TWELVE

By taking the content AND the conversation around it out of the hands of “big social media” and their constant tracking and leaving it with the active participants, we can effect far more ethical EdTech.

Gif of grain silo on a farm collapsing in on itself.

 
 
TWO

For a variety of reasons (including lack of budget, time, support, and other resources) many educators have been using corporate tools from Google, Twitter, Facebook, and others for their ease-of-use as well as for a range of functionality that hadn’t previously existed in the blogosphere or open source software that many educators use or prefer.

This leaves us and our students open to the vagaries and abuses that those platforms continually allow including an unhealthy dose of surveillance capitalism.

 
 
Can’t make it to IndieWebCamp London in person this weekend? Why not try attending remotely?! There’s usually pretty good streaming video and online chat options. Details for what to expect & how to set up for remote participation: https://indieweb.org/IndieWebCamps/Attending

Maybe the EdTech, Open Pedagogy, and Domain of One’s Own crowds could use the opportunity to brainstorm remote class attendance and owning their own teaching/pedagogy/content on their websites?
IndieWebCamp Logo featuring the stylized letters "I W C" over the text "#IndieWebCamp"

Read The 100 Worst Ed-Tech Debacles of the Decade by Audrey Watters (Hack Education)

For the past ten years, I have written a lengthy year-end series, documenting some of the dominant narratives and trends in education technology. I think it is worthwhile, as the decade draws to a close, to review those stories and to see how much (or how little) things have changed. You can read the series here: 2010201120122013201420152016201720182019.

I thought for a good long while about how best to summarize this decade, and inspired by the folks at The Verge, who published a list of “The 84 biggest flops, fails, and dead dreams of the decade in tech,” I decided to do something similar: chronicle for you a decade of ed-tech failures and fuck-ups and flawed ideas.

I started reading this over the holidays when Audrey released it. It took me four sittings to make it all the way through (in great part because it’s so depressing). I’ve finally picked it back up today to wallow through the last twenty on the list. 

I’m hoping that at least a few people pick up the thread she’s always trying to show us and figure out a better way forward. The information theorist in me says that every student has only so much bandwidth and there’s an analogy to the Shannon Limit for how much information one can cram into a person. I’ve been a fan of Cesar Hidalgo’s idea of a personbyte (a word for the limit of information one can put into a person) and the fact that people need to collaborate to produce things bigger and greater than themselves. What is it going to take to get everyone else to understand?

If anything, the only way I suspect we’ll be able to better teach and have students retain information is to use some of the most ancient memory techniques from indigenous cultures rather than technologizing our way out of the perceived problem.

Annotations/Highlights

(only a small portion since HackedEducation doesn’t fit into my usual workflow)

In his review of Nick Srnicek’s book Platform CapitalismJohn Hermann writes,

Platforms are, in a sense, capitalism distilled to its essence. They are proudly experimental and maximally consequential, prone to creating externalities and especially disinclined to address or even acknowledge what happens beyond their rising walls. And accordingly, platforms are the underlying trend that ties together popular narratives about technology and the economy in general. Platforms provide the substructure for the “gig economy” and the “sharing economy”; they’re the economic engine of social media; they’re the architecture of the “attention economy” and the inspiration for claims about the “end of ownership.”

Annotated on March 08, 2020 at 02:35PM

It isn’t just the use of student data to fuel Google’s business that’s a problem; it’s the use of teachers as marketers and testers. “It’s a private company very creatively using public resources — in this instance, teachers’ time and expertise — to build new markets at low cost,” UCLA professor Patricia Burch told The New York Times in 2017 as part of its lengthy investigation into “How Google Took Over the Classroom.”

Annotated on March 08, 2020 at 03:04PM

Listened to Microcast #082 – Nodenoggin by Doug Belshaw from Thought Schrapnel

This week, I’ve been delighted to be able to catch up with Adam Procter, academic, games designer, open advocate, and long-time supporter of Thought Shrapnel.

We discussed everything from the IndieWeb to his PhD project, with relevant links below!

Show notes

Read Ethical Edtech (Digital Pedagogy Lab)
Much of what passes as educational technology are corporate products designed for purposes of profit-seeking, surveillance, data collection, and user lock-in. Other kinds of technology exist, but they typically lack the marketing and sales budgets of competing vendors. Ethical EdTech is an online community that shares tools and techniques to facilitate pedagogy that puts participants... Read More
Read HEWN, No. 335 by Audrey Watters (hewn.substack.com)
I’ve been thinking quite a bit this week about how bad ideas in ed-tech spread. Obviously, a key way is via the media. Take this NYT story for example: “The Machines Are Learning, and So Are the Students.”
A great example of whitewashing in edtech pointed out here.

