#DigPed Narratives in Education: Critical Perspectives on Power and Pedagogy – Transcript

Transcript from Koseoglu, S., & Bozkurt, A. (2018). An examination of #DigPed narratives through the Lens of the Capacities and Signals Framework. Ireland International Conference on Education (IICE- 2018), Dublin, Ireland.

Hi everyone, thank you for joining this session. My name is Suzan Koseoglu, I’m an Academic Developer at Goldsmiths, University of London. My collaborator is Dr. Aras Bozkurt, who is currently a Researcher and Faculty member at Anadolu University.

We are really excited to be presenting at IICE. We weren’t able to visit Dublin in person, but at least, thanks to the conference organizers, we have the opportunity to connect with you virtually. This notion of connecting virtually with others, constructing a presence through online technologies, the meaning of this connection and how that impacts our everyday lives, form the essence of our work. Connecting, creating online, with colleagues and with friends, with people we care about… Living in online networks, in hybrid spaces that are neither entirely online or offline…

Today, we are going to talk about how educational narratives spread on Twitter, on hashtag DigPed (#DigPed): a hashtag focusing on digital pedagogy. Before we begin, I’d like to give you a brief overview of Twitter and hashtag communities just to build a common understanding of the platform.

Twitter is a flexible open platform which can be used for microblogging and social networking. I mainly use Twitter for connecting with colleagues and with other educators, from all around the world. Just to give you an example, my colleague Aras Bozkurt and I met around 2016 on Twitter and have started collaborating on a number of projects in 2017. Interestingly, there is a name for this: networked participatory scholarship or open scholarship, which is defined as “any teaching and research practices that are public and that espouse openness.”

So what is a Twitter hashtag? We’ll define it as adding a keyword, or set of keywords, to a Twitter post. Hashtags help us organize and make sense of information on social networks; they help us connect with others. And also, hashtags tell stories – I’ll give you examples for these shortly.

You can only use a limited number of characters for a Twitter post: this was 140  characters until quite recently, but then was improved to 240 characters. It is still quite a small space to share things with others. So one way of making good use of this limited space is by using hashtags.

For example:

  • Check this out, great article on XXX (isolated tweet, disconnected to other hashtags)
  • Check this out, great article on XXX #DigPed (I’m now connecting my tweet with all other users who follow hashtag DigPed)
  • Check this out, great article on XXX #DigPed #HigherEducation (I’m extending the connection to Higher Education by using a secondary hashtag)
  • Check this out, great article on XXX #DigPed #HigherEducation @arasbozkurt (I’m tagging another user so that they can see and respond to the article)

Now, let’s look at an example for a Twitter narrative:

#BlackLivesMatter (This began after the tragic death of African-American teenager Trayvon Martin; has started as the story of injustice towards African-Americans and state oppression in the US, but then expanded to include societal issues in other countries.)

Screenshot 2018-07-30 at 9.52.55 AM.png

Twitter threads have a lot of capacity if they are used well: the capacity to spread a vision, as Zeynep Tufekci argued, the capacity to change the status quo. As long as  they exist, any post can be quoted, retweeted, liked and commented on anytime, by anyone. New stories can be created, existing ones can take new forms, become even powerful or slowly fade away. Virality matters in these networks.

Going back to #DigPed… We examined #DigPed activities during three Digital Pedagogy Lab events: Digital Pedagogy Lab Cairo, Digital Pedagogy Lab PEI, and Digital Pedagogy Lab 2017 Summer Institute. All of these were face-to-face professional development events designed by the Digital Pedagogy Lab. These events had online components such as virtual meetings, Twitter chats and blogging. If you haven’t heard about the Digital Pedagogy Lab, I strongly  encourage you to check their website, also their online peer reviewed journal Hybrid Pedagogy. So Digital Pedagogy Lab used #DigPed as their Twitter hashtag during these events.

We used SNA and thematic analysis of content for this research. We collected all Twitter posts tagged with #DigPed during the three events I mentioned. We analysed top tweets, top domains, top URLs, top hashtags and top words used in each event. We also looked at social relations within each event and examined the connections between users; that is, their weight in the connection and their reach. You can think of this as follows:

Imagine in a conversation I’m doing all the talk, like I do now. And you mostly listen to me and take notes—a classic classroom situation, isn’t it? But also imagine, perhaps a small group in the room becomes active. They start a new discussion, they react or respond to what I’m saying. Their conversation begins to draw more attention, others in the class start responding to them too. My talk slowly fades away. I’m no longer in the center of everyone’s attention; this other group has more “weight,” more power in the class. So with the SNA, we could look at how connections occurred: who did the “most talking,” with whom, and when? Who held the power and how?

