The article below was posted on Inside Higher Ed. I’m copying and pasting it here for posterity.
#NotAllEdTech Derails Critical Educational Technology Conversations
Last month, Rolin Moe and I published an essay in EDUCAUSE Review highlighting ideological and sociocultural factors associated with the rise of Educational Technology (hereafter EdTech). Motivated by two responses to our essay, I decided to write this additional piece highlighting an argument/misunderstanding that can often circumvent and derail critical discussions in the field.
The critique, offered by Downes and Kim, counters our underlying premise. They say: Not all educational technology is characterized by technocentric, market-centric, and product-driven ideologies. Downes argues that the way we describe educational technology doesn’t describe him – and by implication many that work in the field. Kim notes that he doesn’t know anyone in the field who thinks and behaves in the ways that aligns with how we describe the rise of EdTech.
I will unpack the meaning of #NotAllEdTech here.
#NotAllEdTech posits that not all educational technology is malevolent and not all educational technology represents an insidious attempt at privatizing and automating education. The #NotAllEdTech argument notes that there are many good people in our field. People who care. Entrepreneurs, researchers, and colleagues of many vocations – instructors, instructional designers, directors of digital learning – who are working, in their own way, to improve teaching and learning with technology. Not all educational technology is sinister, atheoretical, ahistorical, and driven by unsavory desires. #NotAllEdTech. Individuals that make this argument seem to want to guard themselves, and others, against being defined by the ideologies we identified in our original paper.
This all makes sense, of course. If it weren’t for the thoughtful, caring, creative, innovative, and justice-oriented people in the field focused on making positive change in education and society, I would have switched careers a long time ago. Moe and I, and countless colleagues, use educational technology toward valued ends, from providing educational opportunities where none have existed before, to providing them in more flexible ways, to re-thinking the ways students learn and instructors teach. Making a meaningful contribution to society is at the core of this multi-faceted and exciting field.
We know that there is good in educational technology. To borrow Downes’s terminology, we know that educational technology can be benign.
But, that’s not the point.
Just because there are many well-intentioned people in the field, just because our essay doesn’t accurately characterize Downes, just because Kim doesn’t “know of ” anyone who thinks of educational technology in the ways we described, it doesn’t mean that educational technology is operating outside of socio-cultural, -economic, and –political forces.
I’m certain that many well-intentioned people were involved in a wide-range of initiatives that ended up being problematic. Many well-intentioned individuals believed in xMOOCs and for-profit online universities as emancipatory. Many well-intentioned individuals write, adopt, and otherwise participate in the operations of the textbook publishing industry despite the exorbitant prices that some publishers charge. Many well-intentioned individuals review for or publish in non-open-access journals and otherwise support the academic publishing industry despite the restrictions the industry places upon knowledge dissemination. Many well-intentioned individuals imagined the aforementioned practices as ways to democratize access, but the presence of well-intentioned individuals did not ensure positive outcomes.
The most pressing problem with the #NotAllEdTech argument though, is that it perpetuates a dangerous counternarrative.
#NotAllEdTech can be a tactic that derails and deflects from discussions of educational technology as a practice that needs deep questioning. #NotAllEdTech could, perhaps inadvertently, redirect attention on the optimism surrounding educational technology, ignoring the broader landscape around which educational technology operates. It might also create a false binary: the heroes and good guys of EdTech vis-à-vis the bad ones (e.g., for-profits, large companies, and so on). Most importantly, such a binary might imply that those on the good side are somehow shielded by outside forces (some of which, such as pressures to rethink our practices, might in fact be very useful).
What I fear, and hope to avoid, is a world where conversations about educational technology focus solely on individuals (e.g., those who use the technology, create the technology, etc.), while avoiding criticisms of educational technology as an overly optimistic practice shaped by societal trends. It’s easy to shift the focus on individuals. It’s easy to blame teachers for not using technology in participatory ways, faculty for not employing more progressive digital pedagogies, and researchers for not publishing in open access venues. But such blame, such a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” approach, ignores the unequal distribution of power in our social systems and ignores sociocultural and sociopolitical constraints that individuals face. Teachers might face testing regimes that favor certain (poor) pedagogies. Researchers might face institutional policies or disciplinary norms that favor publishing in certain (closed) journals. Using a parallel example, it’s easy (and tempting) to claim that Uber drivers enjoy opportunities to supplement their income, work at their leisure, and make use of idle resources (i.e. their cars), and easy to avoid investigations of the broader social trends surrounding the gig economy.
Have we had successes using educational technology to re-imagine pedagogical approaches, expand flexibility, reduce costs, improve outcomes, and escalate access? Of course we have. And the future is bright. But, if we keep ignoring the ways that educational technology is a symptom of powerful forces, such as our changing economy, outside of the control of any single well-intentioned individual we might find ourselves supporting systems and practices that are in conflict with the positive societal ideals that we are aspiring towards.
