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Issue No. 021

Vol. 21 - July 2014
The Digital Future of Education
edited by Johannes Britz, Michael Zimmer

We all remember Plato’s famous media critique of writing in his Phaedrus (274-275):

But when they came to letters, This, said Theuth, will make the Egyptians wiser and give them better memories; it is a specific both for the memory and for the wit. Thamus replied: O most ingenious Theuth, the parent or inventor of an art is not always the best judge of the utility or inutility of his own inventions to the users of them. And in this instance, you who are the father of letters, from a paternal love of your own children have been led to attribute to them a quality which they cannot have; for this discovery of yours will create forgetfulness in the learners' souls, because they will not use their mem-ories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves. The specific which you have discovered is an aid not to memory, but to reminiscence, and you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome com-pany, having the show of wisdom without the reality.

Most interestingly, Plato’s major concern is not the detrimental impact of this new technique of writing on science, religion or the state. It is its impact on education that worries him most. He does not dispute that truth can also be expressed probably even better in written, he doubts that this way of expressing the truth is useful in the area of leading disciples to its very understanding.

Maybe, one reason for his concern can be pointed out best by taking a look at the original meaning of the notion of education stemming from the Latin word ‘educatio’ meaning ‘leading out’. To educate in that sense does mean less ‘pointing to’ an insight, some facts or even a truth - what media could accomplish perfectly and the more advanced the media is the more advanced its execution of this task can be assumed - but leading away from the shelter of youth, ignorance and traditional truths that have to be overcome. That truly needs something different: personal interaction and individual guidance on a way nobody knows where it will lead to. Thus education in this sense is the very opposite of ‘informatio’ – the other Latin term often used for education indeed emphasizing more the bringing into a desired shape using the respective techniques of which writing (and other media) are (excellent) ones.

Now, what is exciting about digital media in education (at least since web 2.0) is that it combines the unprece-dented expressiveness of multimedia with the interactivity of the net on a personal as well as on large scale. Thus in fact, it was not the radio that revolutionized formation (as it was expected by many in the beginning of the 20th century) and also not TV so far. Maybe because they have the same deficits in common that Plato already attributed to writing. And maybe, with the invention and fusion of digital media and the internet, every-thing will be different? In this issue, you finally won’t find a digital answer to this question - a pure ‘yes’ or ‘no’ - but some fine balancing of the tremendous opportunities and the inherent risks.

Sincerely yours,

the Editors.


Full Journal
pdf-fulltext (1.081 KB)

The Digital Future of Education: An Introduction
by Johannes Britz, Michael Zimmer
Language: English
pdf-fulltext (134 KB)

The Ethics of Big Data in Higher Education
by Jeffrey Alan Johnson
Language: English
abstract:   Data mining and predictive analytics—collectively referred to as “big data”-are increasingly used in higher education to classify students and predict student behavior. But while the potential benefits of such techniques are significant, realizing them presents a range of ethical and social challenges. The immediate challenge considers the extent to which data mining’s outcomes are themselves ethical with respect to both individuals and institutions. A deep challenge, not readily apparent to institutional researchers or administrators, considers the implications of uncritical understanding of the scientific basis of data mining. These challenges can be met by understanding data mining as part of a value-laden nexus of problems, models, and interventions; by protecting the contextual integrity of information flows; and by ensuring both the scientific and normative validity of data mining applications
pdf-fulltext (136 KB)

Student Privacy: Harm and Context
by Mark MacCarthy
Language: English
abstract:   This paper constructs a model of privacy assessment drawn from the context and harm approaches to privacy and applies it to the privacy issues raised by predictive modeling in education. This student privacy assessment involves assessing departures from existing norms of information flow embedded in the social context of education; assessing risks of harm to specific individuals or classes of individuals through unfair or unjustified discrimination; understanding the risk of adverse feedback effects on the aims and purposes of education itself; and the extent to which privacy issues mask more fundamental conflicts over educat ional values. The paper does not attempt to adjudicate these controversies but rather provides the conceptual and evaluative tools that might facilitate productive discussions.
pdf-fulltext (132 KB)