Screenshot 2018-07-30 at 9.52.39 AM.png

What have we seen in the quantitative analysis? The figure you are seeing on screen is a sociogram. This sociogram is a visual  representation of social relationships on #DigPed during one event. This sociogram is important because it shows that the #DigPed network was not controlled by a single person, which is something that is typically observed in “ego networks.” That is, rather than depending on a focal node/person, power was distributed among different groups of people.

We thought, isn’t it remarkable that connections are grouped like this on #DigPed? But we still could observe key influencers directing the flow of conversations in each group. These were mostly people leading the Digital Pedagogy Lab events like keynote speakers or event facilitators. In a way, we thought, they were like “de-facto leaders.” As Zeynep Tufekci argues, de-facto leaders “consistently emerge as informal but persistent spokespersons [on social media]—with large followings.” Key influencers had charisma; they produced artifacts like blog posts, keynote speeches, talks which stirred the community.

Our findings confirmed the view that online spaces are organized by hidden hierarchies and these hierarchies are marked by influence. On an open platform like Twitter, although many voices can be heard and potentially the space is open to all, people with influence still hold strategic positions in the network. Influential people help spread educational narratives; in fact, they are instrumental for increasing the narrative capacity of online networks. But, what we also observed was, #DigPed had a capacity that we are all familiar with in educational contexts: pedagogic capacity, which we defined as the power to initiate a productive and potentially transformative educational discourse, within one’s self and within communities.

Through qualitative analysis of Twitter posts, we identified three prominent narratives on the #DigPed network (which were all initiated by somebody influential on the network): “love in pedagogical work is an orientation”, “every student can have their own domain — to share their work, knowledge, memory” and “most stories about student debts/struggles go untold. All of these narratives, all the work and thought that went into initiating one, could be considered pedagogical acts.

Interesting questions arise from our findings on power in online networks and the interaction of narrative and pedagogic capacities.

A thread on Twitter, a narrative, can spread wide irrespective of geographical boundaries. But does it lead to positive change? Does it allow co-construction, an openness to other worldviews and ways of being? Does it have the capacity to grow not only in size, but also in depth, within one’s self and within communities? Does it lead to social change? Our research led us to believe that there is a need to strengthen the pedagogic capacity of educational narratives spreading on networks like #DigPed. We need to talk about network literacies (like using hashtags effectively), multimodality, access and capital.

Apple asks: “What stories, what names, what struggles, do you wish to add to enable a more democratic education to be built?” We can be active participants, good listeners, or we can simply be lurkers (quite/non-visible engagement) online. Regardless of our level of engagement in online networks, we believe, as educators, we have an ethical responsibility to be good pedagogues—online or offline or in hybrid spaces. This is something we owe to ourselves and others.

Thank you.

#DigPed Narratives in Education

Koseoglu, S., & Bozkurt, A. (in press). #DigPed narratives in education: Critical perspectives on power and pedagogy, Online Learning.

#DigPed Narratives in Education: Critical Perspectives on Power and Pedagogy

Extended Abstract

“What stories, what names, what struggles, do you wish to add to enable a
more democratic education to be built?” asks Apple in his seminal book Official
Knowledge [1]. It is this question that drives this research into collective
educational narratives and acts of resistance on Twitter. By resistance we mean
an attitude that rejects colonial, strictly behaviourist, androcentric, consumerist
and industrialist views in education. Using Tufekci’s [2] Capacities and Signals
framework, we conceptualise Twitter as a politically charged public space,
where educators from all around the world occasionally act against mainstream
models and common practices in education through a complex interplay of
individual performance, spontaneous interactions with others, and organised
structured and semi-structured events.

The context of this mixed methods research is #DigPed activities during three
Digital Pedagogy Lab events: Digital Pedagogy Lab Cairo (March 20-22,
2016), Digital Pedagogy Lab PEI (July 13-15, 2016), and Digital Pedagogy Lab
2017 Summer Institute (August 7-11, 2017). We analyse #DigPed through the
lens of the Capacities and Signals framework to understand (1) how educational
narratives develop and spread on #DigPed, and (2) the nature of their
capacities.

Social Networking Analysis (SNA) is used as a starting point in this research
to map key people in the network, ties in the network, the hashtags used and
moments of intense activity. We then turn our attention to the nature and impact
of some narratives that have spread on the network using thematic analysis. We
approach the study through an interpretive paradigm; that is, we acknowledge
the fact that knowledge is socially constructed through language and interaction
and is always partial. Thus, we seek understanding through self-reflexivity and
iterative cycles of data collection and analysis.

