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Posts Tagged ‘access

 
Today I continue with my notes on yesterday’s article.

The other half of the article started with a rather optimistic “shifts from old-fashioned binary thinking” of face-to-face vs online. IMHO, reality bites hard and people still operate by that binary, e.g., face-to-face is better.

Thankfully, it focused on more nuanced terms like emergency remote teaching (my reflection) as something that resulted from an urgent situation (COVID-19 lockdowns) and unprepared teachers (low digital literacy). This distinction is important — emergency remote teaching is not the same as online learning which had decades of practice and research to back it up.

The author then returned to redefining “online learning”. She used three previously described design elements — modality, pedagogy, and course access — as defining blocks of online learning.

Building on an example she cited, a more precise description of an “online” course might read:

  • Modality: A synchronous, video-enabled seminars…
  • Pedagogy: …based on existing lecture series…
  • Access: … available only by registration on XYZ learning management system.

The author warned of vague terms like online, blended, and hybrid. These should raise alarms in anyone reading these in course descriptions because these terms can immediately be followed with the question “What do you mean by…?” (I would add a few more equally vague but commonly used terms like interactive, engage, and lifelong.)

Before focusing on pedagogy, the author reminded the reader of the importance of shared meanings. If we use the same terms but mean different things, we risk creating misunderstandings professionally as researchers and practitioners.

I save the focus on pedagogy in my next reflection.

In 2005, Twitter was incubating, YouTube was a newborn, and Facebook was a year old. So my response to the tweeted news below was: Welcome to 2005!

Apparently this move affects “about 108,000 or more than 80 per cent of public officers”. The rest are stuck in an even older time bubble.

Despite the “liberation” these users still might not be able to Zoom or Meet as they system they are on “does not support Web-based video conference as it does not interact with other hardware components on the laptop such as the microphone and camera”.

Officially we have these limitations in the name of security and secrecy. Unofficially we might simply be working on the assumption that people are selfish and stupid.

While it might have seemed like I was picking apart this opinion piece on providing universal Internet access yesterday, I support most of its ideas and the principles it was based on.

For example, one of the concepts was that it was not enough to simply provide devices and broadband connections to all households. We also need to drive behavioural change, e.g., utilising the connections and devices productively and ethically.

Providing hardware and software without good “humanware”* leaves users open to potential harm. For example, they might not know how to secure their devices against hacks.

Equitable access to broadband connections and devices also does not ensure access to information. Users need to be taught how to work remotely with secure video conferencing or to participate in online learning.

*I consider the practices, attitudes, and values that are socially transmitted and negotiated to be humanware.

One barrier to the installation of humanware is another divide: The access to timely advice and reputable sources of information. Consider the importance of using Virtual Private Networks (VPNs).

VPNs are not created equally even though most claim to provide secure and private Internet surfing experiences. Rerouted traffic goes through a VPN provider’s servers and what they do with all that data is not immediately transparent to the average user.

VPNs also allow users to access information they need or want even if an overriding policy prohibits it. This does not have to be an illegal act.

I have a Netflix subscription and was looking forward to the interactive episode of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. According to the actress who plays Kimmy, it was released in the USA over two weeks ago.

The episode has been delayed indefinitely in Singapore (see screen shot below).

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt interactive episode delayed.

This past week I visited Netflix hoping to watch the special episode. The page oscillated between displaying the “safety” message and telling me it was not available in my region.

I know Netflix dubs episodes in different languages to reach larger audiences, but the last time I checked, I spoke english in Singapore. I still do.

The rules for not streaming the interactive episode were not known, they prevented access, and they did not make exceptions. This was despite the comedy being mild. How mild? This IMDB parent’s guide stated that “’Shit’ is used once in season 4.”

I resorted to using my VPN service to watch the episode. As it was a choose-your-pwn-adventure special, I watched it with my wife to enjoy the different routes it took.

So what it my point? VPNs provide access to what you want or need even when obtuse or outdated policies hold you back. In my case, I enjoyed some harmless entertainment. In the case of a worker or student, a good VPN might not only provide a more secure web browsing experience, it could also provide a richer one. But only if this humanware is first installed and constantly updated.

Access is not just about the hardware and software, it is also about the know-how and know-why of humanware.

This opinion piece by two academics about digital access as a universal right and basic utility could not be more timely. But I seek to balance it with some critique.

The article cited a statistic that might surprise those who view affluent Singapore from the outside:

According to Professor Jean Yeung’s recent Straits Times article on her study of a nationally representative sample of over 5,000 children aged six and under, although the Wi-Fi penetration rate is near universal in Singapore, 8 per cent of families in her study who lived in rental units did not have a connection, and 44 per cent lacked a computer or a laptop at home.

The authors pressed with this statement:

As local media reports revealed, the home-based learning experience was highly uneven across families.

