Professor & Canada Research Chair in Innovative Learning and Technology at Royal Roads University

Recommended books of 2017

Posted on December 10th, by George Veletsianos in sharing. No Comments

Though there’s still a few weeks to go in 2017, I thought it’s the right time to highlight a few books I read this year that I found powerful, incisive, and significant in one way or another.  This is not a definitive list, but as I’m increasingly finding the bulk of the literature examining instructional design, educational technology, and learning sciences to be insular, I am drawn to other places for inspiration, compassion, and action.

  • Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy, by Tressie McMillan Cottom
  • Paying the Price: College Costs, Financial Aid, and the Betrayal of the American Dream, by Sara Goldrick-Rab
  • Kill All Normies: Online Culture Wars from 4Chan and Tumblr to Trump and the Alt-Right, by Angela Nagle
  • Living a Feminist Life, by Sara Ahmed
  • Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body, by Roxane Gay

What have you read this year that tops your list?

Institutional Use of Twitter – national analyses

Posted on November 5th, by George Veletsianos in my research, NPS, open, scholarship. No Comments

We recently wrote two papers that examined institutional uses of Twitter in Canada and the United States. As part of that work, we identified similar analyses taking place in other countries. These are listed below:

CountryCitation
AustraliaPalmer, S. (2013). Characterisation of the use of Twitter by Australian Universities. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 35, 333–344.
CanadaVeletsianos, G., Kimmons, R., Shaw, A., Pasquini, L. & Woodward, Ss. (2017). Selective Openness, Branding, Broadcasting, and Promoting: Twitter Use in Canada’s Public Universities. Educational Media International, 54(1), 1-19.
TurkeyYolcu, O. (2013). Twitter usage of universities in Turkey. Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology, 12, 360–371.
UKJordan, K. (2017). Examining the UK higher education sector through the network of institutional accounts on Twitter. First Monday, 22(5). doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.5210/fm.v22i5.7133
USAKimmons, R., Veletsianos, G., & Woodward, S. (2016). Institutional Uses of Twitter in Higher Education. Innovative Higher Education, 42(2), 97-111.

Lola Olufemi and student/faculty social media harassment

Posted on October 26th, by George Veletsianos in learner experience, my research, networked scholars, NPS, open, scholarship. 2 comments

Below is a short interview with Lola Olufemi. The description from the BBC reads “Lola Olufemi is 21 years old and Cambridge University Students’ Union Women’s Officer. She found herself on the front page of a national newspaper, the face of a campaign to “decolonise” the English curriculum at Cambridge University. She discusses with Jenni Murray how she feels she’s been scapegoated by the media and her fears for the impact this could have on other young, black women wanting to speak out.”

I was watching this unfold yesterday, and witnessed the racist and misogynistic tweets fly by. One of which came from a professor at a well-known unversity, and as I responded at the time, what sort of academic responds in such a vile way to a person, let alone a student. As was shared on Twitter the institution has policies processes to deal with the harassing faculty member, but the questions that have been preoccupying my thinking over the last few months is the following: In what ways should our universities respond to the harassment that their students and faculty receive online, and on social media in particular? What are the institutional and individual responsibilities when we encourage students and faculty to be present on social media?

Imagine a future in which technologies teach humans

Posted on October 17th, by George Veletsianos in emerging technologies, my research, online learning, papers, scholarship. 1 Comment

Pause for a few minutes and imagine a future in which technologies teach humans. Call them robots, bots, chatbots, algorithms, teaching machines, tutoring software, agents, or something else. Regardless, consider them technologies that teach.

robo_teacher

Vector created by Freepik

How far into the future is that time?

What do these technologies look like? Are they anthropomorphous? Are they human-like? In what ways are they human-like? Do they have voice capabilities, and if so, do they understand natural language? Are they men or women?  Do they have a representation in the way that one would imagine a teacher – such as a pedagogical agent – or do they function behind the scenes in ways that seem rather innocuous – such as the Mechanical MOOC?

Do these technologies teach humans of all ages? Do they teach independently, support human teachers, or do human teachers assist them? Are they featured in articles in the New York Times, The Guardian, and The Economist as innovations in education? Or, are they as common as desks and chairs, and therefore of less interest to the likes of the New York Times? Are they common in all learning contexts? Who benefits from technologies that teach? Is being taught by these technologies better or worse than being taught be a human teacher? In what ways is it better or worse? Are they integrated in affluent universities and k-12 schools? Or, are they solely used in educational institutions serving students of low socioeconomic status? Who has access to the human teachers and who gets the machines? Are they mostly used in public or private schools?

