Tag: policy

Meeting with Ed.D. supervisor: conceptual ecologies, productive concepts, and hypozeugma

I met via Skype with my thesis supervisor, Steve Higgins, a couple of weeks ago to discuss the process of finishing off and submitting my thesis. It currently stands at around 34,000 words but, given that I wrote 17,500 words of a mobile review in little more than a week, it’s not the actual getting close to 60,000 words that’s the issue: it’s the overall coherence.

Skype’s persistent chat history is fantastic; I can remember reading recently of a company that’s committed to promoting Open Source products, but that uses Skype (which is proprietary and closed-source) internally because of exactly this feature. I use it to note down important points in the conversations Steve and I have (as well as recording the audio of the whole conversation) so I can go back to it later. Here, then, are my thoughts prompted by revisiting that Skype chat history:

Where’s the value(s)?

One of the many problems I have with the concept of digital literacy is that it’s an inherently value-laden proposition. It is, as Steve puts it, and ‘intentional concept’ in that people want to achieve things through its adoption and promotion: consensus, change, and the like. It’s like bandwagon-jumping rather than hitchhiking.

Problematising policy

In an attempt to make my thesis of practical value, I had intended to apply my findings to the policies in various countries. However, Steve and I are agreed that moving this section (with a slightly different focus) to near the beginning of the thesis makes more sense. I’m now going to analyse policies relating to ‘digital literacy’ in various countries, show how they are problematic, and then go on to my Pragmatic methodology.

Digital AND Literacy?

If we imagine a Venn diagram with ‘Digital’ in one overlapping circle and ‘Literacy’ in the other then it would appear obvious that ‘Digital Literacy’ is the intersection of these two. However, as has become clear in my research, the information literacy community seem to have taken over the ground that includes everything other than the intersect. This muddies the waters massively.

In order for ‘Digital Literacy’ (in terms of the intersect) to be of added value then there needs to be something particular about it that isn’t covered by ‘Digital OR Literacy’.

Hardness and methodological rules

Before our meeting, Steve sent me this from my former Philosophy lecturer at the University of Sheffield:

The pragmatist principle is defended as a methodological rule [author italics] and Peirce hopes to show, on the basis of a systematic theory of signs, that it is an adequate rule for its intended purpose. A pragmatist analysis of hardness, for example, would tell us what is involved in believing that something is hard. … Clarification of a concept using the pragmatist principle provides an account of just what commitments I incur when I believe or assert a proposition in which the concept is ascribed to something. (Hookway, C. (2002) Truth Rationality and Pragmatism, p.60)

If I’m using the Pragmatic method, therefore, I need to explain the ‘commitments incurred’ when expressing the concept of ‘digital literacy’.

The local and the global

Pragmatism is predicated upon the idea that truth is what a community of inquirers would settle upon after a long period of time. There are, as Steve points out, both ‘local’ and ‘global’ communities of inquirers which has an impact for the meaning of terms such as ‘digital literacy’. It is likely, therefore, that the conclusion of my thesis will reconsider the policy documents presented in the first half of the thesis, explaining that what is ‘good in the way of belief’ in one country/area (local) is not necessarily good or useful elsewhere (global).

Conceptual ecologies

Words and vocabularies change over time. It may be, therefore, that at one point in time ‘digital literacy’ is/was a functional metaphor that, through a ‘creative ambiguity’ provided a negotiable space for dialogue. Taking a ‘conceptual ecologies’ view allows for the consideration of ‘spaces not boundaries’ (to quote Steve) – engaging with the concept of digital literacy may change your view of the world, and in turn change your view of the concept.

Productive concepts

Just because an ambiguity or a concept creates a metaphorical space for discussion and debate doesn’t make it useful. Like the f-stop controlling the aperture of a camera lens, larger and smaller amounts of creative space can be created through the use of metaphor. The debates in these spaces, however, have to be useful and of value to be considered ‘productive’. Any two words could be mashed together to create such a space, but it is the resulting conversation that is important.