Findings showed that #DigPed falls into a unified-tight crowd network
pattern in which discussions are characterized by highly interconnected people
with multiple connections and few isolated participants. SNA also revealed that
key influencers (i.e., DPL organizers, keynote speakers) held strategic positions
in the network. Three prominent narratives emerged from the thematic analysis:
“love in pedagogical work is an orientation,” “every student can have their own
domain – to share their work, knowledge, memory” and “most stories about
student debts/struggles go untold.” The nature of these narratives led us to
consider a capacity different from the ones proposed by Tufekci: pedagogic
capacity, which we define as the power to initiate a productive and potentially
transformative educational discourse, within one’s self and within communities.

Overall, findings suggest that although a network like #DigPed is open to all,
there are hidden power structures that shape the network activity. Findings also
align with Stewart’s [3] argument that “hierarchies of influence relate to
identity and attention, rather than [institutional] role” (p. 306) on an open
platform like Twitter. These hierarchies of influence are not taught through
formal practices (such as staff induction events or earned ranks) but learned and
earned through ongoing participation in a community, both through professional and personal means. Multiple implications in relation to the pedagogic and
narrative capacities of online networks like #DigPed are drawn from this
research: (1) there is a need to strengthen the pedagogic capacity of educational
narratives; (2) there is a need to acknowledge the power dynamics in open
networks; (3) there is a need to further investigate the complex nuances of
gatekeeping.

References
[1] Apple, M. (2000). Official knowledge: Democratic education in a
conservative age. New York: Routledge.
[2] Tufekci, Z. (2017). Twitter and tear gas: The power and fragility of
networked protest. Yale University Press.
[3] Stewart, B. (2015). Open to influence: What counts as academic influence in
scholarly networked “Twitter” participation. Learning, Media and Technology,
40(3), 287-309.

#HEdigID Chat No. 6: Open Educational Practices with @SuzanKoseoglu #OEP #OER #OpenEd

techKNOWtools

It’s almost Friday, July 13th, which means it’s time to get ready for the monthly Higher Ed Digital Identity (#HEdigID) Chat! I am excited to expand the #HEdigIDconversation to welcome Suzan Koseoglu (@SuzanKoseoglu) as a guest moderator (MOD) for this slow Twitter chat. In preparing for the #hedigid MOD -ing role, Suzan has developed a list of questions and prompts to facilitate this ALL DAY discussion on Open Educational Practices (#OEP) she details further:

There has been growing interest in digital Open Educational Practices (OEPs) in recent years as evidenced in the increasing number of research papers, reports and conference presentations on the topic and in the discourse on open practice in general. Although OEPs are mostly discussed in the context of OERs, mostly in terms of OER creation, adoption and use, it is actually a multidimensional construct which encompasses many different dimensions…

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The crit experience

Posting my reflections on B plus or A minus? Assessment in the Creative Disciplines @ University of the Arts London – 09 Feb, 2018.

The day overall was well structured and led to thought-provoking discussions. Some of the things that stood out for me were the importance of building a shared language with students in any given stage of assessment and feedback, the messiness of why and how we use learning outcomes, ipsulative assessment (looking at individual progress in context), a deeper focus on the learning process and an awareness of power dynamics within any learning setting.

The most eye-opening session for me was when we sat down in small groups with a UAL undergrad student and talked about his projects.

I want to reflect on the session here to clarify my thoughts on assessment and feedback:

– Giving feedback, including grading, is something we should be doing for the interests of our students.

– It shouldn’t be something we’re doing for the institution – related to this, in another session our discussion group came to the conclusion that learning outcomes are mostly written for institutions, not for the student or for the teacher.

– Shouldn’t be about validating the quality and the rigor of a program.

– Shouldn’t be about showcasing expert knowledge or presenting the expert as the source of inspiration (the guru model)

– Students are grade focused but even process-oriented approaches won’t make a difference unless we think about formal education in fundamentally different ways (can we ditch summative assessments, for example?).

– The choices we make in assignments reflect our vision for students and our knowledge of how to get there.

That doesn’t mean we decide everything for students. Rather, this should be about co-creation, collaboration and dismantling existing power structures.

Now, going back to the small group session with the UAL student (this is a bit hazy but I asked a colleague in our group and she confirmed the story), this student described a group critique in which an assessor ripped up a student’s work because it was, apparently, rubbish. When I reacted to this, a design lecturer told this story: One day an expert designer from the industry visits the class, takes a quick look at student projects and then crosses all the works he/she doesn’t like with a red marker. Everyone is in shock – they talk about this for a long time.