Whereas affluent families fretted over higher order concerns such as the quality of online instruction and children’s excessive screen time, less well-off families grappled with basic problems of device ownership and Internet access.

I agree, but I think that that we should not be looking for equality, i.e., treating everyone the same. We should be striving for equity, i.e., provide more help and resources for those that need it more. This is not just a semantic argument. It is a pragmatic one because it shapes the actions we take.

U-Save 2020.

Consider a system we already have in place, U-Save — vouchers that eligible households receive to offset the cost of utilities. The government provides more financial aid to those living in smaller apartments and less to those in larger ones. This is based on the working principle that the less well off live in small apartments and need more assistance.

The authors of the article then proposed that a system like Wireless@SG be extended to every home:

With our Nationwide Broadband Network successfully in place, offering broadband access speeds of 1Gbps and more, extending free home Wi-Fi to residential areas will not involve more than a concerted coordination with telcos outfitting every home with modems and wireless routers.

Our other utilities — electricity, gas, water — are not free and their infrastructure needs to be maintained. Wired and wireless infrastructure need to be maintained and upgraded. The latter tend to be the first to fail and make headlines compared to the more established utilities, e.g., StarHub and M1 each had a major outage in April and May respectively during our circuit breaker (our shelter-in-place).

Making Internet services “free” will place the burden on taxpayers. The same taxpayers will also likely have to put up with inferior customer service since there is no commercial pressure to compete and improve.

The authors then addressed the need for digital devices:

The current NEU PC Plus scheme offered by IMDA is generous and well-intentioned.

Yet, as with all mean-tested programmes with conditions, coverage will fall short. Some who need it will not apply while some who apply will not be given.

NEU PC Plus programme by the IMDA.

[Image source]

They then pointed out how disadvantaged families tended to choose mobile phones over computers because phones cost less. Computers, if present at home, were old and shared.

Financial cost is not the core issue. A Chromebook or mid-range laptop costs less than a high-end mobile phone. You might even be able to buy two or three Chromebooks instead of fully-specced iPhone.

The pressing issue is that learning resources and platforms tend to be optimised for computers. Computer screens are larger and computers have more processing power, storage space, and extendibility (think peripherals).

I argue that there an urgent need to shift the mindsets of teachers, instructional designers, and platform developers. The shift is mobile first (or even mobile only). This means that content delivery, curation, and creation, as well as cooperation and communication, be designed with the affordances of a phone or slate first.

Such a shift highlights another need: Access to professional development for learning and platform designers to operate with such a mindset. If we design first for mobiles, we reach all who have access to mobile devices.

Thinking and doing mobile first is not reaching for low-hanging fruit. If designers and developers currently operate on the desktop paradigm, it can be challenging for them to do otherwise.

But if they do, they might discover how the many affordances of a phone — location-awareness, orientation in 3-D space, augmented audio and video among them — provide opportunities that level the playing field.

I like being able to stream media from a home server to mobile receivers and players. One app that I rely on is Infuse.

Disclaimer: I have not been asked to promote the app nor am I compensated in any way to write this. I am sharing my thoughts just in case anyone else has the same needs or faces the same issues I had with the app.

With Infuse, I can stream media stored on a server or an external drive to my iPad. However, when I updated macOS to Catalina, I could no longer access my shared folders and drives. I discovered that I was not the only one.

Fortunately, someone discovered a workaround.

Unfortunately, it was imprecise, particularly about how to give Apple Samba, smbd, full disk access in Catalina. So I outline what worked for me.

  1. Use Finder’s “Go to folder” and type “/usr/sbin“ (without quotation marks).
  2. Once in that folder, look for the file “smbd”.
  3. Create an alias (shortcut) for smbd by right-clicking on it.
  4. The alias should be copied to the Desktop. (If not, move the alias to the Desktop.)
  5. Open the System Preferences application, go to Security and Privacy, and select the Privacy section.
  6. Unlock this section with your system password and Allow Full Disk Access to smbd by clicking on the “+” sign and adding the smbd alias.
  7. Ensure that smbd is also listed/added in the Files and Folders section.
  8. Launch Infuse on an iOS device and regain access to previously shared folders.

I read this article yesterday, The Fallacy of Open-Access Publication.

Before anyone processes the problems with some current implementations of “open” access publications, they need to be aware of an even more fundamental problem. The article described it succinctly and accurately:

Publishers are getting rich on the backs of underfunded academic libraries and the unpaid labor of academics who serve as editors, reviewers, and authors. That system is unsustainable.

Anyone who thinks that being a professor is living high up on the food chain does not understand the academic ecosystem. Professors have to buy in to a culture and live with rules long established before they were.

How bad has the situation become with publishers driven only by profit?