Through such conversations, our field becomes more vibrant, critical, and reflective. And, for that, despite our disagreements, I’d like to thank Downes and Kim.
 For a more extensive analysis see the original paper at http://er.educause.edu/articles/2017/4/the-rise-of-educational-technology-as-a-sociocultural-and-ideological-phenomenon
When I wrote my book Networked Scholars, I was very intentional in my writing. I wanted to avoid writing a “how to” book. Not that there’s anything wrong with “how to use social media” books, but there’s plenty of those, not to mention countless blog posts and advice columns on outlets like Inside Higher Ed, The Chronicle, etc.
Beyond that though, my interests aren’t social media per se. My interests are on the ways that people learn online and the ways that knowledge is managed, negotiated, developed, and shared in digital environments. Though social media are central to these process these days – and let’s face it, most media are social nowadays – there are practices central to knowledge exchange and dissemination that have nothing to do with the technology, such as open access publishing and self-archiving.
What does this have to do with networked scholars? Well, I think the time is ripe to actually write a book of suggestions, principles if you will, for early-career academics (PhD students, new assistant professors). The suggestions will go beyond social media, aiming to (a) help people be more effective and productive online, and (b) help faculty and faculty trainers prepare people in these efforts.
This book will be different. It will be laconic and will nudge individuals to be more awesome in their online practices. I’m partnering with a graphic artist to create it. Below is a page from our early work.
Do you know of a publisher who might be interested? Are you a publisher that is interested? I am exploring Punctum Books, but would love to hear other suggestions.
Last week, a reporter from EdSurge reached out to me to shed some light on what Pearson called their Learning Design Principles. The EdSurge article is here, but below is a more detailed rough draft of the points that I made to share. I am posting them here for a fuller picture of some of my thoughts.
- Nothing proprietary (yet, perhaps). I saw a number of sources note that Pearson released their proprietary learning design principles. There’s not much proprietary in the principles. All of these ideas are well-documented in the literature pertaining to educational technology found in cognitive psychology, learning sciences, instructional design, and education literature.
- It’s good to see that Pearson is using findings from the education literature to guide its design and development. Some of these principles should be standard practice. If you are creating educational technology products without considering concepts like instructional alignment, feedback, and scaffolding, authentic learning, student-centered learning environments, and inquiry-based learning, you are likely creating more educational harm than good. The point is that using research to guide educational technology should be applauded and emulated. More educational technology companies should be using research to inform their designs and product iterations.
- BUT, since around 2011, the educational technology industry has promoted the narrative that education has not changed since the dawn of time. With a few exceptions, the industry has ignored the history, theory, and research of the academic fields associated with improving education with technology. The industry has ignored this at its own peril because we have a decent – not perfect, but decent – understanding of how people learn and how we can help improve the ways that people learn. But, the industry has developed products and services starting from scratch, making the same mistakes that other have done in the past, while claiming that their products and services will disrupt education.
- Not all of the items released are principles. For example, “pedagogical agents” is on the list but that’s not a principle. Having studied the implementation of pedagogical agents for more than 7 years, it’s clear that what Pearson is attempting to do is figure our how to better design pedagogical agents for learning. Forgive me while I link to some pdfs of my past work here, but, should amagent’s representation match the content area that they are supporting (should a doctor look like a doctor or should she have a blue mohawk?). Table 1 in this paper provides more on principles for designing pedagogical agents (e.g., agents should establish their role so that learners have a clear anticipation of what the agent can and cannot do: Does the agent purport to know everything or is the agent intended to ask questions but provide no answers?)
- As you can tell from the above, I firmly believe that industry needs research/researchers in developing, evaluating, and refining innovations.
But more importantly, happy, merry, just, and peaceful holidays to everyone!
In a prior post, I explained how we’ve been creating video and audio summaries of our research. A number of colleagues have told me that they liked these, so I thought that it would be interesting and worthwhile to do one of these for someone else’s important research. So, we summarized the following paper: Hilton, J. (2016) Open educational resources and college textbook choices: a review of research on efficacy and perceptions. Educational Technology Research and Development, 64(4), 573 – 590.
Students spend a lot of money on textbooks. Alternatives to the expensive textbooks that come from commercial publishers are open educational resources, or OER. But, are these free resources as effective or of the same quality as textbooks? The research says yes. The animation summarizes the available research synthesized by Dr. John Hilton III in the aforementioned paper.
