regardless of one’s socio-economic situation, physical abilities or access to technology. Tsiplakides (2018) states that for students, “in information and knowledge societies effective use of internet communications technologies (ICT) is crucial in the transition to the labour market” (para. 13). Tsiplakides goes on to state that individuals from lower socioeconomic classes have less access to information sources available to many on the internet. As educators, our responsibility is to enable all our students to have equal access to our networks. Beyond that, we as educators need to foster in all our students equally the importance of learning and participating in the digital commons to access the information required to succeed in a modern knowledge economy.

Along with equal access from a socio-economic perspective, we must make sure our networks are accessible to people with hearing, vision or other physical disabilities. If a network is one which we control, such as a WordPress blog or personal website, then we can make sure our site is coded correctly to modern web and accessibility standards. If it is a social network, then a Google search such as “[network name] accessibility” will usually take you to a page about how they handle accessibility. Scanning these search results will give you a good idea if a particular social network values accessibility.

Lastly, providing low barriers to entry regarding technology access and technology skills is also essential in regards to accessibility. As discussed earlier, privately controlled public networks like a WordPress blog can be accessible to all with minimal training. Social networks take ease of entry to another level. Since social networks maximise their effectiveness, the more users they attract (Dron & Anderson, 2014), developers spend a significant amount of time developing user interfaces that are “friendly, intuitive and easy to navigate” (Dron, Anderson, p. 21). The easier a social network is to use, the easier it is for the network to attract more users. Social Networks are designed from the ground up to be easy to use, and most require very little training to get up and running on their networks. This ease of access has been very beneficial to society as it has allowed millions, if not billions of people to participate in the knowledge economy. Most modern social networks excel at providing a low barrier to entry for people with little technical skills.

My last two filters concern relevance for myself and the audience I wish to reach. I will have more to say on those in my final paper.

Running my networks through my digital network filter, I have landed on six digital networks to focus my attention on.

  1. LinkedIn
  2. YouTube
  3. GitHub
  4. Codepen
  5. Personal Web Spaces (WordPress & Personal Site)
  6. Slack

These networks pass all 4 of my filters. I will explain why these networks pass my filters in a later post. Stay tuned.

Lastly, I wish to point out that I am starting my learning journey. In the past two or three weeks, I have been introduced to new networks, software tools and other resources by classmates and instructors. I say this because my list above is fluid. If I discover more effective tools that meet my criteria, they will be added, and if the above tools become less effective for me, they will be removed. My tools, like the web, will ebb and flow as time moves forward, and I learn more about the world of learning and technology from everyone in the RRU MALAT program.

References

Dron, J., & Anderson, T. (2014). Teaching Crowds: Learning and Social Media (Issues in Distance Education). Athabasca University Press. https://www.aupress.ca/books/120235-teaching-crowds/

Boyd, D. (2010). A Networked Self: Identity, Community, and Culture on Social Network Sites (ed. Zizi Papacharissi), pp. 39-58).

Tsiplakides, I. (2018). Social Inclusion and Equity in Modern Information and Knowledge Societies. Journal of Sociology and Anthropology2(1), 9–13. https://doi.org/10.12691/jsa-2-1-2

Watters, A. (2015, July 15). The Web We Need To Give Students – BRIGHT Magazine. Medium. https://brightthemag.com/the-web-we-need-to-give-students-311d97713713#.a2rmav7fp

Wikipedia contributors. (2022, April 22). Drake equation. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Drake_equation&oldid=1083990462