Estimated reading time: 6 minutes, 21 seconds

Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Designing a New Course on Equity, Ethics in #edtech


Estimated reading time: 6 minutes, 21 seconds

(Note i keep updating this post)

I was kinda waiting to get a clearer picture of what I wanna do in this course, but what the heck? Since when do I share fully complete and polished ideas? Every single time I share half-formed ideas, I get excellent feedback and I am gonna do that now, too, especially that I already mentioned this on Twitter.

So my uni put out a call for folks to develop interdisciplinary courses for the core curriculum (liberal arts requirement) right after some students in my digital literacies course asked if they would find more courses taught by me. So I am considering designing a “capstone outside the major” course at the intersections of education and technology. Given my own background in computer science (especially neural networks aka machine learning) and grad studies in education and work in edtech, this feels like a course I could teach alone or with a smattering of guest speakers.

Now I don’t particularly feel like sharing the formal syllabus and learning outcomes right now, but I wanna brainstorm. I already shared a few assignment ideas which I’ll reiterate now.. but first, I gotta share this treasure trove of other people’s syllabi on ethics in edtech or similar. So so grateful this crossed my timeline:

Thanks to Catherine Cronin who I believe shared this entire thread with me and Mia Zamora (three of us are working on Equity Unbound this semester. Stay tuned for #Unboundeq and follow @UnboundEq and we will keep you posted).

Anyway…among the interesting courses with interesting resources are

    Possible Titles (votes please)

    1. Social Justice in Educational Technology
    2. Equity and Educational Technology: Issues in Social Media, Artificial Intelligence, and Access to Education
    3. Educational Technology: Equity issues in Social Media, Artificial Intelligence, and Access to Education
    4. Ethical issues in educational technology

    Possible Activities and Readings

    It always bothers me that syllabi clarify content more than process. Whereas often I am thinking more of how to teach than what to teach. The what is important, very important, but its importance stems from how it serves to model and serve the values of the course. Because this is a course about values above anything else.

    To do so, the content and activities need to promote thoughtful reflection and hopefully some kind of action (am struggling with the latter) and to connect to students’ own lives and interests, while also keeping them current on hot topics of the day. This means topics are likely to change over time and with each cohort, so I hesitate to keep the details in the title.

    The broad topics I am interested in (also because my students show interest in some of these) are

    • Artificial Intelligence and particularly social justice issues related to this. So the work of Safiyya Noble, Cathy O’Neill and some international Design Justice work which one of my Egyptian profs Nagla Rizk is involved in (important for me to bring in a more local perspective)
    • Critical perspectives on technological determinism/solutionism/neoliberalism particularly for developing/emerging economies. Examples are Warschauer’s work and Selwyn/Facer on digital divide
    • Critical perspectives on Open education and MOOCs. Lots of content here from folks in global South, e.g. ROER4D, A2K4D. Example of OER readings on this are the ROER4D report, and several OA books with critical perspectives on open
    • Possibly also critiques of social media, particularly Zeynep Tufecki’s work

    But beyond the things we are critiquing, students have neither a background in social justice thinking nor in education. Nor actually in IT or comp sci (they will be from different majors), so I would probably want to expose them to ideas of

    • Equity literacy ( Gorski)
    • Social justice (Nancy Fraser?)
    • Social justice literacy (Sensoy and DiAngelo)

    And I need to keep this manageable for students who are engineers or otherwise not used to reading about social science. So no Marx or Foucault. Imho. Thinking now of podcasts that unpack these concepts. Perhaps the several Greg Curran did with educators on social justice.

    They also know little about education altogether. And I was thinking of how Audrey Watters’ Audrey test asks enough questions around pedagogy and ethics of edtech that if students did some research around her blogpost alone, they would learn a lot. If I break them up into groups doing some questions in depth and presenting to others, we could go really far. I described this idea here.

    I also have ideas of encouraging students to use open books related to edtech and pedagogy that I know are light reads. Like How People Learn, Open Faculty Patchbook, the HumanMOOC book edited by Whitney Kilgore, and Matt Crosslin’s book about teaching online. There are probably many more if I just let myself stop and think. Like Steve Wheeler once wrote brief posts about diff edu terms or theories. Do you have any suggestions?

    I would probably need a few guest speakers on topics from computer science like what IS AI? To things like discussing latest issues. Some of these may need to be virtual and some f2f.

    My thoughts on a lot of this is to give students lots of choices as to which books/articles to read and which topics to delve into long as

    A. They know a little about everything so they can make an informed choice

    B. They are constantly sharing back to the class.

    One way of kickstarting this is to use Mozilla’s Internet Health Report to open up some issues. I may use that this semester for my digital literacies course…but could do something deeper with the capstone class. I described my ideas here for a group project based on this.

    Another activity idea is to do a kind of “newswatch” where students curate edtech news somehow and report critically on it, whether on their own or by interviewing experts or colleagues. Perhaps even doing online interviews. Their news reports can be podcasts or written or video or whatever. If we rotate who gets to curate , maybe each pair can do a week, and we could end up with a newswatch magazine for the semester that can be useful for others in future (including my own class!)

    What I am struggling with

    I don’t know what to make the final project and what kind of actual real life experience students can have in the class. Difficult to give them access to real schools in Egypt to assess edtech use there. Could ask them to research and report on recent edtech initiatives in developing countries but it still sounds v theoretical and could be done with the newswatch assignment.

    I am increasingly feeling like I don’t like the idea of one big project at the end of a class but rather smaller cumulative work with different deadlines and a final reflection. But I don’t know if this would work for a capstone course even if it is mostly seminar style in class with lots of blogging and presentations.

    Any thoughts on this?

    Thanks in advance!!!


    N. B. Matt’s comment below reminded me I planned to ask students to try a MOOC all semester (any one of their choice) and reflect on it. Or an OER or follow a hashtag. And reflect both on What they learn and some meta reflections as well. That, i guess, can count as experiential….beyond what we learn ABOUT MOOCs/OERs, they get to experience it.


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