Zeugma

Steve introduced me to the term Zeugma during our conversation, but then wondered whether ‘digital literacy’ was, after all, an example. I think he may be on to something and, given further investigation, think ‘digital literacy’ may be a hypozeugma:

The hypozeugma, also called an adjunctio in Latin, is a zeugma where a verb falls at the end of a sentence and governs several parallel clauses that precede it.

On the other hand, ‘digital literacy’ may be a full-on Syllepsis:

Syllepsis, also known as semantic zeugma, is a particular type of zeugma in which the clauses disagree in either meaning or grammar. The governing word may change meaning with respect to the other words it modifies. This creates a semantic incongruity that is often humorous. Alternatively, a syllepsis may contain a governing word or phrase that does not agree grammatically with one or more of its distributed terms. This is an intentional construction in which rules of grammar are bent for stylistic effect.

Literacies of the digital

The idea of ‘literacies of the digital’ may be a better expression as it makes clear (as opposed to with ‘digital literacy’) that digital is the noun. Literacies of the digital could well be everything apart from the intersect of the two-circle Venn diagram mentioned above. Steve and I discussed whether ‘digital participation’ was the intersect, or whether such a concept was ‘read-only’. I would argue that there needs to be a critical element to this participative element of literacy.

I’ve certainly got some more thinking to do on this… :-p

User outcomes: bona fides.

Some small but important updates:

  • Reader outcomes: things you may be looking for gives quick access from the sidebar.
  • Contributor outcomes: new guest post policy should lead to other, relevant voices.
  • Commenter outcomes: new comments policy deals with terms of engagement.

I’m going to start appending my Top 10 Links I Shared This Week posts to my Weeknotes. The latter should hit the site or your RSS reader/inbox on Saturday morning (GMT). 🙂

Some reflections on the organization of #BectaX

Introduction

I don’t often post about conferences at which I’m not a presenter or workshop leader. Whilst it’s useful to share the resources I produce for such events, reporting the content or organization of a conference as a mere participant can be, well… a bit boring.

I’m making an exception, though, with #BectaX for three reasons:

  1. I was fortunate enough to be one of the 150 people invited to attend.
  2. There were massively high hopes regarding the outcomes of the conference.
  3. It was a very ‘open’ event.

Some caveats:

  • My experience is likely to have been shifted towards the positive due to the fact that many of the people I interact with regularly on Twitter.
  • I had to leave an hour early to catch a flight back from Stansted to Newcastle and so missed the feedback session.
  • I’m can be a bit over-analytical (and critical) at times, especially when the opening session was on the subject of my Ed.D. thesis.

The Good

The conference was set up expertly by a team including Ewan McIntosh and Josie Fraser. As you’d expect from such finger-on-the-pulse luminaries, there was as much – if not more – stuff happening in the ether as there was physically in front of us. The ‘speed networking’ event, whilst ultimately a bit frustrating due to the length of time allocated and the resultant din, was a fun way to meet new folks with similar interests.

There was also an attempt to get students involved. In fact, 14 schools were invited to take part via a video link (not live two-way, unfortunately) and Twitter hashtag (#BectaX). There was a cool Flash-powered map that appeared on the screen every so often showing tweets from the schools.

The Bad

It’s difficult organizing a conference. Not that I’ve ever tried to (yet!) but I can imagine that there’s no way you can please everyone. Here’s the things that I thought could have been better:

  1. A clear announcement at the start about the potential self-censorship of tweets. It’s hard to put something damning – or even slightly negative on Twitter – when you know it’s going to be flashed on the screen in a few seconds’ time. As it is Ewan cleared it up nicely, but it could have gone the other way.
  2. A more engaging first session. I found that the presentation on digital literacy conflated several issues, wasn’t very interesting, and was by someone who either doesn’t present very often or doesn’t present well very often (lots of text on-screen and bumbling)
  3. Hands-on activities in the morning session. Something to get your teeth into before lunch and the desire to nap kicks in.
  4. Power sockets available at seats. If you expect people to be tweeting, provide them with some power – especially if we’re going to sit there on-and-off for 3 hours or so.
  5. Find a way to get students more involved – perhaps by them actually being there?

