Connected learning has a distinct and strict focus on equity in education. Whereas other pedagogies, like Deep Learning or IBL, confront the pervasive presence of communication technologies by focusing on affordances of new media in order to address their pitfalls and take advantage of their opportunities, Connected learning puts the focus on equity and participation, and then moves to address the affordances of technology. The attitude in Connected learning is focused on education, and not on technology. The attitude that technology has overtaken our lives and we may as well take advantage of it is absent here. Connected learning confronts the problem of equity head on. Collaborative learning, participation, intellectual openness, peer evaluation, engagement and leadership are not new pedagogies that can best take advantage of new digitized environments out of schools and in schools. They steps to take to mitigate the problem of inequity, and the various gaps (participation gap, gender gap, etc.) that digitization of our lives has exacerbated or imposed on us.
Its emphasis on (in)equity enables a better articulation and enumeration of problems in part 1 of the report. In part to it enables the admission that without "social contexts that value expert knowledge and skills, embody civic virtues, and welcome contributions of diverse participant", connected learning cannot be at its most effective. Equity here is a necessary condition to good pedagogic designs, not its byproduct. Therefore, in connected learning there's an acknowledgment that without appropriate spaces that bring about the social context of learning, a pedagogy is doomed to fail. This is significant to me because it speaks to drawbacks of current schooling 'space'/infrastructure and how the environment itself already invites hierarchy. They way schooling architecture is set up resists blending the "warring" spheres of learning, namely, the peer culture with academics. It is not surprising that the word "school" is almost always used in the report as a cite in need of change, or one that structurally resists change. Is it too impractical to address the problem of space by calling for school designs for change? Perhaps yes. Other community institutions can play a role here. Libraries and museums can (are already) play a significant role here. The cases the report mentions occurs in alternative spaces that compliment schooling.
In her paper on Maker Spaces, Pinto provides a brief history of makers movement and attempt to isolate the factors that took its critical edge off. Simply, maker movement spaces were spaces for people to make things. Think a community. "Ideally members [of this community] freely exchange resources and idea in order make things by combining artisanal technique and experimental play. The history of this movement is rooted in anti-consumerist, do-it-yourself ethos of recycling, repairing, gardening, sewing, building, making art, etc. as an "act" of anti-consumerism. Its digital wing, rose out of concern for digital monopolies and labor exploitation. The recent manifestations of Maker movement are distinct in that they "emphasize collaboration for social learning". It is this pedagogic aspect that is explored in this paper. The aim of adapting DIY to ethos to education is to adapt "a strategy to engage youth in science, technology, engineering, math, arts and learning as a whole". As a practical pedagogy, however, this strategy has somewhat blunted the original critical ethos of the maker movement.
The germs of its radical origins are still there. Pinto enumerates various communities where volunteers promote coding literacies, repair movements or sharing economies. But, for the most part, the cultural capital of the movement is hijacked by corporate forces, leaving behind a façade of labels that once represented a rich "community learning model". Recent "makers" just follow "prescriptive instructions", and their communities charge membership fees, and advertise online. This model is just consumerism because "crafters use consumer materials", this becoming consumers themselves. Their making process "lacks a sense of innovation and uniqueness achieved by way of ingenuity". She goes over the failure of 3D printer to deliver on the revolution it once promised and identifies that failure to aforementioned reasons. High material cost, corporatization, rigid im-mod-able devices, led to just another consumerist model.
But how do we bring back the critical edge of the movement? Pinto suggest we must focus on the relationship between technologies and social life and the "transformation that occurs between" both during the making process. Effective learning comes from an engaged process anyways, and engagement is best achievement through interacting with the material aspect of the technology one is learning to make that technology work in one's own social context. This means learners must participate as active members with a vested interest (which would lead to identity development and thus further their interest and investment in their technologies and communities). The role of teacher in the education process of making a technology for one's community becomes "inventing ways to engage students in the care of their own schools" and communities.
Twine is an interactive storytelling or game making tool. It's constituted of abstract events/spaces (like pages or "passages", as the tool calls them) that can link to each other and in this way it symbolize chains of cause and effect, or in other words narratives. For instance, in a group of passages each page can symbolize a room in a house, and designer can make a detective story or a mystery letting the reader/player fetch items, change things in the room, or direct player to other rooms. Another popular genre seems to be dating simulators. Where each room symbolizes a character, and the links serve as interactions with that character. Designers can add music, images and various other media to each page. They can manipulate the descriptive text, or add conditionals for more complex choices, or variables to store and modify user features.
