Three months ago, I published a blog entry called “Summer Math Class with Khan Academy: A Case of ‘Manipulated’ Learning”. Ever since then, I have tried a few more rounds of manipulation on my IRB-free research objects—my two kids. As a proud mother of manipulation, I’d like to report on a couple of cases of manipulating learning—and behavior—with tools and rules.
The first episode of Wisdom of the Crowd premiered on October 1st and I had to check it out. Being a lover of crime procedurals and someone who works to bring content to the masses through the use of online platforms, I thought this show would be right up my alley.
The main concept of the show is that a Steve Jobs-like character (Jeffrey Tanner played by Jeremy Piven) has decided to take crowdsourcing to the next level by creating an app, called SOPHIE, where people around the world can share and evaluate evidence to help solve crimes—more specifically to help solve his own daughter Mia’s murder. Everyone has a phone these days, and everyone wants to be a part of something bigger than themselves, so why not create a platform where people can connect with each other and help solve murders without leaving the comfort of their homes?
Some folks out there would say that a tablet can do what a computer used to, and others argue that while they are always improving in capabilities, tablets are still not occupying the same space in terms of computing power. Desktop computer sales in general have been on the decline for several years now, and tablets keep trying to further bridge the gap. As someone who spends many days testing, evaluating and re-evaluating software and hardware, this situation begs me to answer the question: can I really ditch the laptop?
In my college English 101 course I was assigned to write a persuasive essay. Initially, I wanted to write a paper about the purpose of technology. I started doing research, but couldn’t find anything helpful. So I abandoned that and picked a different topic. Lately, I’ve been thinking again about it. In my role here at FITS, I try to find ways to make technology help our office do tasks smarter, faster, and more efficiently. These tasks often take me back to tried-and-true technologies from Microsoft.
One of my projects lately has been working with the Global Learning Experience team, preparing for the upcoming Global Learning Conference in October. This was my first time being on the development side of a conference; let me be the first to say that it is no easy task. My role was specifically on the technology end.
Our institution recently (generously/mercifully) provided the entire university access to Box.com, an unlimited online cloud storage solution. While many in our office were already pro subscribers of Dropbox or Office 365/OneDrive, the addition of an officially available solution for all faculty, staff, and students opened many, many opportunities—but brought a few challenges as well.
Some of the users we’ve worked with following the release were already familiar with cloud storage solutions, which also means they are well aware of the “data discipline” required when you have near limitless (or in our case, actually limitless) storage that can span across physical hardware setups and locations. However, some who were new to this, or just those who—let’s just say “have trouble with cleaning up” their files—needed a bit of a primer on data discipline and how to avoid the digital dumping ground.
Teaching—when you think about it—is a process of manipulation.
Dr. Tom Angelo made this point when he was wrapping up his keynote presentation at the DePaul Faculty Teaching and Learning Conference in May 2017. Since then the idea of “teaching by manipulating” kept popping up in my mind like a little bud seeking its opportunity to break through the ground.
It seems to me the best place to sow the seed of manipulation is my home. As I once heard a conference speaker joke, “Do you know why psychologists have kids? No IRB!”
IRB stands for Institutional Review Board, a committee that reviews and approves (or disapproves) studies that use human subjects. It is a hoop that researchers must jump through—well, unless they are dealing with the human subjects that they’ve produced themselves.
About one week of every month I’m responsible for monitoring the instructional technology support channels DePaul offers to instructors. Instructors email their questions and requests directly to Faculty Instructional Technology Services (FITS), or can submit help requests through DePaul’s general technology support center (TSC). Those requests eventually make their way back to FITS, the Central Team, and for that one week out of the month, me.
Despite serving a support role regularly, I recently had an agitated conversation with customer service representatives associated with an in-flight wifi company. I purchased in-flight wifi before my trip because instructions online indicated it would be much cheaper if I did so. Then I got on the flight and not only was it cheaper to purchase wifi on the plane, but my previously purchased access code wouldn’t work.
In 2016 I learned about a conference hosted by Ashoka U, an organization that supports universities in fostering “social innovation” and “changemaking” on their campuses. It sounded fascinating despite the fact that I had no idea what these terms meant. After reading a bit further, I learned that these are relatively new umbrella terms that include elements of social justice and social entrepreneurship. In a nutshell, social innovation in higher education can include any initiative that exposes students to social justice, intercultural collaboration, and concepts like design thinking and business/nonprofit management.
I wasn’t quite sure how all of this might relate to instructional technology, but I had a feeling it could be relevant to the type of online international collaborations we’re establishing at DePaul through our Global Learning Experience (GLE) program. In GLE projects, our students collaborate online with faculty and students at foreign universities, and I’m always on the lookout for ways to help our students collaborate more effectively with peers from different cultural backgrounds. While I can’t fit everything I learned at the conference in a single blog post, I’ve included a few of my favorite lessons below.
While I was watching TV a couple of weeks ago, I came across NYT columnist Thomas L. Friedman discussing his new book, Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations. The interview was very short, but provided an interesting insight into how people, regardless of age, have to become lifelong learners in order to survive in the global market. I am sure we have all thought, at some point or another, that if I can just get this undergraduate degree, or this masters degree, or terminal degree, I’d be free to having never to attend a formal educational institution ever again. My how things have changes!
Fifty or sixty years ago, you could finish college and you’d have all the education you needed for the rest of your career. You don’t have that luxury in today’s job market. Skills that were cutting edge five years ago are likely out of date, and the jobs that we will perform in the next decade or two probably don’t even exist yet. If you want to stay competitive in today’s job market and potentially earn more money, you need to become a lifelong learner.
About a year ago, my father came up to my mother and me during breakfast, saying he wanted to upgrade his very old Nokia phone to a smartphone. Our reactions to this confession weren’t kind. My father—who was 61—had almost zero experience with technology at the time. Also, my parents are both from Minsk, Belarus, so English is a second language for them. Going from an old Nokia phone to something that many consider to be a pocket computer was a big leap. I hate to admit that although I’m in the business of introducing new technology to everyone, when my father asked for my help I told him he was too old to be diving into technology. Continue reading