I also recommend that NYT response about the 1619 project. 

Listened to John Stewart by Terry Greene from Gettin' Air The Open Pedagogy Podcast | voicEd

In this episode Terry Greene chats with @JohnStewartPhD, Assistant Director for the Office of Digital Learning at the University of Oklahoma. The main topic of discussion is the wonderfully successful Domain of One’s Own project, OU Create, which has produced thousands of openly shared web sites and blogs from students and faculty across the University.

Cover art for Gettin' Air

We definitely need another hour or two of this interview with John. I like the idea behind some of the highlighting work they’re doing with OU Create and their weekly updates. We need more of this in the Domains space. I wonder if they’ve experimented with a Homebrew Website Club sort of experience in their Domains practice?

Terry definitely has mentioned show notes with links, but I’m beginning to wonder if I should be following a different feed because I’m not seeing any of the great links I was hoping for recently from these episodes?

Read What’s the LMS Worth? by Jim LukeJim Luke (EconProph)
Herein, against my better judgement, I wade into the Great Instructure social media wars of 2019. Last week, Instructure Inc., the publicly traded (NYSE: INST) company announced it had agreed to go private and sell itself to private equity firm Thoma Bravo. For people who teach in higher education this is big news. Instructure, is the current name for the company founded in 2008 that created and sells the Canvas LMS. Canvas in the last decade has toppled the previous king-of-the-LMS’s, Blackboard. Canvas is now widely reported to have largest market share of higher ed LMS market at least in North America. Moodle, the open source system, appears to dominate outside North America.

Capitalists and market-thinkers inevitably seek to enclose the commons, privatizing benefits and externalizing costs onto society.

It’s nice to see this reminder every now and then.
–highlighted December 09, 2019 at 09:00PM

Some pragmatic and solid analysis here. Better than some of the FUD I’ve seen bandied about.

Replied to Networking as Time Saving by Jane Van GalenJane Van Galen (Teaching and Learning on the Open Web)

We talked in our group last week about the time that it requires to develop course websites and "open" assignments, and to make new tech function as it should when there may not be enough support, and when these sorts of investments may not be valued in faculty reviews.

I talked briefly about the "innovation" part is often simply building off the work of others, when so many faculty now share their work on the open web.

A great example of this just came through my Twitter feed.  I have a column set up in Tweetdeck  where I'm following the  conference.  With a Tweetdeck column, I can just glance or scroll for a minute between other things I'm doing,  to see if anything looks interesting.  People at this conference are working on open pedagogies, particularly via the Domains of Ones Own work we've talked about.  Most sessions are being live-tweeted, with a rich trove of links.

One attendee Chris Aldrich, has created a Twitter list of past attendees at the conference and others who do work related that that presented at this meeting.   I can skim this to find new people from whom to learn.  I can follow them and then, as I have time, check their Twitter feeds for updates on what they're doing.   If I don't find myself learning from these new follows, I just unfollow and move on.

And inevitably, over months and years, I'll find people who will generously invest in teaching me and others about the work they're doing, about why they're doing it, and about how that work is recieved by their students.

This is the open web I hope we're teaching our students about --  place of innovation, generosity, value-driven discourse and always, always, something new to learn. 

Thanks for the shout out! Making those kinds of lists can certainly be repetitive, time consuming, and thankless. The only thing worse is that hundreds or thousands should try to reinvent the same wheel. 

If you appreciated that bit of trickery, you might better appreciate a more open web version of the same with respect to the following page I made of various people and publications I’m following in my various feed readers. It provides OPML feeds so others can easily import them into their feed readers as well. You can find some additional documentation about it here.

Here’s some additional reading and links for background, if you’re interested. 

Replied to a post by Jane Van GalenJane Van Galen (Teaching and Learning on the Open Web)
We've talked about and experimented with various video projects in our Learning Community. Reading this piece by sociologist Jess Calarco this week reminded me that we haven't talked as much about audio production and editing as a means having students show what they know and to share what they've learned on the open web.
I recall seeing a lot of resources for audio media creation and podcasting via KQED Teach, which was geared toward a broad level of students and technical abilities.

These types of literacies are really important to explore.