The rest of our animations are on our YouTube channel, ResearchShorts, and appear below:
The Life Between Big Data Log Events: Learners’ Strategies to Overcome Challenges in MOOCs
YouTube URL: https://youtu.be/z0nIB_pcmEE
Veletsianos, G., Reich, J., & Pasquini, L. A. (2016). The life between big data log events: Learners’ strategies to overcome challenges in MOOCs. AERA Open, 2(3); 1–10. doi: 10.1177/2332858416657002
Digital Learning Environments
YouTube URL: https://youtu.be/-7UI-dTbMr0
Veletsianos, G. (2016). Digital Learning Environments. In Rushby, N. & Surry D. (Eds) Handbook of Learning Technologies (pp. 242-260). Wiley.
A Systematic Analysis And Synthesis of the Empirical MOOC Literature Published in 2013-2015
YouTube URL: https://youtu.be/M6_tuL-FYrY
Veletsianos, G. & Shepherdson, P. (2016). A systematic analysis and synthesis of the empirical MOOC literature published in 2013-2015. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 17(2).
The Structure & Characteristics of #PhDchat, an emergent Online Social Network.
YouTube URL: https://youtu.be/64uSxFeeV5s
Ford, K., Veletsianos, G., & Resta, P. (2014). The structure and characteristics of #phdchat, an emergent online social network. Journal of Interactive Media in Education, 18(1).
Scholarship on Social Media and the Academic Self
YouTube URL: https://youtu.be/O-Wn9ryJM6w
Veletsianos, G. (2013). Open Practices and Identity: Evidence from Researchers and Educators’ Social Media Participation. British Journal of Educational Technology, 44(3), 639-651.
Scholars’ Open and Sharing Practices
YouTube URL: https://youtu.be/v7VvpgZicXg
Veletsianos, G. (2015). A case study of scholars’ open and sharing practices. Open Praxis, 7(3), 199-209.
Emergence and Innovation in Digital Learning
YouTube URL: https://youtu.be/Tuq28uL7rnU
Veletsianos, G. (2016). Emergence and Innovation in Digital Learning: Foundations and Applications. Edmonton, AB: Athabasca University Press.
Digging Deeper Into Learners’ Experiences in MOOCs
YouTube URL: https://youtu.be/EQ6ONvevAME
Veletsianos, G., Collier, A., & Schneider, E. (2015). Digging Deeper into Learners’ Experiences in MOOCs: Participation in social networks outside of MOOCs, Notetaking, and contexts surrounding content consumption. British Journal of Educational Technology 46(3), 570-587.
Who Studies MOOCs?
YouTube URL: https://youtu.be/M2xhyxgHgo4
Veletsianos, G., & Shepherdson, P. (2015). Who studies MOOCs? Interdisciplinarity in MOOC research and its changes over time. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 16(3).
Using Twitter as a Conference Backchannel
YouTube URL: https://youtu.be/EsCvFcs8vc8
Kimmons, R. & Veletsianos, G. (2016). Education Scholars’ Evolving Uses of Twitter as a Conference Backchannel and Social Commentary Platform. British Journal of Educational Technology, 47(3), 445—464.
How Do Professors and Students Use Twitter?
YouTube URL: https://youtu.be/gUXI1ZgkKP0
Veletsianos, G., & Kimmons, R. (2016). Scholars in an Increasingly Digital and Open World: How do Education Professors and Students use Twitter? The Internet and Higher Education, 30, 1-10.
Why do professors, staff, and students disclose challenging personal and professional issues online?
Veletsianos, G., & Stewart, B. (2016). Discreet Openness: Scholars’ Selective and Intentional Self-Disclosures Online. Social Media+ Society, 2(3), 2056305116664222.
I’ve been (re) reading the numerous posts on whether educational technology is a discipline, and on whether it’s needed. In light of that, I thought I’d post a link to this book: Educational Technology: A definition with commentary.
The first paragraph from the introduction reads:
“Continuing the tradition of the 1963, 1977, and 1994 AECT projects to define the ever-changing contours of the field, the Definition and Terminology Committee completed the most recent definitional effort with the publication of Educational Technology: A Definition with Commentary in 2007. The main purpose of the 384-page book is to frame the issues confronting educational technology in the context of today’s world of education and training. What is new, and frankly, controversial, about this latest definition is its insistence that “values” are integral to the very meaning of educational technology.”
I wonder what this conversation around discipline would look like if we published our work in more open ways, described the field in more consistent ways, were more inclusive, and engaged in more advocacy.
If you are engaged in any sort of inquiry into the use of technology in education (whether a student, research, instructor, etc), the following recommendation cannot be emphasized enough:
“Given the increasingly complex role that technology now plays in education and the growing need for clarity around what technology can and cannot do to improve learner success, it is critical that the research we do addresses real-world educational needs and is disseminated in a way that can meaningfully inform design practice. It is, therefore, becoming increasingly clear that the field’s major outlets for disseminating our scholarship should be organized around the problems we are trying to address (flagging learner engagement, poor teaching, rising costs of education, lack of accessibility) rather than the things we are using to solve those problems (learning analytics, online learning, gamification, 3D printing, and the like).”
