Critical Educational Questions for Big Data, Part 2


I started a list of critical questions for big data in education earlier this week. This is a big topic, raising lots of big questions and serious topics and problems for further debate and discussion. Here, I focus on questions about big data ownership, divides, algorithmic accountability, issues about voice and literacy, and, finally, ethical implications and challenges of big data in education. Who “owns” educational big data? The sociologist Evelyn Ruppert has asked, “who owns big data?” noting that numerous people, technologies, practices and actions are involved in how data is shaped, made and captured.

Critical Educational Questions for Big Data


Big data has arrived in education. Educational data science, learning analytics, computer adaptive testing, assessment analytics, educational data mining, adaptive learning platforms, new cognitive systems for learning and even educational applications based on artificial intelligence are fast inhabiting the educational landscape, in schools, colleges and universities, as well as in the networked spaces of online learning. I was recently asked what I thought were some the most critical questions about big data in education today. This reminded me of the highly influential paper “Critical questions for big data” by danah boyd and Kate Crawford, in which

Generic v. Specialized Tools in Assignments


I would like to share my thinking process for designing an assignment for my class this semester and hopefully this will be beneficial to others as well. I have an idea to ask my students to create a simple empathy game that is a choose-your-own-adventure type of thing, which is also sometimes called interactive story/narrative. Two great examples are SPENT (take on the role of a poor person in America) and the BBC’s Syrian refugees game where you pretend to be part of a Syrian family fleeing to Europe. There are a variety of tools students

Watchworthy Wednesday: Empowering Youth Through Writing, Digital Media


Four 16-year-old Muslim-American girls are getting their stories heard through slam poetry. Thousands of other young people are sharing their hopes, fears, aspirations and observations, too, as part of the Young Writers Project. YWP, a nonprofit organization based in Burlington, Vermont and founded 10 years ago, is dedicated to helping youth develop the confidence and communication skills needed to shape their world via creative writing, performance and visual and audio mediums.  “We develop effective methods to help youths explore their own ideas, share with peers and mentors and present best work to affirming audiences,” says Geoffrey

The Contradiction of Borderless Technology in a Border-Filled World


As I am slowly making my way through an analysis of the mission statements and strategic technology plans of the United States’ largest K-12 public school districts, one thing is becomingly increasingly clear to me — nearly every district is striving to prepare students to be “21st century ready,” but none define what exactly this means. Instead, what they are doing is throwing around terms like “global citizenship” or “21st century economy” to stress the necessity of new investments in pedagogical models (e.g. blended learning) and digital infrastructure. I’ve realized that education policy discourse (particularly when it

Watchworthy Wednesday: Spreading Storytelling Through Photography and Connecting Educators


As a documentary photographer, Andrea Birnbaum is a storyteller. But, she emphasizes, “I am very aware that I cannot tell other people’s stories for them. I can only show my perspective on what I see in the world.” So, when she discovered Phonar Nation, the online photography class immediately appealed to Birnbaum, also an educator, as it teaches students how to tell their own stories. Designed by award-winning photographer, Jonathan Worth, Phonar Nation was built to be taught from a mobile device for a mobile device user, and it’s an open course that any student can

Teaching Computational, Abstract Thinking


Visual programming languages and programming as a learning tool are old dreams, rooted in the late Seymour Papert’s creation of the Logo programming language for children. Lately, many promising variants — all of them based on visual rather than command-line interfaces — are popping up: Scratch, a successor to Logo, has been evolving in the MIT Media Lab’s “Lifelong Kindergarten;” Google has entered this arena with Blockly, “a library for building visual programming editors;” UC Berkeley’s Snap focuses on robotic control, as does Roberta. Many of these are powerful learning instruments, but because they run in

Watchworthy Wednesday: Connecting Hip-Hop and Coding


How can young people use coding to express their interests in areas such as hip-hop dance? To explore this question, Progressive Arts Alliance and the MIT Scratch team will host the Hip-Hop and Scratch Coding Summit, a two-day workshop for educators and program leaders to learn about creative pathways into computing. The summit, to be held Oct. 21-22 in Cleveland, Ohio, will bring together a diverse group of people who lead programs for young people, especially for youth in underserved communities. Forty participants will be chosen on Sept. 5, so there’s still time to apply. The summit

Engaging Introductions for First Day of Class


One of the things I always try to do at the beginning of class or even a short workshop is give participants opportunities to start building community — and this means that introductions should be engaging for everyone! Here are a few I have tried myself. Collaborative/Connected Introductions I recently tried this approach in a workshop on scholarly collaboration, that I called “collaborative introductions” but can better be called “connected introductions.” I think it would work well for any classroom context, even very young kids. It goes like this: As I introduce myself, I highlight elements of myself