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

Category: scholarship

Words to live by

Posted on January 12th, by George Veletsianos in scholarship. No Comments

William Pinar’s writing is powerful. This is particular is something worth sharing:

“we scholars must treat each other with the same pedagogical thoughtfulness and sensitivity with which we claim to treat students in our classrooms, and with which we ask our students (prospective and practicing teachers) to treat theirs” (p. 266).

Though Pinar here writes about peer-review, this to me highlights the sort of relationships that institutions of higher education should foster and support.

 

Kumashiro, K., Pinar, W., Graue, E., Grant, C., Benham, M., Heck, R., … & Luke, C. (2005). Thinking collaboratively about the peer-review process for journal-article publication. Harvard Educational Review75(3), 257-285.

On Teacherbot rights

Posted on January 11th, by George Veletsianos in E-learning, emerging technologies, online learning, pedagogical agents, scholarship, work. No Comments

Pause for a few more minutes and imagine that 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. Now consider their rights.

Assuming that teaching bots can exhibit (algorithmic) intelligence, can behave with some sort of (algorithmic) morality, can learn, can plan their interactions with students and make choices about them, and overall behave somewhat independently… what rights do they have, or should they have, as non-human entities, as teachers?

Consider this scenario: A teaching bot teaches independently in an online course. It (S/he?) develops a novel pedagogical approach wherein student test scores are maximized for some, but not all, students. University administrators, in collaboration with an edtech company, learn of this and would like to intervene to ensure that every student is served in an equitable manner. They are considering refining the underlying code that runs the bot. If unsuccessful, they are considering replacing the bot with a new one.

What are the bot’s rights? Does it have the right to protest this change? Does it have the right to its life? Does it have the rights that all other workers have?

 

Followup: Some background reading on ethical principles for robots.

How do faculty benefit from renewable assignments?

Posted on December 13th, by George Veletsianos in open, scholarship. 1 Comment

* This was originally hosted on the BCCampus blog, but I’m cross-posting it here for posterity.

Open education advocates have promoted renewable assignments as a way to create/update knowledge, enable faculty and students to impact society in significant ways, and foster student learning in more meaningful ways. As individual faculty members are often involved in designing course assignments, it might be worthwhile to be explicit about the value that renewable assignments might garner for faculty members themselves.

David Wiley differentiates between disposable and renewable assignments. He writes:

“A Disposable Assignment is any assignment about which students and faculty understand the following:

  • Students will do the work
  • Faculty will grade the work
  • Students will throw away the work

A Renewable Assignment is any assignment where:

  • Students will do the work
  • Faculty will grade the work
  • The work is inherently valuable to someone beyond the class
  • The work is openly published so those other people can find and use (5R) it”

One form that renewable assignments might take is in the form of books and textbooks. Four examples of open access books that faculty and students collaboratively wrote, revised, or edited are the following:

The arguments for these types of assignments, and rightly so, often focus on students and society. They highlight the cost-savings that students might accrue while engaging in pedagogies that enable authentic, participatory, and valuable contributions to the common good.

Yet, we know that individuals face both individual and systemic barriers in adopting open practices, such as institutional constraints that might not necessarily recognize the value of spending extra time and effort on developing open books and textbooks with students. Convincing faculty members to develop renewable assignments might involve highlighting the benefits that faculty members might accrue by engaging in this process.

What then might be the individual benefits to faculty members from redesigning some of their assignments to be more “renewable?” One renewable assignment that I created materialized as the last book appearing in the list above. The benefits that I saw were the following:

  • Authentic mentorship. The assignment gave me an opportunity to mentor students in an environment in which the end goal was an essay intended for practitioners and researchers. In doing so, we often engaged in conversations about the goal of the project, the audience, and the outcomes that each student wanted for their essay. Such mentorship was personally satisfying and fulfilling.
  • Align my research with my teaching. Faculty members engage in diverse activities, and I’m a firm believer in engaging in activities that benefit multiple areas of my work. In other words, my research, teaching, and service often overlap and inform one another. By creating a renewable assignment that addressed my learning objectives and was aligned with my research, my students and I were able to produce scholarship that was of value to the field, as well as address the goals of my research agenda.
  • Enable students to publish their work. Beyond the personal benefits that students might accrue by engaging in renewable assignments, I found it immensely rewarding to see my students’ work being published and hear them describe that they felt empowered and supported. Importantly, our book was published by Hybrid Pedagogy, which practices collaborative peer review and treats the peer review process as pedagogical.
  • Better collaboration. It was much more pleasurable to work with students toward our shared goal. I found that this process eliminated some of the power imbalances and hierarchies in the classroom, enabling us to collaborate more effectively.