How do learners feel about them? Do they like them? Do they trust them? Ho do learners think that these technologies feel about them? Do they feel cared for and respected? How do learners interact with them? How do human teachers feel about them? Would parents want their children to be taught be these technologies? Which parents have a choice and which parents don’t? How do politicians feel about them? How do educational technology and data mining companies view them?

Do teaching technologies treat everyone the same based on some predetermined algorithm? Or, are their actions and responses based on machine learning algorithms that are so complex that even the designers of these technologies cannot predict their behaviour with exact precision? Do they subscribe to pre-determined pedagogical models? Or, do they “learn” what works over time for certain people, in certain settings, for certain content areas, for certain times of the day? Do they work independently in their own classroom? Or, do colonies of robo-teachers gather, share, and analyze the minutiae of student life, with each robo-teacher carefully orchestrating his or her next evidence-based pedagogical move supported by Petabytes of data?

Final question for this complicated future, I promise: What aspects of this future are necessary and desirable, and why?

MOOCs and Open Education in the Developing World symposium

Posted on August 24th, by George Veletsianos in emerging technologies, moocs. No Comments

A thought-provoking pre-conference symposium is being organized and facilitated on October 17th by Curt Bonk, Sheila Jagannathan, Tom Reeves, and Tom Reynolds at this year’s E-learn conference. It’s focused on a variety of innovations pertaining to online learning in the context of the developing world. While some research demonstrates that  socioeconomic divides persist in the context of MOOCs used by US learners, the symposium organizers note that “minimal attention has been placed on how developing countries and regions of the world are taking advantage of these new forms of technology-enabled learning” and “this is exactly where exciting and impactful innovations are currently occurring.”

Beyond the impressive list of presenters, I appreciate

  • the diverse organizations represented here, which include universities, polytechnics, non-profits, NGOs, and financial institutions
  • the main questions behind the symposium, which is: How do innovations work in different contexts, for whom, why, and what can we learn from one another?

Plus: It’s in Vancouver, off the coast of Canada’s paradise, Victoria ;)

AERA statement and #edtech research

Posted on August 18th, by George Veletsianos in E-learning, emerging technologies, scholarship. No Comments

What appears below is a copy of the AERA Statement on the Hateful Acts in Charlottesville. I am posting it here because there’s a tendency in our field to focus on instruction and learning that is effective, efficient, and engaging without considering that we need to evaluate instruction/learning in the context of larger societal needs. What’s the value of an effective programming course if it leaves behind traditionally disenfranchised groups? This reminds me of Tom Reeves and his efforts to encourage us all to engage in socially responsible research that addresses the urgent problems of our time.

AERA statement

The American Educational Research Association condemns racism in all its forms and joins others throughout our nation in the fight to eradicate hate, injustice, and racial violence. The recent events in Charlottesville not only make visible how White supremacy, racism, antisemitism, religious persecution, homophobia, and xenophobia continue to permeate our society, but also remind us of the critical importance of studying, analyzing, and broadly communicating about these patterns and structures. Our social responsibility as a community of education researchers is to engage in producing knowledge and to share that knowledge with clarity and integrity.

 

A wide range of scholarship can and must be used to inform and engage current and future generations in the multiple stories of our pasts, the realities of our presents, and the critical demands of our futures. We need to uncover and analyze how our educational system is connected to our past and present legacies of racism in all of its forms—how our institutions and practices persistently reproduce inequities. We must also develop the knowledge and evidence that can lead to practices and policies that address hate, support understanding and respect of others, and disrupt the divisive patterns of disparity and denigration. Researchers, together with educators across all levels of education, must confront the racism, xenophobia, power and privilege, and injustice that permeate the ordinary life of our nation and world and interrogate and teach the histories of our past. No one should leave our educational institutions thinking that the expressions of hate that were on display in Charlottesville are just legitimate “points of view” or acceptable acts of “free speech.” No one should leave our classrooms or campuses believing that the symbols of oppression and killing are mere logos.

 

Education is fundamentally about our futures as a nation and a world, for education can empower the next generation of human beings who can promote and protect human rights, build institutions, make laws, create knowledge and art, and imagine and make possible a just world. AERA is committed to providing the knowledge base and working with other scientific organizations to support educators and others in our communities to be able to confront hate and to teach all people to know the histories of slavery, racism, genocide, inhumanity, oppression, colonialism, and White supremacy, as well as to know and learn from the stories of those who have fought and devoted their lives to justice. We strive to make known and foster the use of research on institutional and individual factors that engender prejudice and acts of violence against groups. As researchers, we must be prepared to support educators with tools, knowledge, and expertise to notice, name, deal with, and confront these issues as they arise in our contemporary world, our communities, and in our institutions and classrooms.

