The “Coffee Cup” Scene – Game of Thrones, Season 8, Episode 1 (Winterfell)
The job of an educator (and parent) involves endlessly accommodating for a tangle of things vying for a sliver of your attention. It is not rare to find that you have overlooked something, missed something, underestimated something, overestimated something, or just flat out ignored something. Being overwhelmed exacerbates this struggle, and it is through this lens that I found my theme for this week.
Missing something that falls inside our field of view is a common occurrence. Take the ever popular TV series, Game of Thrones, and the notorious “coffee cup” scene. I watched that episode. However, I only noticed the very out of place cup (which is very much in plain sight; see above) when it was brought to my attention. I would hardly say I was ignorant of its existence – it was right there on the screen; I just wasn’t focused on it – I saw right passed it. (Note: this isn’t the only time mistakes or anachronisms have been found on a movie or TV show)
Another classic, and more scientific example, is the Selective Attention Test conducted by researchers Daniel J. Simons and Christopher Chabris (1999). I cannot remember when I was first introduced to this video, but again, I could hardly argue that I wasn’t capable of seeing the moment of interest (I don’t want to spoil it if you haven’t watched it) – I just wasn’t focused on it. I saw right passed it.
The Selective Attention Test – Simons and Chabris (1999)
These examples are analogous to the impact of this week’s readings on my already over-taxed mind. Points made in each reading seem obvious after the fact – yet I’ve never spent any reasonable amount of time considering them. Focusing on them. This can’t be consider plain ignorance (ig•no•rance: a lack of information or knowledge), as the wider topics these authors discuss: privacy & data, inclusion/exclusion, social media use, and tech infrastructure, are deeply embedded in my position as an educator, and certainly impact pedagogy as it stands today. But like the two examples above, once the readings illuminated the contrasting feature(s) – bringing it into focus, it will be impossible to miss its presence anytime the idea is revisited.
While finding issue with social media usage in general, or identifying negative patterns in the discourse seen on social media may seem like low-hanging fruit – who among us has not seen or been affected by the commonplace vitriol on these platforms? – and has been discussed in this program before (most notably in the work of Veletsianos – here, and here), the work of Funes and Mackness (2018) have brought into focus the patterns that emerge even within the seemingly positive interactions of social media. In their article When inclusion excludes: A counter narrative of open online education, the authors evaluate patterns of use within Twitter, seen in the open online education community.
The authors organized tweets into conceptual frameworks. And while the authors identified other noteworthy frameworks, these three stand out for me as easily recognizable trends that I have made note of, and reacted to, during my time on Twitter:
Conceptual Frame: ‘I love everyone who can help me become a central node.’ (2018, p.128)
These are the tweets of over-the-top, effusive praise and thanks.
Conceptual frame: ‘It does not matter what I say, I need to be seen to interact.’ (2018, p.128)
These are the tweets full of empty rhetoric, redundant points, and lots of “@”s.
Conceptual frame: ‘We only exist in the network if we update our status.’ (2018, p.129)
These are the tweets that clearly pander to a popular opinion or idea of the group.
I have noticed all of these frames – most specifically vapid and sycophantic comments – but these thoughts were fleeting, not once did I really sit down and ruminant on the interactions I had seen and/or of which I had been a part. To have them served to me so clearly and with such detail made me sick to my stomach – I felt dirty. I no longer wanted to be part of social media or the open education “movement” (I find calling it this really inspires cult-ish undertones which I do not appreciate). It felt like by using Twitter and following Ed-tech hashtags I had somehow been duped into a kind of educational pyramid scheme.
When you then consider the authors’ central argument of how the tweets within these conceptual frameworks work to both exclude and include others in various ways, it made for a powerful read – it will frame all of my online interactions going forward, and I will have to make a concerted effort to focus on how seemingly innocuous and perhaps even positively-perceived components of technology may unintentionally contribute to excluding others. I finished this article feeling like I needed a shower and a new phone-usage paradigm.
The article What Does the ‘Postdigital’ Mean for Education? Three Critical Perspectives on the Digital, with Implications for Educational Research and Practice, from Knox (2019) continues this trend of drawing attention to issues that many educators overlook. Knox brings into focus a multitude of interesting points covering the use of tech, the assumptions of use, the implications on education and educational policy, economic considerations and “platform capitalism,” and the exploitation of the labour and resources of developing countries from technology integration. A LOT to digest in single paper, Knox demands attention on the now inseparable nature of education and technology, stating:
“The central aim of this paper is to highlight the need for educational practice and research to pay more attention (emphasis is mine) to the ways digital technologies are shaping the core of education, rather than tending to assume that the use of technology is a distinct area of enquiry.” (Knox, 2019, p. 358)
I found the points of exploitation of labour and resources to be the most disconcerting, as again, while I may have read articles like this detailing the harm done in the manufacturing of my lovely iPhone, I had never focused my attention on this topic in a meaningful way that informed my practice, regretfully even to the minimum of engaging my students in a conversation. Interestingly though, of the points being drawn into focus by Knox, it was the continued collection and monetization of data from online technology that became the dominant point of group discussions this week.
This may have been due to our past discussions on privacy and data, or the inclusion of a second paper on this topic – Education before Regulation: Empowering Students to Question Their Data Privacy, by Caines and Glass (2019).
The opening statement of the paper is eye-opening: “Data from the core academic processes of teaching, learning, and scholarship is estimated to be a potential multibillion-dollar (perhaps multitrillion-dollar) market.” (2019, p.94) This is significant considering that Caines and Glass go on to note that some data collected, while seemingly innocuous or inspiring apathy today, may have future commercial value. And that apathy was on display when my colleague said during our discussion, “What do I care if I get a few more targeted ads?” (I thought I have had myself many times over in fleeting considerations on data and privacy). Yet with this issue being brought to my attention, with time to consider and focus on this important issue, I was now able to formulate a rebuttal to this common statement – to discuss the important role well-informed citizens play in the protection of others.