If you are a faculty member, consider the value that renewable assignments might have for students, society, but also for your own practice. If you are a learning designer that is advocating for renewable assignments, consider whether these arguments might be worthwhile in your conversations with faculty colleagues. And if you have experiences with renewable assignments, consider sharing them on social media and linking back to this article.

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. 2 comments

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?

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

Institutional use of Twitter: Can universities surpass brand image to make their social media relevant?

Posted on July 5th, by George Veletsianos in my research, scholarship. 1 Comment

The article below was originally published on The Conversation with the launch of their Canadian-focused site. The original article is on their site, but it is posted here for posterity.

Disconnected: Can universities surpass brand image to make their social media relevant?

File 20170616 14532 cerqrr
Universities portray campus life as idyllic, but may be missing an opportunity to truly connect with students.
(Shutterstock)

George Veletsianos, Royal Roads University and Ashley Shaw, Royal Roads University

Universities fail to exploit social media’s most compelling features, tending to broadcast their brands instead of engaging students and the public online, new research suggests.

Visualise this: smiling students and successful faculty. In the background, beautiful buildings framed by blue skies.

These are the ways that Canadian universities choose to represent themselves on social media. This picture is somewhat accurate, but a tad misleading.

Social media are a staple of Canadian universities. Twitter — where one can quickly and easily share information, pictures and videos — is particularly used by nearly all Canadian universities. Researchers have generally found that universities use Twitter to broadcast information about themselves, both to potential students and to the wider public.

Twitter use by universities raises many questions for us as educators and researchers with an interest in social media. In our research, we have looked closely at exactly what universities are posting on Twitter, asking two important questions: What messages are universities conveying through their official Twitter accounts? How is university life depicted in their tweets? We examined over nine months’ worth of tweets from public universities in Canada, paying particular attention to the images and videos shared as well as the text accompanying them.

Positive branding

What we found was troubling. Based on the information shared from these official university accounts, one would likely conclude life in Canadian universities is universally gratifying, enjoyable and beautiful.

Students in images were nearly always smiling and happy. Faculty members — almost all middle-age white males — were shown giving speeches or conducting research. Campuses were always portrayed as attractive and sunny, boasting shiny buildings and new facilities. References to graduation ceremonies, groundbreaking research and sporting victories were all too common.

Teaching and learning received much less attention. This is not just a Canadian representation. We replicated our research using the Twitter feeds of more than 2,000 U.S. universities. The results were similar.

Institutional Twitter accounts seem to highlight and market an institutional brand — a positive ideal that they would like the public and potential students to hold. It’s understandable that universities, like individuals, want to present their ‘best self’ on social media. This makes sense from a marketing perspective.

Obscured reality

This carefully crafted and tightly controlled representation gives an incomplete and unrealistic portrayal of the people and activities of the university. There is little suggestion in this portrayal of the struggles students face in their studies, health and well-being, finances, and so forth. There is little mention of the day-to-day effort, difficulty and struggles of teaching and learning.

We are compelled to ask: What is it that drives universities to use social media as they do? In what ways have social, economic and political forces (such as the reduction in public funding and greater emphasis on competition) led universities to use these powerful social technologies in the service of branding and marketing?

We want to encourage Canadian universities to use Twitter, and other social media, in different ways — ways that would improve Canadian society.

Social media provide an opportunity not just to broadcast a message to the public, but to foster two-way engagement and communication between stakeholders. Universities could make more meaningful contributions to our broader society by using social media to summarise research findings for public use, connect alumni with students and provide educational opportunities to those outside the institution.

George Veletsianos, Professor and Canada Research Chair, Royal Roads University and Ashley Shaw, Researcher and Ph.D candidate, Royal Roads University

The Conversation