Another dot in the blogosphere?

Posts Tagged ‘responsibility

Typography (font type, size, colour, etc.) is part of the communication process. You would not (and should not) use Comic Sans in business writeup, for example.

In the tweet above, Colbert observed how one news source used typography to leverage on fear and worry. 

The size of the font you use creates contrast. It distinguishes what you want heard most from what is secondary or tertiary.

Here is another observation.

Other than the irony of the article’s title and the cost of reading it, the tweet above highlights the contrast of access to resources. Well-funded universities and academics have access to journal articles that laypersons do not.

While the cost of that article is not prohibitive, consider what getting several articles from the same source will do. Also, this journal sells its articles for a much lower price that some others. I have come across publishers that charge double and triple figures for access to just one of their articles.

Two examples of contrast have something in common: The gatekeepers are irresponsible with the information they have. The news source knew that the threat was low but chose to highlight danger. The journal publisher chose to keep its findings behind a paywall.

Both businesses have a right to make money from selling information. But there are responsible ways of doing this. One is to not sensationalise. Another is to provide greater access (like making some articles free or offering bigger sneaks of articles). 

The second way is important especially if the research was publicly-funded. Such studies should not just benefit universities and academics. They should do the public good.

Contrast and responsibility. These are two concepts that should be taught as elements of modern literacy for both young and old.

If you have been following the story behind this children’s book, you might know that:

  • The author depicted a bully who was “dark-skinned with a head of oily curls”.
  • A reader flagged the book as racist.
  • The National Library Board removed the book from the children’s section shelves for review.

The latest news article revealed that the three-month review brought the book back to the shelves, but this time to the family and parenting section.

The publisher of the book, Marshall Cavendish Education, apologised and said it would stop selling the book and recall it from stores.

From an educator’s point of view, this is a perfect case for social studies or any lesson on critical thinking. Here are some things to think about.

There is no question that the depiction of the character was racist even if the author denied intent. The fact that the review processes did not catch this and put the book out for sale and on library shelves illustrates the same problem. The racism was so insidious that it has become normalised.

The decision to put the book out of sight of children is a masterful administrative stroke. It looks good on paper (we have addressed the issue) but does not actually deal with the issue (insidious racism was not called out).

The move to allow parents to use the book to educate their kids presumes that adults will teach children good values. What if they parents do not point out the racist depiction, or worse, reinforce it?

The responses of the review board and publisher were patronising. Consider these quotes from the latest news article:

  • “NLB acquires about 1 million books annually, we rely on patrons’ feedback and the review by the panel”
  • “Marshall Cavendish Education said it ‘welcomes’ NLB’s decision to move the book to the adult section”
  • “We will continue to work closely with our myriad of passionate authors to produce content that supports, nurtures and inspires students”

All the statements reek of avoiding responsibility — there are too many books to review, the review board made the decision to keep the book on the shelves, and we will keep publishing such books without a clearly revised review process.

The agencies might try to push the issue out of sight. But the responsible and critical will not allow them to push it out of mind.

…comes great consideration.

That is my take on the oft-quoted and misused “With great power comes great responsibility.”

Video source

Very few people are granted great power. But just about everyone enjoys great convenience, e.g., public libraries, thanks to tax payer money and/or generous benefactors.

The problem is how poorly behaved we can sometimes be. Some people do not care for how others suffer as a result of their inconsiderate behaviours. Behaviours like talking in quiet spaces, reserving public spaces with personal belongings, and even performing personal grooming tasks.

Perhaps I have seen my unfair share of such behaviours because I use these informal works spaces for actual work. Perhaps we really are a third world people living in a first world.

Is it Opposite Day? That was one of my reactions when I read and reread this tweet.

There might be some context lost in a 140-character tweet. I read the tweets around it, but found none.

If this is “food” for thought, I am not swallowing uncritically.

Should one lead learners by teaching them their duty, but not their rights? Can we even consider teaching them responsibility without freedom?

To do this means to school students into obeying and following. This is about enculturation and indoctrination, period.

Education has a function greater than schooling. It is about liberating people from ignorance and fear. It is about letting people know they have a right to consume and create, collaborate and critique, communicate and change. It is about giving them the freedom to explore, question, and grow.

Educating for the future is the same as educating in the past and educating now. It is about teaching rights as much as duty. It is about teaching freedom as much as responsibility. It is about focusing on the individual so that the collective benefits.

You can lead learners by the nose or you can lead them by their hearts. The first way is unquestioning; the second relies on questions.

And since we are on the topic of leadership, here is a poignant thought from a fictional president.

True leadership is not running away from those who disagree with you, but about embracing them.

Where the tweeted line of thought goes, I dare not follow. My mind and heart do not allow it because I am educated, not just schooled. It is my right to point out a wrong because it is also my duty. It is my responsibility to free critical thought.


I chanced upon this display in NIE along the stretch where those that specialize in the visual arts occasionally display their work.

The statement was “Do you know that too much use of technology decays your ietnllginece (sic)”.

I know that the word “intelligence” was misspelt for effect and the statement was designed to provoke. Here are a few of my responses.

My first reaction was: Did you know that if you spell check, you might come across as more intelligent? Punctuation also helps the statement be read as a question. But that reaction adds little value to the conversation and merely indicates that I did not “get” the point.

My second reaction was that a more reasoned statement might read: Thoughtless use of technology might make you seem less intelligent. But a statement like that might not tickle the cerebral cortices as much.

What worries me is student teachers who see the piece and read the statement as fact instead of a point of discussion. I think this form of negative technology determinism is frighteningly common. It is our responsibility as educators to think, do, and show otherwise instead of adding fuel to this destructive and retarding fire.

One other thought. What if the art work was interactive? What if you could visit a URL or scan a QR code to tweet your opinion or leave your thoughts in an online space?