I made a simple "serious game" using twine where I tried to surprise the user with characters they could date using their Facebook Likes and contrasted it with their 5 big personality tests popular online. My end was to raise some awareness about privacy and data. So, I had a clear "learnable" which was to get the player to see how their Facebook Data does not represent who they are and they know it too, but is nevertheless used (for profit) to shape their choices anyways. Each character would be assigned a page and described based on the 5 character traits. I realized that game makers (for educational games at least) may have bet on users behaving in certain ways. In my case, I bet that my players would dislike the characters I presented to them based on their online profile. To make the bet safe, I only introduced them to characters with traits with the largest difference between the Facebook data and the personality test data. For two reasons, however, I needed the players to help decide the math. First, I needed to extend the "magic circle" (Consalvo 2009) of the game to the entire internet because Twine did not allow me to embed the external engine I was using to produce personality traits based on Facebook Likes, and as a result, I had to take the players outside of the game to an external link. Second, the java-script code that I was running to do the calculations detached the user from the decision making process that I needed the users to be part of in order to correctly symbolize how online users of social networks volunteer their own data to become "products" themselves (Rushkoff 2012). Eventually, I made the decision that I can introduce the players to a party room with the vibes of the traits they appeared with online after having put them in a "perfect room" where their traits appeared as persons according to their personality test. This way instead of many characters, I could only create 10 rooms, one for each relative extreme for a character trait. In this process, I learned a lot about design decisions and how they impact the game, but more importantly about how designing, coding and debugging games itself teaches "computational skills" that Jensen et. al. (2016) talked about in their curriculum study with Game Maker software.
My concern with Twine is that the software forces you to think about the game within in its structure and that could be annoying if your ideas are not best articulated with the popular genres that have developed within Twine because you're going to have a tougher time finding the customized code online for your own tasks. The code is easy, once you learn it, but is sure a pain to learn even relative to the more complicated languages (I am thinking Game Maker, since I experimented with it last semester). Another pain is the lack of coherent body of tutorials with hands-on examples consistent not only across both versions of twine, but also across the three versions of Twine interface that are out there. Why would you even have three versions with three different coding grammar if their affordances are pretty much the same thing!
That being said, there are some good tutorials emerging for Twine 2 which was launched last year. This tutorial series even has a Dating Sim, and makes the code available for you to tweak and play around with. It's pain, however, to learn to embed HTML code into Twine 2, which is why I had to abandon the smoother interface for its rough edgy predecessor Twine 1. It felt as if I am better off learning html from scratch (for which there are amazing online resources out there). As text games become more and more popular, the online repository of information is going to build up I hope.
On Bray's Feminist Technology Studies and Cultural Anthropology and Jenson's Interventionist Study of Feminism in Games.
Despite shared philosophical framework and content matter, fields of feminist technology study (FTS) and cultural anthropology of technology remain divided. While FTS focuses on gender stereotypes and how to ameliorate their impact from within technological paradigms, cultural anthropology (CA) of technology does not recognize technology as an analytical category for investigation. On FTS side, scholars have made breakthroughs exploring various masculinities and femininities not only with regard to their relation to technology as a "nonhuman tool" but also in the wider politics "embedded in design". In essence, FTS aims "to democratize technological institutions from the inside out". On the CA side, the more recent (post 1993) scholarship has come to focus on technology as an extension of bodies. As such, technology has become a "universal human activity" across cultures. As anthropology of gender, globalization and technological choices have fused, content areas in cultural anthropology are being explored that are very similar to those explored FTS. One particular strand, (MSC), focuses on valuable insight about manifestations of globalization from a local perspective with regards to tools, technology and construction of gendered meaning and gender identities. Under this view, the local human agents take advantage of the material affordances of technology as their extension in their space and time. They stop becoming simply reactive agents to change. This was a fundamental insight of FTS. Furthermore, both views share a strong materialism. What FTS lacks in cross cultural perspectives on its Eurocentric view, MSC can provide by enabling theorizing of technology as universal human tool across cultures in ethnographic studies. One successful integration of the two fields seems to be coming out in recent extension of action theory from the individual analysis of human interaction with tools to include interactions of communities of agents with division of labor and cultural rules and norms.
