Blog Post

The Digital Classroom: Thoughts and Notes on #FemTechNet 1.2

January 23, 2014 4-5:30pm: Designing the Virtual Campus: From Telepresence and Ubiquity to Banality and Mess

Speaker: Elizabeth Losh (UC San Diego Culture, Art, Technology)


After using the quick coffee break to finish that last blog it is back to Space 2435 to learn about the virtual campus. As many of you know, MOOC’s have been quite the topic of discussion on HASTAC for quite a while (Check out the MOOC Group for more info) so I was geared to go for Liz Losh’s (@lizlosh) talk on the subject, especially the possible future of education that incorporates new technology.


Following an introduction by Lisa Nakamura, Losh begins the discussion with her previous work in order to set up the framework for her newest book (coming soon) “The War on Learning”. After presenting an anecdote about a department printing press, she drew parallels between the printing press as a physical machine to the fact that our current matrix of binary is just as unweildy as old media machinery once was. The internet does not simply exist in intangible space, it exists in the plastic and metal of rooms filled with machines that produce the internet that most of us use every day. From this perspective, Losh proposes that we get used to mess. The mess of circuit boards, power cords, and the complication(s) of gender and the body when thinking about technology.


From this perspective Losh also begins to draw connections between classroom i.e. instructional technology which influences the relationship between professors and students (ex. the projector, film strips, etc). While certain technologies were seen as effective at teaching students and holding their attention, Losh states that “Technologies don’t just amplify messages, they also shape information”. Instead of just making students pay attention to the information on the screen by using a projector, the use of the projector influences how the information is presented, how the professor teaches the information, and how the students receive it.


In this sense the concerns about the role of new media in education traces a history of concerns about the influence that any media technology has on people and learning (i.e. Plato and written text). Following this part of the discussion, Losh draws connections between online cheating videos and the ways in which teaching strategies are utilized in the era of new media. In many ways, analyzing cheating can help researchers learn a lot of different things about society and the ways that students learn (or what they are not learning). These videos bring forward the questions of (and I am summarizing here): What is so wrong with the education system that it can be so easily subverted and What is so right with YouTube culture that such videos are readily produced and made available?


From both of these perspectives a variety of devices are used in opposition to each other (students for cheating and teachers against cheating) such as plagiarism detection advises for teachers and most all mobile devices for students. While student cheating videos have gained popularity online as have videos of teachers and their angry (and somewhat violent) reactions to students extracurricular use of technology in the classroom. The war of these videos against each other does not display students winning out over exams or teachers winning out over mobile device use, but the ways in which both students and teachers distract from learning on different levels.


In all of these situations, and in a variety of other videos, it is demonstrated that while technology can be an incredibly fruitful aspect of education it is also important for educators to not use technology against students and vice versa. Instead, Losh proposes that faculty and students should cooperatively use the same educational tools and instructional technology which would help destabilize the negative power hierarchies within classrooms. This does not only work by simply using new media, but also with the utilization of old media such as print texts and the physical properties of the classroom. Overall, the talk proposes striking that happy medium between lauding technology as the saviour of education and seeing it as its detriment.     


Topics of Discussion

  • The Gender/Body of Technology

  • The inquiry into Mess

  • Online Cheating Videos (example of the disconnect between delinquent student learning and present teaching methods)

  • Spellings Report on Higher Education and No Child Left Behind

  • Ubiquitous Technological Devices

  • Instructional Technology

Buzzwords and Theorists

  • Fox Harrel

  • Unschooling

  • Surveillance/Control/Policing

  • Cheating

  • Meme/Viral


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