Ethics, Ed Tech and policy in school

The facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal raises some important questions about the use and security of user’s data, and the operating practices of such companies. The scandal is not so-much that there had been a “breach” but rather that users data had been shared as part of facebook’s business model. It is a model that relies value provided by the data that facebook’s users share. This data, it turns out, is not only of value to advertisers, but as it turns out, political analysts and campaign consultants.

Arguably, this situation has developed because facebook is a form of what’s been termed ‘platform capitalism’. [See Nick Srnicek’s Platform Capitalism for more information]

‘With a long decline in manufacturing profitability, capitalism has turned to data as one way to maintain economic growth and vitality in the face of a struggling production sector.’ (p6)

Platforms as data engines

This is where platforms come in. If data has become a massive new raw material for capitalism, then platforms are the engines that allow it to process this data

Given that such platforms need data as the basis of their product that they use to turn into a profit, techniques developed at places such as Stanford University’s Persuasive Technology Lab are used to the develop and refine these platforms so that people enjoy sharing their data, photos, comments, ‘likes’, etc and receiving positive feedback. This “quantifiable social endorsement” (Sherman, et al, 2018) reinforces data-sharing behaviour, and increases the likelihood that people will continue to provide data to such platforms.

Like all many new technological developments, ethics seems to be the caboose on the end of the train, never able to get ahead and steer the developments powered by new scientific and technological discovery and exploration. Continue reading

What is a school leader?

This post is a part of a series being written for my EDUC6352 online masters students.

This fortnight we are looking the intersection of school leadership and policy. I argue that a part of the role of the school leader is being a mediator of policy. In the complex governance situation that is education in Australia, school leaders must negotiate policy that is developed at the Federal, National (nope, this isn’t a tautology – National policy is policy agreed on by the Federal and state governments, i.e. The Melbourne Declaration), State, local and school level. A part of the role is mediating these multiple levels of policy, determining what the school will focus on, and how seriously will take particular accountability measures.

 

Business people walking together in the city

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Teacher reflections on policy

This post is a part of a series being written for my EDUC6352 online masters students.

Educational policy always sits at the intersection of the past, present and future, with the latter often expressed in policy texts as an imagined desired future” (Rizvi & Lingard, 2010, p. xi).

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Much of teachers work is shaped by policy – yet do we know how teachers feel about this aspect of their work? Currently in Australia there is a push to professionalise teaching – and yet much of the current policy  has removed agency from teachers (the last ten years have seen the removal of curriculum control, increased standarised testing, and the introduction of a prescriptive model of teacher professional standards). At the same time there is a growing criticism of how many children are missing out on the benefits of education. (See the video below, for an example). Some of this criticism comes with a sense that teachers are to blame and that managing the teachers, via policy settings, will create a better future and a better education system.

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Equity and Disability in Higher Education

In the past 2 or 3 decades universities in Australia (and elsewhere) have opened their doors to a wider variety of students than in the past. Universities are accountable to the government for their level of success in widening participation and making higher education more accessible. Research has shown that the widening participation agenda has resulted in many more non-traditional students being able to access a university education. The  number of women, Indigenous students, students from a low SES background, first-in-family to attend university, and students with a disability are equity groups whose numbers have grown, particularly in the last 10 years.

However, the equity group that we know least about is students with a disability. Many such students choose not to disclose their disability to their institution which makes it difficult to determine how many such students there are, and to provide assistance to this group. Continue reading

Teachers decry the marketisation of education

This post is a part of a series being written for my EDUC6352 online masters students.

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12 months ago I blogged about the Australian education policy context by providing an overview of the Melbourne Declaration. Today, The Age has published an anonymous piece by three teachers from Victoria who provide a scathing critique of the same context, and the education policies proposed by the opposition party in Victoria. In reference to the latter, they note that the:

draconian plans – which include installing police in our 10 most “high-risk” schools, abolishing the Safe Schools program, pumping up parochial Australian nationalism and stamping out celebration of diversity in the curriculum – are bound to have a devastating impact on the educational opportunities of our most disadvantaged and marginalised students.

For these teachers however, the half baked idea of putting police in disadvantaged schools does not represent the real problem. What they are really concerned about is the marketisation of education that’s been orchestrated by both the Labor and Liberal parties over the past ten years. Continue reading

Lazy Reblogging #3 Kids and digital footprint

I recently published this piece: ‘Post no photos, leave no trace: Children’s digital footprint management strategies‘ and my mother-in-law, (who runs a childcare centre) told me that it was a shame that this information is inaccessible for parents and teachers. With her in mind I wrote up the paper as a piece for The Conversation. Here it is, re-posted in all it’s glory.

Why children should be taught to build a positive online presence

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Rather than just teaching children about internet safety and reducing their digital footprint, we should also encourage them to curate a positive digital footprint which will be an asset for them in their future.

Today’s children are prolific users of the internet. Concern has been raised about the future impact of the digital footprints they are generating. While much discussion of this issue focuses on keeping children safe, little is known about how children manage their digital footprints.

While digital footprints are considered to be a liability, if managed well they can be an asset. Digital footprints can showcase identity, skills and interests. This is important in an era where employers “google” candidates to check their identity and verify their suitability. In this context, having no digital footprint can be as much of a disadvantage as having a poorly managed one.

The “Best Footprint Forward” project explored what children know about digital footprints. Focus groups were made up of 33 children aged 10-12 years from three schools in regional NSW. Analysis of the focus groups reveals children have strategies to keep safe online, but they need further guidance on how to build a positive digital footprint. Continue reading

If you’re not busy on Wed Dec 6th

come and join us at Newcastle for a discussion about EdTech.

We are searching for the middle ground. So much of the discussion regarding technology in education is either evangelical (technology will save us) or pessimistic (nothing will change). Often the educators most enthusiastic about technology are also the most critical. The DICE research group are hosting the EdTech Talkfest – a chance to confab about the contradictions, emotions, optimism and problems of the EdTech field.

If you’d like to come please email Erica Southgate ~ erica.southgate@newcastle.edu.au The EdTech Talkfest will take place on Wednesday 6th December, 2017 9:30 – 4pm, Room X803 NeW Space Building, University of Newcastle, cnr Hunter & Auckland Sts, Newcastle. The event is free but places are limited.

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Conferencing #RE4D

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the Re-imagining Education for Democracy Summit. It was a wonderful event and an absolute pleasure to connect with passionate educators from all over Australia, each of whom was there because they felt that it is worth discussing how education can improve democracy in these turbulent times. Corinne Campbell has storified the #RE4D twitter feed if you’d like to retrospectively experience the conference.

With my paper: ‘Digital identity in a ‘post-truth’ world: the case for digital ethics‘ I talked through some ideas that I’ve been mulling over for a while. Continue reading

On policy evaluation

This post is a part of a series being written for my EDUC6352 online masters students.

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Policy analysis and evaluation seems like a straight forward and obvious requirement for school leaders and government departments. Basically if you implement policy one might assume that you would wish to evaluate said policy. However, in the frenetic pace of schools which, in Australia at least, have been in a policy reform cycle for at least two decades there is little chance to analyse nor evaluate policy as the next policy-cycle is upon leaders. Policy makers themselves are beholden to Australia’s short election cycle and the have to design policy to differentiate one government from the next with new policies and policy foci.

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