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Posts Tagged ‘capital

Jason Feifer’s latest Build for Tomorrow podcast episode was Yes, Talk To Strangers!

Spotify source

It was somewhere in the middle of the episode that Feifer described how chimpanzees were generally more destructive and selfish. Bonobos, on the other hand, were more social and cooperative, even to those outside their social group.

This led to Feifer’s message on how to build bridging capital. In order to bring back stronger social bonds, he suggested three strategies when talking to strangers: 

  1. Acknowledge that you are breaking the rules (it is not normal to just start conversations with strangers)
  2. Break the script (do not go for the usual conversation-enders like the weather)
  3. Ask open-ended questions 

The same strategies work for teachers who wish to start critical conversations with their students. The dialogues might be about current, sensitive, or important topics. A topic that is all three is the recent attention on mental health of students following the killing of a 13-year-old in a Singapore school

Teachers and students are not strangers to one another. But it might be unusual to talk about personal issues instead of content in class. This is breaking the convention and the usual script. One way to keep conversations going is to facilitate the answering of open-ended questions.

In that sense, we could learn from our fellow apes: We should be less chimpanzee and more bonobo.

2013 might just be the year for the open learning movement to build on the attention and momentum it built up last year.

Much has been said about the benefits of open learning systems and resources. But I think there is one benefit that has not been celebrated as much: Transparency.

In the context of higher education, a university can laud its rankings due in part to academic publications. Despite the closed and exclusive nature of most journals, other academics can buy these journal articles to gauge the quality of research from that university.

If that same university has, say, a reputable service learning programme, it can also share what it does with publications and conferences. NIE’s GESL is one such example. Though that website and publications, it can allow interested others some insights into the programme.

But how do we let the public or stakeholders gauge the quality of instruction if they are not taking our courses? How do we build up our reputational capital in this academic area?

We might publish articles or share at conferences elements of our teaching practice, but these are spotlights on what we choose to share. They are not representative of our overall ability to educate. I think an answer lies in open learning.

By creating free and easy-to-access resources, teaching faculty share their knowledge and skills with those inside and outside their immediate classrooms. There is a transparency like no other. Being open and transparent allows others to see how well we teach.

There is also added stress from more open feedback and critique, but this is an excellent form of quality control. This can, in turn, polish our courses and teaching, and create demand for our courses.

So I think that universities stand to gain more by being open than by being closed.

The old system of academic exclusivity is passing because we live in the age of Google, Wikipedia, and YouTube. To survive, we must not only understand the changes as exemplified by these tools, but also take advantage of them.

These tools, platforms, and systems were created outside the university system and designed to be mostly open. We must go there and play by those rules because those rules are relevant now and in the near future.

Call it social currency or social capital, the author of How Social Currency Is Driving Identity, Trust and New Industries has a point. Your ability to establish online credibility, trustworthiness, reliability, and reputation are just as important as doing these offline.

In fact more so, given how your online presence can be used to evaluate you before you are recruited, or assess you after you have been recruited. Your digital identity, shadows, and footprints can also get you fired.

Try buying or selling anything online and your history and behaviour are easily investigated to gauge the reputation of the seller or the risk of offering something to a buyer. The same could be said of an online instructor or learner.

We need to learn to invest in social capital. We need to teach our kids to do the same.

Digital Footprint by kyteacher, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  kyteacher 

Call it what you want, digital identity, footprints, or shadows, they are all very important in this day and age. This fact was reinforced during my trip to Australia last week.

As is the norm now, we checked up on our hosts and they on us before we met in person.

Of the team of four from NIE, I do not think I would be tooting my horn if I guessed that my online presence was the most obvious. This blog and my tweet stream were probably the gateways to other digital artefacts of mine. Collectively, they left so large a digital impression on some of our hosts that we spent a disproportionate amount of time talking about e-learning and ICT.

Building up one’s social and reputational capital online is important today. I recall reading an article where a company abandoned resumes altogether and relied on the digital artefacts of prospective employees. It is hard to visit a university where graduating students are not required to maintain an e-portfolio of some sort.

More recently my Twitter PLN surfaced at least two interesting articles debating the merits and pitfalls of social media in schools.

The short story: School administrators and parents might be worried about social media as a distraction, but banning the use of the tools takes away teaching moments and does not prepare kids for their present and future.

If we as adults can already see the value (and some dangers) of the social and reputational capital that stem from our online presence, this will be even more important for our kids. Keeping an e-portfolio is not enough. What kids do in Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube also matters, perhaps even more so.

Kids aside, I sometimes wonder if I will ever see the day where academic staff are appraised largely this way. The traditional appraisal tries to capture this element, but because it is limited to paper, it cannot hyperlink.

Earlier this year, one head asked me if I knew of any staff in NIE who had e-portfolios that she could showcase at her academic group’s retreat. Sadly, I did not, so I shared mine and a few of my staffs’ portfolios (with their permission, of course). That head remarked how we seem to make our student teachers maintain e-portfolios, but do not walk that talk ourselves!

I think it will happen slowly as academic staff start joining in that conversation and take a walk down that inevitable digital path.


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