MSC can help FTS explore the rules in the extended table. As more recent work by Michael Cole (1996) and Kurt Squire (2003) shows every ethnographic study is already situated in a cultural setting. It is important to be aware of the formal and informal rules that guide members of these subcultures if FTS scholar wants to create effective change from within a technological sphere.
This call for merging the disciplines is especially relevant in light of Jenson's observation (Kafai 2016 et al P. 187) that "there is no empirical research to date that accounts for the deep gender divide" in new fast burgeoning areas of technology like within the game industry. She continues "but it is at least anecdotally clear that one reason for women’s underrepresentation is that it is an actively hostile and misogynistic space for female game designers and programmers". It is not enough for new studies to simply observe from a distance like good anthropologists. Researchers must take an active role in moving beyond theorizing about the divide. CA can benefit from FTS engagement in this way. As Jenson "FiG" workshops indicate women were reluctant to adapt new identities until they did! Her study can be labeled a study of becoming, as opposed to study of being that motivates a "good" anthropologist. One central concern here becomes the role of observer or experimenter. How would the experiment yield results that would be free of prejudices of the observer if the observer is also intervening in the experiment?
Bogost argues that perceived influence of algorithms on our lives misrepresents their actual roles. As a result, we ignore all the other factors that go into what seems to be purely algorithmic driven phenomena. Algorithms are not more than step by step procedures for the computers to run, but they get “all the credit”, as it were, for hardware than runs them, for the people who create, test, and maintain them, for the larger infrastructures that supports them, and even for the data (feedback) that users collectively give them. They are a distorted version of what they attempt to present because they “abstracting” and “simplify” some physical processes in order to digitally present it. Consequently, in our technology obsessed culture, they are perceived as “shorthand” for everything technological deterministically dominating and influencing our lives and not only forming but becoming our reality. This perception has us ignore how algorithms are only “caricatures” of a diverse and multi-perspectival world, and, perhaps worse, believe that we have no say in the (social) change they bring about. Bogost ends by series of imperatives to avoid fetishinzing computers. He believes a healthy skepticism is required, (and sufficient?) to counter the “totalizing” force of technological answers to our modern day problems. Two quick points on this. First, a skeptical attitude is necessary, but perhaps it is not sufficient. One of the first philosophers that talked to a similar issue, as far as I know, is Nietzsche. In his criticism of Darwinian thinking applied to morality, a la Spencer, of science, and utilitarianism, he notoriously reminds us that in the absence of religion (death of god) a different alternative is needed. He seems to think that religion with its customs, routines, and ways of meaning, fulfilled a natural (physiological) need. If he is right, then a dose of skepticism alone is not enough to dispel the myth of algorithm, though it is necessary first step. Second point is regarding the teacher’s attitude towards increasingly technologized classrooms. I think the sort of “totalizing” perception that “algorithms”, “big data”, “computers” and all the other innovations that promised a revolution in education contributes to negative teacher attitude towards technology. The perception of inevitability may intimidate some teachers into accepting whatever technology is thrown at them, but the attitude they take towards those technologies in classrooms will certainly influence the way they implement the curriculum for learners.
New digital media environments, like Facebook, treat users as product for advertisers to pay for. User attention, and data are what is sold in this case. That is not easy to see, Rushkoff argues, unless you are "code literate". Problem is we learned (and taught) to listen but also to speak, to read but also to write, however, we use code, but we don't usually learn or teach even to write or modify code. That's why we never perceive a software limitation as a function of a corporation/producer, and instead often as a function of something wrong with the technology itself. If we were more code literate and tech savvy we could perceive the shortcoming of products we use as what the producers missed or left out in them. In other words, as code literate netizens we can not only critically engage products, but also we can have a better sense of the overall social context of our increasingly digital society. He is right. One needs to think of other technologies that non-experts modified to their own advantage. If those technologies had a social aspect, it helped create communities where the kind of technical knowledge they had created existed implicitly in the collective. Ham radio or game mods are great examples of that. But how do we best teach coding? Coding, like any other language, is best taught in situated contexts. Learners must learn through coding about something they choose, and they must code together so that they can learn interactively. These are important principles of inquiry based learning. The persistent hurdle, as usual, is lack of space within the curriculum to integrate this kind of essential literacy.