Both the lecturer and the student said this type of feedback was questionable but also commented that these kinds of experiences help students detach themselves from their work: help them have an objective look into their creation. Some students didn’t like such approaches, but on reflection they agreed that their work wasn’t “good.”

But here is what was discussed earlier:

We spent all morning talking about power and agency…

Ok, I’m not going to talk about the first incident (assessor ripping up student work) because it’s possible that this was an extreme example and also because I’m hazy on it. It’s possible that it was the student who ripped up his/her work based on feedback. I’m going to tweet this shortly and I hope somebody from the session will correct me and say something like, well it was actually, quite the opposite, the student work was never ripped up, in fact, it was a valuable learning experience and … never mind.. but I carefully listened to the second incident and I know that an expert evaluating student work with a red marker in hand did happen.

Isn’t part of our duty as critical educators help students see the existing hierarchies of power, between students and teachers, between experts and novices, and in the society at multiple levels? Isn’t it our duty to recognize the student as a whole person, and set aside our own assumptions and interpretations of what is good or bad? Isn’t it our duty to provide a safe space for all learners, a space of trust and well-being? I would love to kick that expert out of class, although I think in practice that would be a bit difficult without some sort of drama.

This morning made me think about the importance of creating bonds and relationships in education, of the meaning of feedback and grading, the meaning of power, red marks, crumpled up student works.

 

2/2 Critical Media Literacy in Preschool Years – Gender Bias

Continuing from my previous post on critical media literacy in preschool years.

I think compared to Turkey, where the gender bias is kind of “in your face” in many aspects of life, in the UK the biases in popular media tend to be more hidden. For example, in Peppa Pig, Mummy Pig does work, but from home (we don’t know what she does) – not like Daddy pig who works in an office with colleagues as an architect. Yes, Daddy Pig can’t fix a computer but we all know he is being a bit silly. Miss Rabbit is very good at handling multiple jobs, but at the same time she is this eccentric character who is a workaholic with no family of herself. Or take Paw Patrol for example, which is all about team work and problem solving. In the program, six of eight puppies are boys and so is their leader. These characters are important for my daughter–everything she plays with is important for her. When we are reading a book or when she is watching something on TV, she pays great attention to gestures, clothing, manners, how people react to situations and what they do.

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Peppa Pig. A typical work day for Mummy Pig.

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Paw Patrol. Can you spot the two girl puppies?

So it’s no surprise that we often hear from our daughter things like, Football is for boys, That’s a boy’s game, I won’t do such and such because everyone will think I’m a boy…

Such comments always make me a bit unsettled because although they are often very sweet and naive comments, it shows how she already has constructed a binary world of boys and girls. I believe, and I hope I’ll be proven wrong, this construction is only going to get stronger if there is no purposeful intervention; I mean small ones like ours (having a chat about something, asking questions) or formally as a program in school. This really bothers me because I want her to know that the distinction we see in media between girls and boys is really nothing but a social construction, and even sometimes, a political project. That construction is simply wrong and things should change because it is destructive in many ways. So when I see gender bias in children’s programs, this genuinely makes me sad. It makes me sad to see how little thought and care is given to little girls’ agency in the production process.

Programs like Do you Know are good at having kids explore the science and technology of everyday things but how about teaching kids the sociology of everyday things? It’s a mistake to think that closing the gender bias in STEM is simply an issue of resources and a love of tech, math and science, and that the precondition for success in these areas is simply engagement with those subjects and the determination to succeed. If we want more girls–a lot more girls–going into STEM careers, what we need is critical media literacy to help both girls and boys understand how and why things are produced in the way they are, in a social world, and that things can change, because the inquiry into “why we live as we do,” can be life changing and open many previously closed doors.

 

 

1/2 Critical Media Literacy in Preschool Years

In Critical Media Literacy and Children In Turkey: Policies, Initiatives
and Suggestions, Mine Gencel Bek* argues that “it is not sufficient
to ‘teach’ media literacy” in schools; instead, there is a need to teach “critical media literacy” using methods aligning with critical pedagogy. Bek notes:

“the approach argued here is important for developing the active participatory citizenry since it aims to develop the self-reflexive consciousness and ethics of citizens as active agents in social, cultural, political and economic spheres. It should lead us to question why we live as we do. In sum, such an approach will not serve to reinforce the already powerful hegemonic values (i.e. sexism, nationalism), but instead inform young people about power relations and encourage them to embrace values such as respecting and being sensitive to others. For this process, an understanding and practice of critical media literacy is vital since it helps to develop the consciousness of young citizens so that they can read media texts critically and be active in the production process.”