The Ugly

Whilst I’m willing to hear from all parties involved in education, I really do take exception to representatives of companies mentioning their products in every breath. I also had no sympathy for said man from Sony when he complained that there was no mechanism to sell to all UK schools at once. He moaned that Sony would have to “literally go and knock on every school’s door”. Boo hoo.

Conclusion

#BectaX was by far the most unconferencey conference I’ve ever been to. The digital and physical really were blended and it was great to see the debate ranging across international boundaries, never mind leaking out of the hall. Ewan and Josie prompted and probed participants in the discussion sessions and led the event well.

But… will it change anything? The cynic in me noted that it was organized on the last day of the financial year by a government organization that is, by all accounts, under threat after the next election. However, I’d like to think it will mix things up a bit. If nothing else, just getting some of the finest educators and grassroots educational thinkers in the country together in one place can’t help but spark something… :-p

All photos CC BY-NC-SA Mr Ush

Acceptable Use Agreements, Definitions & Digital Guidelines

Over the past week I’ve been working on policies and documents relating to E-Learning and electronic resources at the Academy. The following are links to the Google Docs that were created with feedback from my Twitter network. They are very much still in draft form and I would therefore appreciate further feedback! 🙂

The idea is that the Acceptable Use Agreements stay relatively static, with the ‘Digital Guidelines’ and definition of what the Academy deems ‘inappropriate’ being more flexible and fluid.

Creative Commons License

All of these policies and guidelines are available under a Creative Commons license. You must give attribution, not use them for a commercial purpose, and share any derivative works using an equivalent license. Other than that, use away!

I’d like to thank Andrew Churches, whose excellent Digital Citizen AUA was the starting point for the Primary and Secondary AUA’s above. 😀

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Acceptable Use Policy – feedback required!

I’m in the process of putting together the Acceptable Use Agreement (AUA) that students at the (3-18) Academy will sign in September. Although everything’s subject to change, I’d like to base on principles and make it as short as possible, rather than have some monolithic document that people sign but never read. The latter state of affairs means that although the Academy’s back would be covered from a legal point of view, it would have little or no effect on thought processes and behaviour modification.
This is not my first foray into the world of the AUA. I discussed Acceptable Use Policies (AUP’s) on this blog last year in AUP 2.0.

blocked

BLOCKED by ~Devastis @ deviantart

As Director of E-Learning at Northumberland Church of England Academy, I don’t want a situation similar to the one depicted above. I want clear policies whereby both staff and students know where they stand when it comes to internet access and filtering. As far as I’m concerned, resources should be available for teaching and learning unless a clear case can be made otherwise.

I’m in the process of putting together the Acceptable Use Agreement (AUA) that students at the (3-18) Academy will sign in September. Although everything’s subject to change, I’d like to base on principles and make it as short as possible, rather than have some monolithic document that people sign but never read. The latter state of affairs means that although the Academy’s back would be covered from a legal point of view, it would have little or no effect on thought processes and behaviour modification.

This is not my first foray into the world of the AUA. I discussed Acceptable Use Policies (AUP’s) on this blog last year in AUP 2.0 after some thinking about how access to the internet via mobile devices was likely to completely change the landscape. David Warlick, around the same time as I was doing this, put together the School AUP 2.0 wiki to collate resources and thinking from around the internet. That’s a useful resource and I’ve spent a good deal of time looking at the various options and permutations.

