Tag: access

  • My Summer Research Project/Talk on MOOCs at Microsoft Research New England

    I spent this summer at Microsoft Research New England as a PhD Intern working on a project  with the most boring title ever. “The Student as End User in the MOOC Ecology”.  Here is a link if you are interested in seeing my talk on the topic (also took place at Microsoft Research):


    Students as End Users in the MOOC Ecology, Microsoft Research New England Talk


    The topic I am interested in with MOOCs is one that seems to be missing from a good portion of the conversation, what happens to students? My hunch with all of this is and was that the Big 3 MOOC companies are operating more like social networking sites than Education or learning institutions in some aspects. The most important place where I am noting the similarities is in the legal formation of the subject popularly known as a “student” or “learner”, who legal becomes an “End User” through clickwrap. By looking at the various legal documents that are available (Terms of Use, Contracts with partnering institutions), we can begin to sketch a portrait of the “End User”, and it looks nothing like the “student” or “learner” that is being discussed publicly by the companies. Additionally, when we start thinking about the obsession with numbers, data, and analytics, the Massive turns into an interesting space of inquiry for Big Data, Privacy, etc.

    I am in the process of doing a final revision of my paper before I start submitting it. Currently I’m debating how much I need to go into what the Big 3 MOOC companies are saying . In the paper I speak about more than Daphne Koller’s TED Talk, and spend more time talking about imperialism as the accumulation of capital… but, as with the final draft of everything, I’m trying to figure out what is adding enough to keep and what is taking away from the overall point and purpose of the paper.

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  • Toilets, Mobile Phones, & that Guy with the Animals

    The UN had a report come out on the global sanitation crisis. It was almost impossible to find the original story but I did. I think the thing that made it so hard to find is that rather than leading with the global santitation crisis, most news outlets apparently didn’t get past the first sentence. Or they did, but that was the lead for the story:

    United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson today launched a call for urgent action to end the crisis of 2.5 billion people without basic sanitation, and to change a situation in which more people worldwide have mobile phones than toilets

    So… the Time version of the story, titled “More People Have Cell Phones Than Toilets, U.N. Study Shows“, has a photo from Getty. The image stopped me.


    I mean, I totally smiled. The photo is beautiful. It perfectly captures how I would imagine what this sanitation crisis, I mean plethora of cell phones, must look like. Here are the keywords Getty has it listed under the photo.

    Keywords: Communication, Technology, Horizontal, Outdoors, 30-34 Years, 35-39 Years, Africa, Mobile Phone, Kenya, Indigenous Culture, Animal, Domestic Animals, Mammal, Cattle, Day, One Person, African Tribal Culture, Masai, Color Image, Herder, Large Group Of Animals, One Mid Adult Man Only, One Man Only, Native African Ethnicity, Animal Themes, Westernization, Photography, Science and Technology, Livestock, Using Phone, Developing Countries, Wireless Technology, Adults Only, Warrior, Herbivorous.

    Lots of stuff about animals and indigenous african culture.  A few on technology. Westernization and development make an appearance. Vocational information. Location. And… nothing about why the UN report was actually written.

    The UN piece has a slightly different title than the time piece, “Deputy UN chief calls for urgent action to tackle global sanitation crisis“, and a very different image:

    Living amid waste. Photo: IRIN/Manoocher Deghati

    The phones are a wonderful hook, and they are mentioned one more time later in the piece to give the numbers:

    Of the world’s seven billion people, six billion have mobile phones. However, only 4.5 billion have access to toilets or latrines – meaning that 2.5 billion people, mostly in rural areas, do not have proper sanitation. In addition, 1.1 billion people still defecate in the open.

    But the call to action later in the article:

    “But the effort succeeded not by building latrines; it succeeded by getting people to recognize and to talk about the problem,” he stated.

    Seems like it may be lost. I know that if I didn’t have time and I saw the headline, clicked the article, and saw the beautiful image of the Masai Moran warrior on his cell phone, out with his animals in an uncluttered field, I’d probably think “good for them”, and then move on… but maybe I’m more apathetic than most.