Whether we are discussing environmental policy, vaccinations and herd-immunity, or data and privacy, those citizens that remain focused on the details of these issues are the central figures in holding governments and corporations accountable, and keeping citizens protected. The current media focus on the use of data by corporations, agencies or governments to target and direct the population through advertisements, mis-information, dis-information, and misdirection, is well documented. And while my colleague (and I) may be confident with our ability to ward off these attempts to influence our thoughts and actions, it is the citizens that are not aware of these issues that need protection in the form of robust guidelines, policies, and laws. Caines and Glass point to some of these recent improvements in regulations, but still acknowledge that education and increase scrutiny is needed to improve policy and privacy protections for all citizens – informed or uninformed.
So, what do I account for missing or flatly ignoring the importance and implications of data collection, technology-based exploitation, exclusionary components of online learning, and social media use? It boils down to my opening statement: accommodating for a tangle of things vying for a sliver of your attention.
In a previously discussed article by Martin Weller (2018) – Twenty Years of EdTech – he acknowledges that often technology is thrust into education without a plan. This isn’t news. We have discussed the Ed-tech revolution and the pressure teachers feel to be a part of this ‘movement.’ Whether this is pressure from public expectation, or expressed in policy by a division or province, teachers often are left scrambling to keep up or change at the expensive of deep, critical thought.
There is a reason that in 2005, George Siemens developed a new learning theory – Connectivism – as an emerging theory to guide the needs of 21st Century learners. There is a reason we have looked at tech-incorporation frameworks like the SAMR model, credited to Dr. Ruben Puentedura, and introduced around 2013. And there is a reason that this wonderful program I am a part of – a master’s in Education with a focus on Educational Technology – exists; this is a reality of education today, warts and all.
While careful consideration of these facts might have been possible, it isn’t possible in the moment, as the attention of the educator is focused on the integration of these tech tools, not the subtleties of their impact.
Even within my relatively short 12-year career I have gone from standard white board and markers, to digital projector and PowerPoints, to interactive white board and some online apps, to reservable laptop carts and cloud computing, to a division-wide BYOD policy and an unspoken expectation to move towards “paperless.”
The divisional policy was constructed in 2017. The provincial government ICT – Information and Communication Technology – continuum documents were created prior to that. These changes occurred with little to no training or professional development on the technology itself, or in the pedagogical changes necessary to make full use of this technology. The message is loud and clear to educators – “Incorporate technology, now!”
Within all this is another undiscussed issue – we haven’t mentioned the requisite skills needed for students to participate actively and constructively in this evolving environment – identified as either or both, Self-Directed Learning skills and Self-Regulated Learning skills.
This is the true issue: already over-worked teachers are spending time figuring out how to use these technologies with no time left to focus on deeper considerations – and implications are being missed or underestimated. These articles, and this program in general, provide a rare opportunity to slow down and really maintain focus on the deeper meanings of these changes. I know I’ve missed plenty.
Daniel Simons. (2010, March 10). selective attention test. YouTube. Retrieved January 16, 2020, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJG698U2Mvo&feature=youtu.be
Gibbs, S. (2014). Apple urged to stop using harmful chemicals in its factories. The Guardian. Retrieved January 17, 2020, from https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/mar/12/apple-harmful-chemicals-factories-labour
Google sells the future, powered by your personal data. (2018). NBCnews. Retrieved January 18, 2020, from https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/tech-news/google-sells-future-powered-your-personal-data-n870501
Here’s What We Know So Far About Russia’s 2016 Meddling. (2018). Time. Retrieved January 18, 2020, from https://time.com/5565991/russia-influence-2016-election/
Holland, J. & Holland, J. (2014). Implications of Shifting Technology in Education. Tech Trends. 58(3), 16-25. Retrieved from http://vincross.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Holland-Holland-2014.pdf
How Cambridge Analytica Sparked the Great Privacy Awakening. (2019). WIRED. Retrieved January 18, 2020, from https://www.wired.com/story/cambridge-analytica-facebook-privacy-awakening/
Knox, J. (2019). What Does the ‘Postdigital’ Mean for Education? Three Critical Perspectives on the Digital, with Implications for Educational Research and Practice. Postdigital Science and Education. https://doi.org/10.1007/s42438-019-00045-y
Ruben Puentedura on Applying the SAMR Model. (2014). commonsense.org. Retrieved January 18, 2020, from https://www.commonsense.org/education/videos/ruben-puentedura-on-applying-the-samr-model
Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. Retrieved from https://www.learningnetwork.ac.nz/shared/professionalReading/TRCONN2011.pdf
That Game of Thrones coffee cup? It’s gone now. (2019) National Post. Retrieved January 17, 2020, from https://nationalpost.com/entertainment/television/that-game-of-thrones-coffee-cup-its-gone-now
Veletsianos, G., Houlden, S., Hodson, J., & Gosse, C. (2018). Women scholars’ experiences with online harassment and abuse: Self-protection, resistance, acceptance, and self-blame. New Media & Society, 20(12), 4689–4708. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444818781324
Veletsianos, G., Kimmons, R., Larsen, R., Dousay, T. A., & Lowenthal, P. R. (2018). Public comment sentiment on educational videos: Understanding the effects of presenter gender, video format, threading, and moderation on YouTube TED talk comments. PLoS ONE, 13(6), e0197331. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0197331
Weller, M. (2018). Twenty Years of Edtech. EDUCAUSE Review, 53(4). Retrieved from https://er.educause.edu/articles/2018/7/twenty-years-of-edtech