A few months back I moderated a panel at the Next Generation Teaching and Learning Symposium at UC Berkeley, an all-day event keynoted by Social Media Classroom creator (and fellow Reed alum, how about that) Howard Rheingold. Event organizers recently posted video for each session: Having endured the singularly unpleasant experience of watching myself talk in order to vouch for content, I am pleasantly surprised through the adrenalin-induced memory wash to discover that the discussion – Social Issues of NGTL – is quite interesting.
The panelists were Ahrash Bissell, Consultant to Hewlett Foundation and Former Director of ccLearn, and Assistant Professors Brian Carver (cyberlaw) and Coye Chesire (social networks and information exchange) from the UCB School of Information: all extremely articulate gents who cover an impressive amount of challenging ground over the hour, from technology implementation in the classroom to the “pornado effect” and the the access divide’s impact on an uneven dissemination of technology literacy.
Click through to watch on the Symposium site, or see the panel summary below taken from the full symposium report if you don’t have vid or 55:53 to spare. The other event videos are well worth the watch, and feature a number of compelling exchanges on education innovation from representatives of the Open University, Blackboard, Second Life, the University of California Cybercampus Initiative, and more.
This panel, moderated by Char Booth, attempted to synthesize many of the discussions that surfaced throughout the day, namely around four issues: politics, pedagogy, culture and access. Panelists were asked to give their idea of the predominant issues in technologies for teaching and learning and share strategies for overcoming those challenges.
Ahrash Bissell talked about his experience overcoming the political and legal barriers that hamper our access to latent capacity and data through using information communication technologies. He questioned assumptions about what our educational system is doing well. Since high school graduation rates are low, and the number of those that move on to college are even lower. He also brought up the issue of global access to information, and pointed to radio as the dominant medium of information exchange. Bissell also discussed motivation for using these systems. In education, instructors are always looking for ways to make certain things they do while teaching easier. Here, technology can provide incremental solutions, like open textbooks that students can own and mark up, that create buy-in for instructors and administrators.
Brian Carver, who teaches in areas of intellectual property and cyber law, shared his interest in issues of open source software and forms of peer production. He asked what makes these online collaborative projects successful and what makes them fail? If we rely on them for solutions to some of these problems, we should find out what makes them work. He shared a personal experience to demonstrate school district resistance to social networks and access to web 2.0 tools. There are many people for whom these issues are very far removed, and they have incorrect assumptions about these technologies. In his view, one of the largest problems facing us today is an educational one. We must inform the public about these problems and how we intend to solve them.
Coye Cheshire spoke about social and organization issues of information communication. He discussed the myth of “If you built it, people will use it” and wants to look at not just how people use the tools, but how do people use them in ways that are different from how they were intended to be used. Cheshire also discussed the “Social-Technical gap” that exists between what we can build and what we can support socially. He stressed that the biggest assumption we can make is that we can fill or bridge the gap and that we can’t code in community and social systems into technological solutions. His goal as in instructor that uses these systems is to have a framework for understanding his role and the role of technology in the classroom. Cheshire also noted that some stakeholders expect us to fill the gap and find the right solution.