Replied to a tweet by Jon UdellJon Udell (Twitter)
Does this cast you as Dr. W. C. Minor in the story, albeit not in the same sort of mad man way to wordnik’s Sir James Murray? Seriously though, this is an awesome use case.
Watched Connecting to the IndieWeb Movement by Jim GroomJim Groom from bavatuesdays

B4CoUflCUAEMNpG

Tomorrow at 12 PM Eastern/ 9 AM Pacific I’ll be be hosting a Connected Courses discussion that will explore the IndieWeb movement as a people-centered response to the corporate web. How do core IndieWeb principles such as owning your content, remaining better connected, and redefining control online intersect with the values of connected learning? Take a bit of time tomorrow and join myself, Mikhail GershovichBen WerdmullerErin Jo Richey, and Simon Thomson to find out more.

I particularly love how they all underline the humanity that should and does underlie the web. This is certainly a classic for the area of IndieWeb and education. I’m not sure how I hadn’t seen this before.

[Withknown is] the posterchild of the IndieWeb.
— Jim Groom

I’ll agree that it is pretty darn awesome!

Some slight rephrasings from Ben in the video that I thought were spot on:

IndieWeb: allowing people to connect online without caring about what platforms or services they’re using.

IndieWeb puts the learner first. The LMS, which primarily serves an administrative function, should not be the center of the process.

Read Ed-Tech Agitprop by Audrey WattersAudrey Watters (Hack Education)

agitprop poster

This talk was delivered at OEB 2019 in Berlin. Or part of it was. I only had 20 minutes to speak, and what I wrote here is a bit more than what I could fit in that time-slot.

I've been thinking a lot lately about this storytelling that we speakers do -- it's part of what I call the "ed-tech imaginary." This includes the stories we invent to explain the necessity of technology, the promises of technology; the stories we use to describe how we got here and where we are headed. And despite all the talk about our being "data-driven," about the rigors of "learning sciences" and the like, much of the ed-tech imaginary is quite fanciful. Wizard of Oz pay-no-attention-to-the-man-behind-the-curtain kinds of stuff.

An important message pointing out that many (particularly corporations) are operating on fear and not facts within the EdTech spaces. Some simple fact-checking will verify that vos veritas liberabit.

I’ve been working on a thesis lately relating to some simple ideas with relation to memory that make me think we should be looking backwards instead of forward. Part of the trouble is that as a society we’ve long forgotten some of the basic knowledge even indigenous peoples had/have, but somehow there’s more benefit and value in the information imbalance to some that we no longer have or use some of these teaching and knowledge techniques. We definitely need to bring them back.

Agitprop is a portmanteau — a combination of “agitation” and “propaganda,” the shortened name of the Soviet Department for Agitation and Propaganda which was responsible for explaining communist ideology and convincing the people to support the party. This agitprop took a number of forms — posters, press, radio, film, social networks — all in the service of spreading the message of the revolution, in the service of shaping public beliefs, in the service of directing the country towards a particular future.

Might be fun to mix up some agitprop art for various modern things. Perhaps for social media so as to frame IndieWeb as the good?

Although agitprop is often associated with the Soviet control and dissemination of information, there emerged in the 1920s a strong tradition of agitprop art and theatre — not just in the USSR. One of its best known proponents was my favorite playwright, Bertolt Brecht. Once upon a time, before I turned my attention to education technology, I was working on a PhD in Comparative Literature that drew on Brecht’s Verfremdungseffekt, on the Russian Formalists’ concept of ostranenie — “defamiliarization.” Take the familiar and make it unfamiliar. A radical act or so these artists and activists believed that would destabilize what has become naturalized, normalized, taken for some deep “truth.” Something to shake us out of our complacency.

Now, none of these stories is indisputably true. At best — at best — they are unverifiable. We do not know what the future holds; we can build predictive models, sure, but that’s not what these are. Rather, these stories get told to steer the future in a certain direction, to steer dollars in a certain direction. (Alan Kay once said “the best way to predict the future is to build it,” but I think, more accurately, “the best way to predict the future is to issue a press release,” “the best way to predict the future is to invent statistics in your keynote.”) These stories might “work” for some people. They can be dropped into a narrative to heighten the urgency that institutions simply must adapt to a changing world — agitation propaganda.
Many of these stories contain numbers, and that makes them appear as though they’re based on research, on data. But these numbers are often cited without any sources. There’s often no indication of where the data might have come from. These are numerical fantasies about the future.
Another word: “robots are coming for your jobs” is one side of the coin; “immigrants are coming for your jobs” is the other. That is, it is the same coin. It’s a coin often used to marshall fear and hatred, to make us feel insecure and threatened. It’s the coin used in a sleight of hand to distract us from the profit-driven practices of capitalism. It’s a coin used to divide us so we cannot solve our pressing global problems for all of us, together.