Bek also argues that  a critical media literacy program should take into account “the production dimension with an analysis of media industries [why and how is this produced?]; locate the media texts in the daily life of students [what does it mean for you?]; and also look at consumption practices [how do you respond?]”.

Some might think it is not realistic to teach preschool kids about power and the many complex dimensions of media production and consumption. As Henward mentions in Child Development and the Use of Technology: Perspectives, Applications and Experiencescritical media approaches are typically implemented in the upper elementary, middle and high school grades, rarely in lower elementary and virtually never in preschool” (in the US). In my experience in the UK, the preschool curricula is centered on teaching kids, or making them familiar with, basic skills in reading, writing and math (school readiness) but there is no discussion on critical media literacies at all.

But in reality,  children (1) are genuinely interested in understanding how things work, physical and social, and  (2) it’s very important for them to be treated fairly and have agency, which sets a good foundation for the use of critical pedagogy in preschool years. It’s not that difficult to raise awareness on basic concepts such as unequal distribution of wealth and power, consumerism, and also “gender and cultural identities” (taking this from Bek) are represented and misrepresented in the media. I give some examples below:

  • After three years of watching cbeebies only, we finally had access to cable channels and my daughter could watch some popular programs like Paw Patrol and Shimmer and Shine on for-profit channels like Channel 5 and ITV. We quickly realized, however, that cbeebies was a lot safer as it didn’t have any commercial adds, whereas these private channels bombarded kids with adds every 15 minutes or so. When my daughter began asking for things in the adds, I simply pointed to the fact that adds are designed to make you feel like buying something even if you don’t need it. Now she still watches some adds and still wants to get some of the things she sees but I then I say something like “Did that add make you feel like buying something! Naughty add!” and she laughs and says she doesn’t want it. She sees it as a game, and has no intention of losing.
  • The song, “colores, colores,” was one of my daughter’s favorite songs when she was three and she would try singing it along with the video. The song teaches colors along with jobs, all of which are illustrated with male figures. She asked one day where the mums were in the song. Why were the pictures just showing dads at work? I explained that the people who wrote this song (so she understands the song and the video is produced by someone) didn’t think about adding any women to the song but they should have, so why don’t we change the song? That took some time because I don’t know any Spanish but we finally did change the song a bit to include some mums and it was fun in the end and we both learned a few words.
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Spanish song teaching colours. Lyrics for red: “I like red; do you know why? It’s because my dad is a fireman.”

  • Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom is one my daughter’s favourite programs. This is a fun cartoon with magic fairies (all fairies are girls except King Thistle) and Elfs (mixed gender, but the main Elf character is a boy) living in a kingdom in a forest.  I enjoy watching this with my daughter, but there is one episode that makes me cringe every time I watch it. In this episode Elfs (very much working class) build a castle to save the day and although Princess Holly wants to help, Elves don’t let her do any work at all (“oh no no [princess], please relax and enjoy watching Elves doing what Elves do best”). I once commented this wasn’t fair because Princess Holly wanted to work too, and that they should have let Princess Holly help. My daughter’s response: Mummy, no! She is a princess! I made the point that princesses could work too, although this is not an entirely true statement because we all know they actually don’t.
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Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom. Elves are building a sandcastle.

  • From an early age (think two) my daughter learned that there are different interpretations of nursery rhymes and popular songs online. We often listen to Turkish pop music on YouTube and we got to the point where she asks for the “real” video, meaning the original one. She knows there can be many versions of one thing and that some are created to upset/provoke viewers and we stay away from those by turning off the auto-play.
  • We have started changing the story lines of books we don’t like, and sometimes just for fun. That means in some readings the bad witch is actually good, Cinderella’s sisters are generous and the princes don’t get to hand pick their wives.

There really is a lot of work that must be done to undo the hidden messages in popular programs like Peppa Pig or Paw Patrol (both are gender biased) and in many children’s books. We bring consciousness to media when we can at home, though without taking the fun out of these programs and books. I also really like the point made by Henward that “we need to take the time to listen to what children’s interpretation of media is before we give them our interpretation” (p. 104).

As I was writing this post, I found myself thinking a lot about gender bias (or gender inequalities) and started questioning the efforts that go into bridging the gender gap in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education, which I talk about in my next post.

*A node to my colleague Prof. Mine Gencel Bek, whose work I now know and admire and who recently has resigned from her teaching position from Ankara University, Turkey, due to political tensions.