#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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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.
Screen Shot 2018-07-02 at 13.42.28.png

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. 

Emotional Violence in Education

“When writer Sir Terry Pratchett died in 2015 he was working on one last story: his own. … Back in Black reveals that Terry’s road to success was not always easy, from his troubled school days to being dismissed by literary critics, to his battle with Alzheimer’s.

This is how BBC 2 introduces a documentary exploring the life of Terry Pratchett on their website. This narrative highlights three very different events that marked Pratchett’s life: bullying at school, his talent not being recognized, and a terminal disease. According to a Guardian article, this is how Pratchett describes bullying in his “incomplete biography”:

I had a mouthful of speech impediments that left me with a voice that sounded like David Bellamy with his hand caught inside an electric fire. But it was not the kids that really got to me, it was the crushing of my boyhood dreams by someone 3ft taller.The headmaster of Holtspur School in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, took a “rather vicious dislike to me” and thought “he could tell how successful you were going to be in later life by how well you could read or write at the age of six.

Can you imagine this? An old man on the verge of dying with Alzheimer’s describes something that has become part of his self-narrative here: the bullying, his bully, the headmaster of a school. I imagine that he doesn’t need to make an effort to remember this. He knows it all by heart; it is part of his identity. It is not forgotten. Yet.. When Pratchett looks back on this experience, what does he see? Rage? Shame? Humiliation? Puzzlement? Perhaps, at that time he wasn’t able to articulate any of those but could name them years later, when he became an adult.

What Pratchett experienced as a six year old boy was emotional violence at its very best. It was violence because, as Palmer argues, it violated somebody’s integrity, his sense of self.

Emotional violence is, and has been, happening in our society, in families, communities, and in our institutions, in the north and south, west and east and the middle. I believe often times we confuse it with “tradition” or we simply don’t recognize it because it’s quite well disguised. When a teacher tells a black student excelling in maths and science that she should go into a career in sports because that’s what she’s naturally good at, that’s abuse. It closes down possibilities for a person and imposes a top-down, often times false and misinformed, identity.

bell hooks writes about the detrimental effects of emotional abuse in education; she tells the stories of young women and men who end up leaving formal education because they become  paralyzed with racism, hatred, and simply ignorance. Her stories are familiar, and, yes, I can relate to most because although I’m not a black American, I can recognize oppression (i.e., “prolonged cruel or unjust treatment or exercise of authority”) when I see it.  I’ve known advisers who crashed their students’ spirit with cruel remarks. I’ve known teachers who openly scolded students because they were in a position to speak with authority. I’ve known many teachers in my life whose presence simply meant fear and shame for their students.

In an authoritarian educational system, emotional violence can easily occur because authority feeds from violence. The heads exercise their power over teachers, teachers exercise their power on students, students exercise their power on weaker ones–it’s a vicious cycle. If you are questioning whether authority exists to a great extent in our educational institutions just reflect back on your own education, think about those around you – you’ll find examples.

I believe that by opening up education, we have a better chance of moving from fascism to democracy because the structures of learning and teaching become explicit; they are open to debate and change. Opening up education certainly doesn’t mean everything will be and should be public and online. The kind of openness I’m talking about is not about a change in the delivery method; it’s a change in structure: the structures of thinking and operating.

I talk about these open structures in my next post.

Strange thoughts

guernica

strange thoughts on the way home today…

an Iraqi artist painting horses. just horses and nothing more. perhaps a few fields…

I think about a woman. a mother whose baby has measles but she won’t take him to the hospital because she has four other kids no five other kids to take care of because the doctors are going to play tricks on her because somebody will take the kids away, because it’s so damp in their tent, and so cold.

and I think about a brother quietly saying to himself, shouting to the world, “I never would have thought that one day I would be relieved to see other people’s losses,” because you see, he was looking for his sister in the hospital morgue and she wasn’t there. yet.

strange thoughts on the way home today…

painting horses and nothing more. and brushing my daughter’s beautiful soft hair, weaving pink flowers and butterflies into her curls.