To my mind, the best AUA I’ve come across is Andrew Churches’ Digital Citizen AUA which he’s kindly released under a Creative Commons License. I’ve taken that and – after discussion with the Principal Director of Operations at the Academy – adapted it. This is how it stands currently for students in the Secondary phase:

1. Respect Yourself
I will show respect for myself through my actions. I will only use appropriate language and images both within the Learning Platform and on the Internet. I will not post inappropriate personal information about my life, experiences or relationships.

2. Protect Yourself
I will ensure that the information I post online will not put me at risk. I will not publish full contact details, a schedule of my activities or inappropriate personal details in public spaces. I will report any aggressive or inappropriate behaviour directed at me. I will not share my password or account details with anyone else.

3. Respect Others
I will show respect to others. I will not use electronic mediums to bully, harass or stalk other people. I will not visit sites that are degrading, pornographic, racist or that the Academy would deem inappropriate. I will not abuse my access privileges and I will not enter other people’s private spaces or work areas.

4. Protect Others
I will protect others by reporting abuse. I will not forward any materials (including emails and images) that the Academy would deem inappropriate.

5. Respect Copyright
I will request permission to use resources and suitably cite all use of websites, books, media etc. I will use and abide by the fair use rules. I will not install software on Academy machines without permission. I will not steal music or other media, and will refrain from distributing these in a manner that violates their licenses.

By signing this agreement, I agree to always act in a manner that is respectful to myself and others, in a way that will represent the Academy in a positive way. I understand that failing to follow the above will lead to appropriate sanctions being carried out.

Those in the Primary phase would be asked to sign a slightly simplified version of the above with more age-relevant words included. The ongoing Google Docs reflecting how they currently stand can be seen here:

I’d really appreciate feedback, comments and ideas on the above! 😀

Research Methods & Interactive Whiteboards

As part of the Research Methods course we have to work in a group criticizing a research paper. Basically, it’s a collaborative dry-run of what we’ll do individually in the assignment for the module.

My group has settled on a paper by a Middle School teacher in the USA which was published in 2001. How it got published I don’t know. It’s not very good, but then that’s good for us as it means we’ve got lots to criticize! :)?

As regards Interactive Whiteboards and my thesis, I might want to include the research done by a team at Newcastle University last year which found that IWBs have little or no effect on the achievement of primary school children. We didn’t study it as a group as it runs to 73 pages…

I think I’m going to need to do some kind of analysis of quantitative data in my thesis, if only to show that I’m able to do it. Looking at, and analyzing, papers such as that one will help me to that end. At the moment there’s not a lot of research about the effects of IWBs as the rationale and justification for their use is largely anecdotal based on motivational factors. I’m not sure that’s my focus, however – I want to somehow look at how ICT in general can lead to organizational change and a shift in the teacher-learner dynamic. All within a wrapper of policy implementation. Not entirely sure how I’m going to do that!

Tentative area for thesis

I met with my Ed.D. course director this morning (haven’t been allocated a supervisor yet) and the exchange left me feeling a bit more sorted regarding the area of my thesis. After having my words quoted back at me by (the man, the myth, the legend) Stephen Downes, I decided that I’d like to do something on the way that those in charge of education policy have the wrong kind of conception of knowledge in the 21st century. However, I also want to link that to organizational change and the implementation of ICT in secondary schools.

The result is that I’m going to start off by looking at ideas about what future western societies will look like and then the concomitant educational needs resulting from societal change. I’ll do this by looking at OECD, UNESCO and WHO projections and reports, amongst other things.

From there, I’ll look at how policy makers have tried (or could try) implementing ideas which will lead to the skills needed in 21st century society. I won’t have space (or, in fact the inclination!) to go into the politics behind it all, but I shall attempt to analyse to what extent policy-makers’ conceptions of knowledge are based on political considerations.

Finally, I hope to analyse this through the lens/filter of ICT implementation. My Ed.D. course director suggested an analogy with the Renaissance and paradigm shifts in the way of thinking around the world. It seems like a good idea and I’m still processing it… 🙂

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