    In terms of what this means with regards to how we talk about the digital divide cannot be understated. But… our need to gloss over. The fact that most of the articles that have come out over the past few days do not link directly to the UN piece nor do they lead with the sanitation crisis means that the bigger, messier issue is being glossed over and beautified for western/global north consumption and page views.

    Is this a problem? I think yes, but I’m not sure. Maybe it’s just me.

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  • Thoughts on the P3 conference and (in)visiblity

    So, I participated a week ago in the Peer-to-Peer Pedagogy (p3) workshop and (un)conference at Duke on September 10th.  I’ve been holding off on writing something up.  I needed to let my thoughts marinate and then meditate.  The most important conclusion I came to was that this peer-to-peer stuff seems to be keeping the invisible people invisible.

    Here is a transcript from the backchannel (the chat that was going on during the presentations).  I am “Jade”:

    Two things were said that made me a little uneasy.  The first was the idea of letting people go in to a peer-to-peer situation without guidance.  Some people are better equipped than others to do certain things.  Different levels of education, access, socialization and culture will impact how well people will be able to handle collaborative learning/teaching/grading.  I don’t like the idea of the professor abdicating their role as facilitator and educator when the need arises.  So, I wrote the following:

    Jade: Sometimes the babies don’t learn to walk if you don’t stand them up first, right?Sep 10

    I was thinking of the experience of my own two children learning to walk.  They saw other people their size walking.  They were interested and frustrated by their immobility.  They would scream and cry.  So, I stood them up.  We turned it in to a game.  I got so excited when they would stand for prolonged periods.  This moved to holding my hand and taking steps on their weak legs.  As they got stronger, I would sit with their father on the opposite side, maybe a two feet away. We’d say “come here” with a big smile on our faces and our arms out stretched.  The baby would take steps.  And slowly, as their confidence grew, we would sit further apart, until, one day, the baby decided he was ready, and he’d stand up by himself, and walk across the room without needing a hand.  I don’t think students are babies, but, I think we learn new things by observation, and experience.  Often, those experiences need to be facilitated.

    So, the other thing that was said was in the backchannel.  Here is the exchange:

    Grace Hagood: I think (coming from the standpoint of teaching composition) that students are better able to understand not only issues of audience, but also their own agency as authors when they’re involved in producing digital work that they know is going to be available online.Sep 10

    Grace Hagood: They’re very tuned into how they present themselves in a public digital context, often.Sep 10

    Amanda Phillips: @grace I will probably make the forum more open next time. But does it feel public to them if no one from the outside is responding?Sep 10

    Grace Hagood: @amanda I think it feels public as long as the class has access, but no doubt that’s compounded if outside readers are allowed.Sep 10

    Amanda Phillips: I mean if you make a forum public, will students treat it as such if no one from the outside is posting? The Internet is a big place and can feel emptySep 10

    Nilspete: Public space for students to work on toy assignment will not draw a real community. That is why you need real problems situated in real communitiesSep 10

    Jade: @Nils, I think it is good for practice though so students feel comfortable going out to real communities.Sep 10

    Nilspete: @jade. Learners do need to understand and develop these skills. But I’d argue, dare to be bold.Sep 10

    The conversation continued a bit, and then I posted the following:

    Jade: @nils, I agree it is important to be bold but it goes back to the question of making sure communities that have a history of not being included are integrated.Sep 10

    There was no response to that from anyone.  I have this new thing.  Well, it isn’t new.  It is something I determined for me and my research interest and methodological leaning will be important.  It is called a”privilege check”.  The space I am coming from, the status I have etc gives me so many more privileges than people I interact with every day in daily life, the classroom, research etc.  I don’t want to take it for granted.  To me, my research will not be meaningful if I don’t check my privilege and try to ensure that everyone I am interacting with has an equal voice.  If they don’t, I need to try to help level the playing field as much as I am able to.  I feel like, especially in a University setting, people should feel they are safe to explore knowledge and expression of knowledge (or learning I guess).  For some people, that might be just the basics; learning that their ideas and thoughts are as valuable as any other idea or thought.

    Not everyone feels safe enough to be bold.  Not everyone IS safe enough to be bold.  To ignore that is unrealistic.  It is something that must be discussed when looking towards a peer-to-peer system in a University context.

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