In short: study problems, not things.
The quote comes from the call of proposals for AECT’s latest Handbook of Research in Educational Communications and Technology.
I wrote a guest post for the Chronicle’s Prof Hacker section describing our use of video and audio to summarize our research findings. The post was published today and it is available here, but I am reposting it below as well.
Street: First pass – CC licensed image
I use an eclectic assortment of learning resources in my courses. Books, peer-reviewed journal articles, op-eds, white papers, websites, documentaries, lecture videos, podcasts. Readings – especially peer-reviewed journal articles – are integral to my teaching, but I am intentional in my desire to go beyond text, to be inclusive and diverse in my selection of learning resources. In my research, and in my attempts to include multimodal learning resources in my teaching, I discovered that we could do a better job at sharing our scholarship.
One of the ways that I am using to share my scholarship in different ways is through the creation of short video and audio clips that accompany each one of my published papers. I believe these might be helpful to colleagues, students, and broader audiences. Colleagues might use them as a way to introduce, humanize, and explore a topic. Students might access them at times when listening is preferable to reading. For example, I listen to podcasts on bus rides because reading on the bus makes me feel dizzy. Others might be in the same predicament. Some students in our research noted that they watched video lectures when engaging in other activities – such as cooking – as a way to accommodate their studies in their busy lives. Broader audiences, such as the general public or journalists, might find video and audio clips valuable as well, as these clips contain information that usually resides behind journal paywalls.
We have created a dedicated YouTube channel to host these videos. Here is a playlist of some of them:
The audio is hosted on my personal SoundCloud channel. Here’s a playlist:
We follow a simple process to create these. For each published paper, I collaborate with members of my research group to (a) write a script, (b) record an mp3 file, and (c) produce an animated movie. These media are produced by two individuals using off-the-shelf software. One person writes the script and shares it with the other using a shared Dropbox folder. When I narrate the script, I use Audacity to create the audio file. When my colleague Laura Pasquini narrates, she uses GarageBand. We use instrumental music shared under Creative Commons licenses as background. Once the audio file is created, I post it in on my SoundCloud channel and users can stream it or download it from there. Next, we use VideoScribe to create the animation and since the software is cloud-based, we can both review the draft version of the video prior to publication. The final video is then posted on a YouTube account dedicated to these videos.
My research team and I are enjoying exploring the many ways available at our disposal to share our scholarship. We know that creating a video trailer or writing a blog post about a publication isn’t a substitute for high-quality scholarship, but we are enthused at the opportunity to use new technologies to mobilize our research. What are some other ways that you have discovered to share your research with colleagues, students, and the broader public?
What do scholars share on social media? Like the jelly jars below, some topics shared/discussed are familiar. The center jelly nn the top row? I’ve seen many of those. A scholar sharing a link to a paper? I’ve seen many of those, too. Other jellies, and scholarly activities online, are more complex and require a closer look. The bottom right jelly? I’m not quite sure what to make of it. Some scholars disclose challenging professional and personal issues on social media. That’s what Bonnie Stewart and I set out to understand in a our paper Discreet Openness: Scholars’ Selective and Intentional Self-Disclosures Online. Popular literature tends to offer conflicting advice on this topic. Scholars are encouraged to share both personal and professional aspects of their self online, but at the same time they are advised to “watch what they say.” The empirical literature examining scholars’ online self-disclosures and the reasons for making these disclosures remains limited.
DGJ_5184 – Jelly Jars by Dennis Jarvis
Research into emergent forms of scholarship focuses on academics’ use of technology for learning, teaching, and research. Very little attention has been paid in the literature to scholars’ uses of social media to disclose challenging personal and professional issues. This article addresses the identified gap in the literature and presents a qualitative investigation into the types of disclosures that 16 scholars made online and their reasons for doing so. Results identify wide-ranging personal and professional disclosures. Participants disclosed not only about academia-related issues but also about challenges pertaining to family, mental health, physical health, identity, and relationships. Some scholars disclosed as a way to grapple with challenges they faced; others disclosed tactically, sharing information for political rather than personal reasons. Yet others disclosed as a way to welcome care in their lives. In all instances, though, disclosures were selective, intentional, and approached with foresight.
Unlike popular literature that suggests that scholars are “naive users of social media” and must exercise caution, our research shows that people might be thinking deeply about the the ways that the share aspects of their lives.
You can retrieve the paper from here:
Veletsianos, G. & Stewart, B. (2016). Scholars’ open practices: Selective and intentional self-disclosures and the reasons behind them. Social Media + Society, 2(3). doi: 10.1177/2056305116664222