 

Now is the time, as new school and academic years commence, to ensure that we do not ignore or forget the realities that underlie what we have just experienced nor resume a normalcy that belies the scholarship that we have. AERA is committed to continuing this conversation as we go from city to city. It is our priority in planning for the 2018 Annual Meeting in April in New York and speaks to the very heart of this year’s theme—“The Dreams, Possibilities, and Necessity of Public Education.”

 

 

Deborah Loewenberg Ball, AERA President

Felice J. Levine, AERA Executive Director

Recharging

Posted on August 6th, by George Veletsianos in sharing. No Comments

I remember watching a TV show back when I moved to Canada in which the protagonist said something to the effect of “Like most Canadians, I enjoy the great outdoors.” I don’t know whether enjoyment of the outdoors is a Canadian trait but I do know that there’s many hiking trails in BC that I’ve enjoyed. One of them is the Heart Trail on Pender island, which is exactly what I think I need on a daily basis.



Diversity, Justice, and Democratization in Open Education and #opened17

Posted on July 31st, by George Veletsianos in Ideas, open, work. 1 Comment

This post is more about connecting some dots for myself, and drawing parallels (see 4 especially), than making a fully comprehensible argument.

Blog work-in-progress, they say.

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Diversity by Manel Torralba

1. In 2012, we wrote that the open movement, and thereby the individuals associated with it, assume “ideals such as democratization, human rights, equality, and justice.” We argued that individuals should be vigilant and reflective of their practices, and that “such vigilance should focus both on determining who profits from [open] practices and who is excluded from them so as to combat both under-use by some (e.g., those lacking entry to or knowledge of useful networks) and over-use or exploitation by those with the wealth, power, and prestige necessary to effectively strip mine sources.”

2. I was reminded of this recently, as there has been many conversations around diversity in the open education movement. Some, but not all, of these conversation surround the choice of a keynote talk at the Open Education 2017 conference. Here are a few tweets to contextualize this conversation.

3. As part of the Digital Learning and Social Media Research Group, we’ve been awarding funding to individuals interested in conducting research with us. One of the papers resulting from these research opportunities contributes somewhat here. Michael Paskevicius was interested in examining discourses surrounding openness on Twitter and we analyzed a large Twitter dataset for this purpose. In that (forthcoming) paper, we wrote: “Inherent in the idea of openness is the attitude that all should be able to participate and share and reap the benefits of open communities. However, our results on the national and gender demographics of participants raises questions as to the ongoing diversity of the open education community. Notably, the U.S. dominates English-speaking conversations about openness, and though this might be somewhat expected given the relative size of that country, overrepresentation of males in the community should lead us to consider whether there are social or other barriers of entry for female participants. Interestingly, females gradually gained traction in the community and even overtook males in 2013, but this trend swiftly reversed the following year, and males now participate more than females at a rate of 1.8-to-1. The reasons for this up- and then down-turn is unclear… At any rate, if diversity of perspectives would be valued in any community, we would anticipate that this would be the case within open communities, so we suggest that leaders in this area should consider ways to better understand this issue and the reasons why many who should be participating in these conversations are not.” [emphasis mine] From: Paskevicius, M., Veletsianos, G., & Kimmons, R. (in press). Content is king: An analysis of how the Twitter discourse surrounding open education unfolded from 2009 to 2016. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning.

4. In response to a question I asked a couple of weeks ago, Martin Weller noted open universities’ contributions to the ideal of democratizing education/learning. Others, noted openness in general. To what extent can an innovation/approach/activity be said to be democratizing when itself could be more diverse and more inclusive? Put differently, can open education be democratizing when itself and its community could benefit from being more democratic, diverse, and just? If i had to venture a guess, I would say that many in the open education community would say “yes, open education can concurrently be democratizing and in need of growth.” Warning: How is this different from techno-utopian SV approaches to educational technology that go like this: “We are democratizing/uberizing/disrupting education, even though we do need to work on our privileged heteronormative ways?” Perhaps what’s different is that in the open education community there seems to be a desire to do better, to be better, or at least, to start with, an acknowledgement that we can do better.

As I said… work-in-progress.