What if we actually used technology to not just expand the reach of art (or any other subject), but also to increase our collective intelligence by sharing and discussing?

It’s time for a rant. I mean it, I am not playing games. It’s about playing video games.

I am aware of teachers and instructors who think nothing of getting their charges to play games and hoping that they will automatically learn content or somehow imbibe the principles of game-based learning. That is about as likely as throwing the ingredients of a birthday cake into an oven and hoping a cake results, candles and all!

I am also acutely aware of irresponsible parents who let their children play games that are not suitable for them. I personally know of a set of parents who do not want a gaming console at home (games are evil!) but leave one at the grandparent’s place as a carrot for their kids to visit on weekends (evil elsewhere is OK?). Those parents are very well-educated and as rich as they get, but they buy pirated games when, for example, they go on trips to China. Talk about sending mixed messages! You can play games, but not at home. And I will buy you those games illegally.

Video source

To make matters worse, the parents ignore the age warnings and allow their Primary school-aged kids to play games like Grand Theft Auto. I have observed one of the parents, in a rare moment of actually being there while one of his kids played, laugh when he saw his child carjack someone and shoot the driver in the face.

It’s a value system gone wrong and those same parents will blame games instead of themselves for social and other ills. What’s gone wrong here? First, gaming is positioned as a distraction instead of a very powerful and relevant learning strategy. Second, they are teaching their kids that buying pirated games is acceptable behaviour. Third, they are not monitoring what their kids are playing.

My family plays video and computer games. We use a Wii, iPod/iPhone and computers. I know what my son gets up to because 1) I play the games with him, 2) we talk about the game play and the issues that emerge, and 3) in the case of online games, I get an automatic weekly report from about his activities. Game play has been a platform for the development of his basic, media and technology literacies as well as his value system.

We only play games we purchase legally. Though I have modified our Wii to play off a hard drive instead of discs, we do not download disc images illegally. I read reviews of games carefully before I buy games. My Twitter stream allows me to scan what games teachers are using in classrooms around the world. I look for games that are not only enjoyable, but also challenge us cognitively, socially and emotionally.

We use a timer to limit how much time our son plays at each sitting. He gets to play with the Wii only on weekends. He has to put the iPod Touch down in face-to-face social settings.

It’s not a huge burden for parents to do this and more. And it is important to do these things because our kids learn more from us than they do from games.

Someone once said something to the effect of creativity being a state of mind while innovation was something that needed to be practiced.

That saying came to my mind when an RSS feed alerted me of a journal article titled Butterfly under a pin: Exploring the voices and stories told of faculty who adopt ICTs for teaching and learning practices. The abstract:

The purpose of this preliminary study was to qualitatively explore the lived experiences of faculty who adopt ICT in a higher education setting for teaching and learning purposes. Respondents represented a wide range of academic positions. The analysis of data identified organizational support, adequate and quality resources, faculty development, and administration, leadership, and change as emerging themes affecting the faculty ability to adopt information and communication technology (ICT) in teaching and learning purposes. Evidence from this study offers insight into how higher education administrators may support their faculty to implement appropriate ICT tools and strategies to improve teaching and learning practices.

I have not read beyond the abstract so the following comment may not be fair. But since the abstract represents the most important findings of the study, I must say that I was struck at how the participants of that study were so extrinsically motivated to innovate with ICT. Qualitatively speaking, the same could be said about university faculty elsewhere and teachers in general.

With the exception of perhaps the last factor, everything else that led faculty to be innovative was a push factor from the outside. What happened to innovation as a personal responsibility? I’d rather push than wait to be pushed! Trying to innovate is not easy, but it beats the heck out of just keeping still or complaining about the status quo.

The original intent of YouTube was true to the Web 2.0 ideal: Allow users to share online content that they had created. Somehow YouTube did not foresee how users would put copyrighted material online and thus breach the law.

However, a company called Autitude might have come up with a way to make just about everyone happy. Here’s a snippet from the Yahoo! report:

Auditude technology automatically identifies user-posted segments of shows, then weaves in advertising for copyright owners and tells viewers whose program they are watching.

Instead of copyright holders chasing down television shows video posted on MySpace pages and then demanding clips be removed in accordance with US law, they can let Internet users be delivery channels complete with advertising.

Copyright holders get advertising money and links back to them and users get to share without breaking the law or fear getting sued. Convenient, no?

Convenient but it is early days yet.

This is a perfect example of how technology develops so fast that laws cannot catch up, and when they do, something else comes along to alleviate or exacerbate the problem.

I like how this technology will allow users to remix, create, and share content. But from an educator’s point of view, this technology might take personal responsibility out of the equation. As of right now, if you want to use someone else’s work, the onus is on you to seek their permission. In the future, you might not need to because the original creators or authors are compensated somehow. But if these parties feel threatened by someone else manipulating their work, they might not choose to share their work in the first place. And that would take the “2” or “too” out of Web 2.0.

You just know that a blog entry with content like “plenty of educators, especially administrators, wouldn’t know a blog from their elbow, let alone have a clue how they might use Twitter or Ning in their districts” is fishing for something.

The author of that blog had a few points to make: 1) many educators don’t know what Web 2.0 is, much less how to integrate it, 2) Web 2.0 is important to learners now and in the future (even if Web 2.0 evolves to something else), and 3) we are not putting enough technology in the hands of learners so that they learn more authentically.

So my response to his question “Social media… dirty word or essential skill?” is obvious. It is an essential skill. But I’d add that students also need to be information literate and socially literate (I say more of this in a book chapter that I have written).

They also need essential attitudes and values. Why? Web 2.0 is a sociotechnical phenomenon. The technology enables users to generate and publish content easily. But users must also want to do this, and as they do, they must do so ethically and responsibly.


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