The context of plagiarism

I need to write the acknowledgments section of my dissertation but I can’t help going back to Maha and Groom’s post on the ethos of educational technologies. Now I’m thinking about plagiarism in higher education courses, what it means for instructors and for learners themselves. In every undergraduate class I taught there were always one or two students who copied material from other resources and used them in their work without appropriate references. However, I’m very careful to say that they were plagiarizing, because in my experience, most students want to do a good job in their projects and they don’t understand why copying content without references may not be appropriate. Consider this:

In a ceramics class the instructor tells student that she can’t just copy a design from a book onto her vase. Student tries to explain that the design is traditional and anonymous. Instructor isn’t interested. She cuts the conversation by firmly saying “No. That is not your design. You can’t use it. That’s plagiarizing.” The instructor is patient but it’s clear that the conversation is over. The student is offended, can’t understand the instructor’s point of view. The instructor can’t understand the student’s point of view.

Ehem, so that student was of course me. 🙂 To give this incident a little bit of context, that was my 2nd year in Minnesota and I had a book that I brought from Turkey on traditional shadow puppets Hacivat and Karagoz. This was a precious book; my husband’s grandmother (who is now 99) had given it to me. Its pages were falling apart and that day I must have taken it to the class with great care. I’m sure I was excited about using it for my project. But I remember coming home frustrated and disappointed. I hated the instructor (although I’m sure she had good intentions), and why were we so far away from home anyway?

hacivat-and-karagoz--1

Picture taken from here

So you can clearly see how context complicates things when it comes to plagiarism (to this date I still don’t know if it was ok to use the design on my vase). This experience significantly shaped how I go about plagiarism in my own classes. In one class focusing on children’s and youth’s use of social media, students were given the option to design an educational website on a topic of their choice for their final project. To my surprise one student in the class, and she was doing really well in class discussions and in other class activities, copied most of the content of her site from other sites. The website itself looked really nice; it wasn’t a last-minute project where she dumped all the content to her site. When I brought the issue to her attention, she panicked. She explained to me she never had the intent to plagiarize stuff. She wanted to make her site look good, professional. By taking content from other credible sites she was making sure that she was providing professional content.

I believe it’s the instructor’s responsibility to offer as much guidance and support as possible long before a project begins to avoid issues like this. And this is not only about  technical guidance or even about ethics. It is also about helping students understand that a course project, a website, a blog post, an essay, can always be a work in progress. It can always be improved and they shouldn’t be afraid of failing. What matters is the way they go about their work rather than the end result. I have had hundreds of undergraduate students in my courses and in most cases of plagiarism (using it for the lack of a better term), I chose to trust my students. Even if they were being dishonest it didn’t matter because I knew that when I had a positive attitude and when I believed that they approached their work with all the best intentions, our relationship would always, always be better.

So when we use a tool like Turnitin in our classes, what are we saying to our students? I wouldn’t prefer to use the tool in my classes because I don’t think it gives the right message to students. I think it creates power issues between instructors and students when actually it’s so much more important to remove those barriers in a meaningful way. And when you know your students, you just know when something is not quite right and you can always use that as a way to improve your relationships in class.

The schizophrenic Moodle

picasso-portrait of sylvette david~b99_1433

Picture taken from here

Can we separate the way we teach from the technological systems in which we work? This question was posed by Maha Bali and Jim Groom in a thought-provoking post critically examining the ethos of educational technologies. Maha and Jim argue that the choices we make in educational technology say something about our values and pedagogical visions–they are inseparable from how we go about teaching and learning.

Couldn’t agree more. When I was teaching online classes in Learning Technologies at the University of Minnesota most faculty and graduate instructors were using Ning as an alternative to Moodle (institutionally supported) because its design better aligned with the values of the program. In Aaron Doering’s words, the goal in LT courses was “for students to discover and create knowledge as a group, with the instructor acting as a guide through the assigned materials” and Ning was a great platform to achieve that. A lot of what we were doing in Ning was driven by pedagogy but we were also guided by the possibilities and limitations of the platform itself. On the plus side learners could easily get a sense of others’ presence in the course through features like member pages, blogs, discussions, chat and photos and videos. There were small design touches we liked a lot, like how each forum post appeared with a member thumbnail picture. (In a class I’ve taken as graduate student all students had administrative access to Ning so we could even change the design of the platform if we wanted to.) On the other hand, I had to grade students’ work and Ning didn’t have a gradebook, I couldn’t set up assignments or create a sophisticated system to archive course resources. After all Ning wasn’t originally designed as a Learning Management System (LMS) and the way it worked was so different than Moodle, which is specifically designed for that purpose. I’m not saying that Ning is better than Moodle, it’s just for our purposes Ning seemed to work best.

