Code Acts in Education
Seminar 3: Community & Lifelong Learning

Abstract, Pt 1:
The Problem

Abstract, Pt.1: The Problem

We’re at peak centralisation of our data in online services, with data as the new oil. It’s a time of ‘frictionless sharing’, but also a time when we’re increasingly having decisions made on our behalf by algorithms. The burgeoning field of predictive learning analytics promises much, but many existing examples are ‘black box’ solutions by commercial providers. Education is now subject to a land grab by ‘software with shareholders’ looking to profit from collecting, mining, packaging, and selling learner data.

Themes, Pt.1: The Problem

  • Peak centralisation
  • Data as the new oil
  • Algorithms
  • Predictive learning analytics
  • Software with shareholders

Peak centralisation

Web Trends Map 4 (2009)

Information Architects' Web Trends Map 4 (2009)

Data as the new oil

Perhaps the “data as oil” idea can foster some much-needed criticality. Our experience with oil has been fraught; fortunes made have been balanced with dwindling resources, bloody mercenary conflicts, and a terrifying climate crisis. If we are indeed making the first steps into economic terrain that will be as transformative (and possibly as risky) as that of the petroleum industry, foresight will be key. We have already seen “data spills” happen (when large amounts of personal data are inadvertently leaked). Will it be much longer until we see dangerous data drilling practices? Or until we start to see long term effects from “data pollution”?

Jer Thorpe, Harvard Business Review (2012)


Twitter analytics

Predictive learning analytics

Predictive analytics

Software with shareholders

What happens when you search for videos via DuckDuckGo

Abstract, Pt.2:
Towards a Solution

Abstract, Pt.2: Towards a Solution

Meanwhile, educators talk of ‘personalising learning’, of pathways guided by learner interests, and of alternative credentialing. To what extent can these two forces, of centralisation and data mining on the one hand, and of learner choice and alternative pathways on the other, be reconciled? We’ll be discussing Mozilla’s work around Webmaker, Open Badges, and what ‘literacy’ means when it’s applied to the web.

Themes, Pt.2: Towards a Solution

  • Mozilla
  • Personalising learning
  • Pathways guided by learner interests
  • Alternative credentialing
  • Web Literacy

Mozilla is…

a global community of people who believe that openness, innovation, and opportunity are key to the continued health of the Internet.

Mozilla Manifesto

  • The Internet is a global public resource that must remain open and accessible.
  • The Internet should enrich the lives of individual human beings.
  • Individuals' security on the Internet is fundamental and cannot be treated as optional.
  • Individuals must have the ability to shape their own experiences on the Internet.

Personalising learning

Coloured cups

CC BY-NC-SA Guy Fawkes

Pathways guided by learner interests

Learning pathway

Taken from Badge pathways: part 1, the paraquel (Casilli, 2013)

Alternative credentialing

Anatomy of an Open Badge (CC BY-SA Kyle Bowen)

CC BY-SA Kyle Bowen

Web Literacy Map (v1.1)

Web Literacy Map


Conclusion (and questions)

  • Learners should own their own data.
  • How can we surface the impact of algorithms on our information environments?
  • Web Literacy (including coding and algorithmic thinking) is an important part of a holistic, 21st-century education.
  • How can/should we re-distribute the web?


Doug Belshaw