Open access has turned out to be a misnomer… open access is clearly not freely open to the scholars who are required to pay exorbitant fees to publish their results, often out of their own pockets. Graduate students who wish to publish two open-access articles a year in the journals of their choice might need to use more than a quarter of their annual income to do so, if they don’t have large grants to cover the fees.

How might scholars stop this rot? The author of the article suggested that scholars supported academic or scientific societies that were non or low-profit. These groups pursue the betterment of their fields, not the profiteering by publishing companies. Let’s not make the open access cookie crumble.
 

Every now and then I get requests to be interviewed, to write an article, or to have something I wrote be part of someone else’s site.

I say no almost all the time and I explain why based on the context of the request. But there is one reason that is common to all requests: I do not want to be manipulated into pushing someone else’s agenda.

Everyone has an agenda, even if they say they do not. Having an agenda is fine if you are honest about it and if you have your heart in the right place.

Quotes taken from what I say or write might get decontextualised. An opinion piece that I write might get edited until its original message gets diluted or warped.

These are probably why some politicians who are interviewed by the press also post their speeches or thoughts on platforms like Facebook. Better to hear from the horse’s mouth.
 

 
The sad thing is that not all do this. Instead of allowing people to thinking critically and make their own decisions based on source material, the sources and the press conspire to leave it up to the press to publish selectively.

What is our excuse in the realms of schooling and education?

Is the source material unavailable?

Is the source material available, but not accessible?

Is the source material available and accessible, but not understandable?

If we say yes to any of these questions, why is this the case and what are we doing about it?

In the wider world, people can take control of the information they generate. They create, share, and discuss, largely on social media.

If the goal of schooling and education is to prepare kids for the wider world, then why are we not allowing and insisting that students create, share, and discuss more openly?

On Wednesday evening I participated in a salon event that brought together thought leaders from different areas of the education arena.

While I am not at liberty to discuss my assigned topic, I think I can share some thoughts publicly about an offshoot from that topic.
 

 
One of the things my group discussed was the inequitable access to technologies that might boost human cognition. It was a reminder that the future is already here; it is just not evenly distributed.

The rich can provide for their kids. Creating new educational technologies helps this group because cost is no object. Doing this raises the ceiling in our bid to move up and along the cognitive development trajectory.

The poor or otherwise disadvantaged cannot do the same. This only increases the gap between the haves and have-nots. We should be thinking and acting to raise the floor. This will also create positive movement in human cognition while not leaving people far behind.

We will probably need to raise both the ceiling and the floor, but we are already good at doing the former. It is time we did more of the latter.

Most modern wifi routers or access points (APs) allow you to specify at least two hotspots: One for the 2.4GHz spectrum and another for the 5GHz spectrum.
 

Smok’d Window by Diego3336, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  Diego3336 

 
I use my hotspot names to send social messages to my neighbours. To someone upstairs who smoked indiscriminately, I have one AP set to StopSmokingOutYourWindow.

This might seem passive-aggressive, but it seems to have worked because I no longer smell second-hand smoke late at night. That or the smoker might have died from lung cancer.
 

No running with fish, no smelly fish, no by waldopepper, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License   by  waldopepper 

 
To a lady downstairs who prepares an assortment of agonizingly smelly fish every day over a charcoal fire, I direct AuntieYourFishStinksUpOurHome.

I have only just started this second message. Old auntie might not realize that her method of cooking is dangerous when done indoors. She is equally unlikely to surf while she stinks, but her younger flatmates might get the message.

If anyone tells me to be more tolerant, I invite them to stay in my apartment. The smell slaps me awake in the morning, sticks to the laundry and other fabrics, and is nauseating. Someone needs to stop or otherwise compensate me for sleep deprivation, the cost of rewashing clothes, and buying Febreeze. Lots of Febreeze.

The smell is so bad that one of the occupants downstairs walked up and apologized to me on her own accord. Once.

My router allows me to set up even more hotspot names should I need temporary ones for guests. Maybe I should spread some short socially-conscious messages like:

  • DoNotAnyhowlyBurnIncensePaper
  • MyGateNotXmasTreeForYourFlyers
  • VoidDeckNotShoppingCartLot
  • YourKaraokeNotOK
  • NotNormalForKidToScreamSoMuch
  • NeedAPriestCall1800ScrewBlessYou

On Wednesday I reflected on the screenagers article.

While it left a bad taste in my mouth, it had a juicy moment or two.

There was a simple but important observation that Tim Elmore made:

This is the first generation of children that don’t need adults to access information. But they do need adults to process the information, to help them interpret the data.

I suspect that there are some adults and teachers who do not realize that their kids can already get the information they need. Or maybe they do not trust their kids because they are wary of anything new (new practice, new culture, new expectations).

The few that do may not be entirely comfortable with the facilitative role of guiding learners along. After all, they have not experienced this type of teaching.

So what does a teacher to do? Hang on to outdated practice for grim life. What does an educator do? Let go and go with the flow.


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