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

#NotAllEdTech and critical #edtech conversations

Posted on May 19th, by George Veletsianos in emerging technologies, scholarship, sharing. No Comments

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.

Moe parsimoniously summarized these responses as #NotAllEdTech, as a hashtag version of not all educational technology is this way, paralleling usage of the phrase “not all men.”

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[1], 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.

Being online: Recommendations for early-career academics

Posted on May 15th, by George Veletsianos in Ideas, my research, online learning, open, papers, scholarship, sharing. No Comments

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.

Liberate your research

Educational Technology as a Sociocultural and Ideological Phenomenon

Posted on April 10th, by George Veletsianos in emerging technologies, my research, papers, scholarship. 1 Comment

Rolin Moe and I just published an article in Educause Review that examines the rise of educational technology as a phenomenon within the context of broader political, economic, ideological, and technological issues of concern to the future of higher education. This paper continues the call for thinking critically about the impacts, aims, and uses of technology in education, in our educational institutions, and in students’ and academics’ lives.

The paper posits that the rise of educational technology represents (a) a response to the increasing price of higher education, (b) a shift in political thought from government to free-market oversight of education, (c) a view of education as a product to be packaged, automated, and delivered, and (d) a technocentric belief that technology is a solution to the problems of higher education.

This investigation questions both the potential outcomes and ideological aims of technodeterministic thinking and argues that educational technology may ultimately exacerbate rather than mitigate the very problems it purports to solve.

Digital Learning and Social Media Research Funding: 2017

Posted on March 9th, by George Veletsianos in my research, online learning, papers, Royal Roads University. 2 comments

Digital Learning and Social Media Research Funding for 2017

Description of Opportunity

The Canada Research Chair in Innovative Learning and Technology at Royal Roads University invites applications from advanced doctoral students (i.e. those who completed their graduate coursework) and post-doctoral associates to conduct research with the Digital Learning and Social Media Research Group.

Funding for five (5) research opportunities are available.

The Digital Learning and Social Media Research Group (http://www.thedlrgroup.com/) is an international and interdiciplinary team of researchers investigating the ways that social media and other emerging technologies are used in learning, teaching, scholarship, and institutional settings. The group is led by Dr. George Veletsianos (Canada Research Chair & Associate Professor, Royal Roads University) and Dr. Royce Kimmons (Assistant Professor, Brigham Young University). The Digital Learning and Social Media Research Group executes the CRC’s program of research.

Aims

The research funding opportunities aim to involve applicants in the scholarly endeavors of the research group and thus provide experiential mentoring focused on supporting the students’ or post docs’ scholarly and professional development. With a mentor, each student or post doc will co-plan, execute, and submit for publication a research study.

Funding is available for research that focuses on one or more of the following areas: networked scholarship, social media use in education, digital/online learning, open learning, emerging technologies, learning analytics, social network analysis, or educational data mining.

Deadlines

Potential researchers should submit their application materials by April 15, 2017.

Start date is around May 15th

Deliverables

Submission of a co-authored research study to a peer-reviewed journal.

Duration

Research opportunities are expected to last anywhere from 3 to 5 months

Requirements

  • Advanced doctoral student status (usually in the 3rd or 4th year of their studies) OR post doctoral status having completed a graduate degree (PhD/EdD) within the last 3 years.
  • Enrolment in or having attained a graduate degree (PhD/EdD) in education, educational technology, learning technologies, learning sciences, curriculum and instruction, cognitive science, or other related field.
  • Individuals must be Canadian citizens or permanent residents of Canada, or must hold a valid employment visa or work permit issued by the Government of Canada.

To be well-suited for this opportunity, individuals must have excellent organizational abilities, analytic skills, and be familiar with methodologies involving the analysis of quantitative or qualitative data.

Questions?

Questions regarding this opportunity can be send to CRCILT.Research@RoyalRoads.ca

Application Process

Interested applicants are invited to submit the following materials to CRCILT.Research@RoyalRoads.ca  April 15, 2017:

  • Curriculum Vitae (CV)
  • A single-authored paper (single-authored class papers are acceptable)
  • An expression of interest or research proposal (not to exceed 2 single-spaced pages) that includes the following:
    • Description of a research project that the applicant wishes to complete under the auspices of the research group (This description should include at least 2-3 research questions of interest and a proposed methodology)
    • Description of experiences analyzing quantitative or qualitative data

Applications will be evaluated by an academic panel.

Though the research group is interested in any proposal examining digital learning and social media use in higher education, we are especially interested in proposals focusing on analyzing large-scale datasets such as those gathered from public sources (e.g., Twitter, university websites, and YouTube). The research group has expertise in this area and can collect, structure, and organize data necessary for such endeavors. Thus, we welcome applications from those with and without technical expertise. Past studies conducted in this context include the following:

 

Research question Data sources
How do students and professors use Twitter? ~600K tweets from ~400 Twitter profiles
What narratives do institutional Twitter acccounts construct for students and faculty? Images posted by public Canadian Universities on Twitter
How well do institutional websites meet mandated accessibility requirements? ~3,000 U.S. university homepages
What does informal learning look like on YouTube? ~1.4 million YouTube comments

For examples of research studies in this area conducted by the research group, please refer to:

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1096751616300033

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/bjet.12428/abstract

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jcal.12101/abstract

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12528-017-9131-7

 

The individuals receiving funding in 2016 have:

  • Used historical twitter data to study the discourse surrounding openness over time
  • Examined the ways that instructional design & technology programs use Twitter
  • Investigated whether empathy, civility, and thoughtfulness are present in the comments posted in a YouTube community

Compensation

$2,000 CAD upon submission of the study.