Now I’m going to diverge a bit because it is really interesting to think about the multiple layers of values and visions embedded in educational technology. Especially when we think about technologies that are designed specifically for the purpose of education, like a course management system.

Let’s consider Moodle, for example. I find the misalignment between the ethos of the Moodle developer community and the end product quite puzzling. Let me explain:

Moodle as a design project: is community driven, globally supported, open-source.
Moodle as an LMS (how the end-product is typically used in higher education institutions):  is institutionally driven, locally supported, closed. Also supports the use of copyrighted materials because it’s institutional (this is one point I deviate from Maha and Jim because they argue that LMS are copyright havens).

I believe there is a strong mismatch between Moodle as a design project and Moodle as an LMS because there’s a disconnect between the field of computer science and education in general. A recent TaLIC lunchtime conversation where two computer scientists presented their work also made me realize the big gap between the two fields.

Solution? More partnership, more conversation between computer science and education and less bias toward our own assumptions and the paradigms of each field. Result: (potentially) innovative products to use in education. What do you think?

 

Confused Speech

Bonnie Stewart’s “Academic Twitter: The intersection of orality & literacy in scholarship?” is one of the most inspirational works I came across recently. Bonnie talks about identity in open scholarship from many different but connected angles: personal/professional divide, multiple identities, performative identities, quantified identities… What interests me most is where she talks about the difference between literate and oral traditions:

Slide 39: Oral Tradition: Participatory, Situational, Social, Formulaic, Agonistic, Rhetorical
Slide 40: Literate Tradition: Interiorized, Abstracted, Innovative, Precise, Analytic, Indexical

I find this distinction, although it is quite obvious to me now, fascinating, because it makes me think about the dominant traditions in academic scholarship and how alternative modes of communication like blogging, tweeting, having a Google Hangout with colleagues, and multimodality challenge that tradition. In an earlier post, I talked about how Nick Sousanis, for example, created a comic book for his dissertation (you can find more examples for comics as scholarship here).

Bonnie also says that we’re experiencing a confusion between oral and literate traditions on Twitter. She talks about how some treat informal speech online as if it’s print based material. The reverse is also possible, very often I see tweets which look like informal speech (they happen in a conversation) but they sound like quotes pulled from a book, which makes me think that they are out there for dissemination. I’ll call these blurry lines in oral and literate traditions “confused speech;” I’m sure a better term exists somewhere but for now it will do the job. 🙂

Confused speech can happen everywhere in education. I see it in text-books (e.g., text that might sound conversational but in fact designed to transfer factual info), in conference presentations (e.g., presenters read their paper in front of an audience), and in conversations (like a Twitter message created for reproduction in  a conversation). Confused speech is also evident in a book I recently started reading:  Introducing Foucault: A Graphic Guide. I wanted to read this book because I came across this journal article (published as part of Comics as Scholarship, a special issue for Digital Humanities Quarterly) on multimodal educational texts via one of Maha’s blog posts and wanted to learn more about Foucault through a non-traditional way of academic writing. The author of the article, Aaron Scott Humphrey from the University of University of Adelaide, says:

Academic writing has generally been understood as operating primarily within the linguistic modality, with writing remediating the “voice” of an educator or lecturer. Comics, by contrast, are more explicitly multimodal and derive much of their meaning from visual, spatial and linguistic modalities. Because of their multimodality, educational comics challenge the conception of an authoritative author’s “voice,” as is typically found in traditional educational and academic writing.

If we throw images into a book, does that make the text multimodal? I don’t think so. I see a confusion between oral and literate traditions in the Foucault book. When I see two people in the same comic frame, I expect them to communicate somehow. I don’t expect them to go into a disconnected monologue and certainly I don’t expect them to talk like a “textbook.” What I actually see in the images below are text highlighted from the book in disguise as “comics.” Take out the text and what meaning is left in the drawings? I think these images just give an illusion of multimodality, the illusion of “something interesting is happening here.”

What do you think about confused speech? Does it make sense? Please leave a comment and let me know; perhaps we can refine this post together. 🙂