The Ethics of Student Privacy: Building Trust for Ed Tech
by Jules Polonetsky and Omer Tene
Language: English
abstract:    This article analyzes the opportunities and risks of data driven education technologies (ed tech). It discusses the deployment of data technologies by education institutions to enhance student performance, evaluate teachers, improve education techniques, customize programs, devise financial assistance plans, and better leverage scarce resources to assess and optimize education results. Critics fear ed tech could introduce new risks of privacy infringements, narrowcasting and discrimination, fueling the stratification of society by channeling “winners” to a “Harvard track” and “losers” to a “bluer collar” track; and overly limit the right to fail, struggle and learn through experimentation. The article argues that together with teachers, parents and students, schools and vendors must establish a trust framework to facilitate the adoption of data driven ed tech. Enhanced transparency around institutions’ data use philosophy and ethical guidelines, and novel methods of data “featurization,” will achieve far more than formalistic notices and contractual legalese.
pdf-fulltext (125 KB)

Teachers as nightmare readers: Estonian high-school teachers’ experiences and opinions about student-teacher interaction on Facebook
by Maria Murumaa-Mengel and Andra Siibak
Language: English
abstract:   This study explored Estonian teachers’ perceptions and practices about student-teacher interaction on Facebook. Four focus group interviews with high-school teachers (n=21) revealed that educators are used to monitoring their students’ posts on Facebook and consider it their role to intervene whenever something inappropriate is posted. Teachers viewed such social media surveillance as a routine and harmless practice which does not violate students’ privacy. The participants of our study do not see any need for formal social media policies to regulate student-teacher interaction on social media, as they consider themselves perfectly capable of making ethical choices in this realm.
pdf-fulltext (142 KB)

Canadian University Social Software Guidelines and Academic Freedom: An Alarming Labour Trend
by Taryn Lough and Toni Samek
Language: English
abstract:   An analysis of first-stage social software guidelines of nine Canadian universities conducted in the 2012-13 academic year with the aim to reveal limits to academic freedom. Carleton University’s guidelines serve as the anchor case, while those of eight other institutions are included to signify a national trend. Implications for this work are central to academic labour. In as much as academic staff have custody and control of all records they create, except records created in and for administrative capacity, these guidelines are interpreted to be alarming. Across the guidelines, framing of social media use by academic staff (even for personal use) as representative of the university assumes academic staff should have an undying loya lty to their institution. The guidelines are read as obvious attempts to control rather than merely guide, and speak to the nature of institutional overreach in the related names of reputation (brand), responsibility (authoritarianism), safety (paternalis tically understood and enforced), and the free marketplace of [the right] ideas.
pdf-fulltext (142 KB)

Digital Content Delivery in Higher Education: Expanded Mechanisms for Subordinating the Professoriate and Academic Precariat
by Wilhelm Peekhaus
Language: English
abstract:   This paper suggests that the latest digital mechanisms for delivering higher education course content are yet another step in subordinating academic labor. The two main digital delivery mechanisms discussed in the paper are MOOCs and flexible option degrees. The paper advances the argument that, despite a relatively privileged position vis-à-vis other workers, academic cognitive laborers are caught up within and subject to some of the constraining and exploitative practices of capitalist accumulation processes. This capture within capitalist circuits of accumulation threatens to increase in velocity and scale through digital delivery mechanisms such as MOOCs and flexible option programs/degrees.
pdf-fulltext (142 KB)

Digital Education and Oppression: Rethinking the Ethical Paradigm of the Digital Future
by Trent M Kays
Language: English
abstract:   Digital education seems to often be approached from the perspective of educational structures that existed before contemporary technology. In this way, the old structures of oppression are replicated in the spaces most capable of liberation. This article offers a conversation about a future digital education that not only enacts the goals of liberation but also works to embed social justice concepts into the oppressive structures that liberation seeks to topple. Enacting a new ethical paradigm is needed to address the issues of the digital age and education, and this article attempts to build such a paradigm that can be applied to contemporary and future iterations of educational ventures.
pdf-fulltext (142 KB)

Book Review: Honorary Volume for Evi Laskari
by Herman T. Tavani
Language: English
abstract:   The Honorary Volume for Evi Laskari is a collection of short essays and full-length articles dedicated to the memory of Evi Laskari (1964-2008), philologist and former Head of the Central Public Library of Corfu (Greece). The volume is organized into two main sections or parts. Part I, titled “Texts on Evi Laskari,” effectively serves as a (posthumous) festschrift for Laskari; it includes a series of short essays and texts that remark on her many contributions to the field of information/library science (in Corfu and beyond). Some essays in this section also hint at ways in which Laskari’s work has influenced aspects of the field of information law/ethics, especially in the Greek academic community.
pdf-fulltext (142 KB)


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