Learning to Teach

teacher at board
   Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a forum newsletter series on teaching written by Beth McMurtrie that had a post recently summarizing what they have learned after 5 years of doing the series. As it states, teaching is "An Ever-Changing Profession" and yet I find that many things about teaching are still the same as when I first went into a classroom in 1975.

When I moved out of the classroom as a full-time teacher in 2000, one of my roles was to teach professors. Though the department I ran was instructional technology, I was also tasked with holding sessions on pedagogy. At first, I wondered if college faculty would have a real interest in topics like assessment, grading strategies, creating assignments, and leading discussions in the classroom or online. But in the early sessions, those who did attend (it was voluntary most of the time) often said things like "I try to do what my best teachers do and not do what the bad ones did" and "I never took any courses in how to teach." Those faculty were interested and had spent their academic lives focused on their subject matter and, especially at STEM institutions like NJIT, research and getting grants were the real foci of concern and attention.

It is noted that "teaching has become an increasingly public enterprise," but some say “teaching is a private act.” Certainly, the K-12 classroom has become more public and parents and the community have always played a greater role in what happens in classrooms than compared in colleges. The newsletter points to possible changes to that dynamic, citing "find a teaching buddy, bring the department together to talk about teaching, create teaching communities across campus."

The pandemic and classes going online K-20 put teaching practices more in the public and into homes. Again, that was more so in K-12, but also for higher ed. Schools also held workshops to help faculty shift their teaching and some virtual support groups appeared with topics ranging from how to use Zoom to how to grade participation online.

Though I "learned to teach" as an undergraduate with an education minor in order to be a certified secondary school teacher, I really learned how in my field experiences and even more so in my first few years of actually being a full-time teacher. Like those professors, it took being in a classroom, creating lessons, grading work, and all the day-to-day tasks for me to really learn to teach. But I did have all the theories, practices, and philosophies before I became a teacher to refer to and use. I had tools.

I used a lot of that training in doing my own training sessions for professors. They were always somewhat amazed at all the research that had been done in pedagogy. They were more surprised at hearing there was such a thing as andragogy which addressed the age group many of them were teaching. It shouldn't have surprised them that there was a vast amount of educational research available, after all, it was what most of them did in their own fields. I always suspected that some of that surprise came from an attitude that teaching was less of a science and more of an "art" - like being able to draw or play an instrument. The "A" in STEAM had not found its way into STEM.

The newsletter has covered research universities creating teaching tracks to try to improve educational outcomes and reduce faculty burnout. Innovative forms of teaching, such as inclusive teaching and active learning, are ways that faculty begin to rethink classroom strategies.

Do You Own Your Face Online?

Image: Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

Who owns the rights to my face? I assumed it was me until I read an article that reminded me that when we create social media accounts, we pretty much agree to grant those platforms a free license to use our content as they wish.

In most cases, you hold the copyright to any content you upload to social media platforms. But when you created your account on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tik Tok, or any platform you agreed to have a free license to use your content as they wish. How can they use it> It depends, but did you read the user agreement or just click "continue?"

How would you feel if you saw one of your tweets used in a Twitter ad campaign? Violated? Angry? Excited? Feel as you wish, but don't expect any cut of the ad's revenue.

In that article, a person sees a sponsored Instagram Story ad with a video of a person putting on lip balm. The person was her. She watched herself apply the balm and smile at the camera, but Abby never agreed to appear in a nationwide social campaign. How is this possible?

Usage rights dictate who owns an image or asset. It determines how and where it’s allowed to appear, and for how long.

The author had worked in media and knew that employees are often "pressured" to appear in campaigns but it is not a part of the full-time job and it is likely that it will go uncompensated. 

In this case, she had been told to participate in a photoshoot demonstrating the product’s healing benefits. She recorded for the work day, was not paid, and she believed the campaign was only going to run on the employer’s social media accounts for a few months. But this was more than a year later. Probably her former employer passed the content to the skincare company, though without her permission.

There's an old saying that if you're not paying for a product, then you are the product. Social media sites like Facebook and Instagram are completely free to use for the average consumer because advertisers pay for your attention (and sometimes your data). This is not a new model. In commercial TV broadcasting, you watch content for free because there are commercials. A more cynical explanation is that you pay for the privilege of having yourself sold. You are consumed. You are the product. They deliver you to the advertiser,. The advertiser is their customer.

Think about that the next time you read - or choose not to read - the terms and conditions and agree with a click.

 

This article is also crossposted at One-Page Schoolhouse

Parental Control of Technology

kids on tech
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

As the new school year begins for all students this week, a series titled "Parental Control" appears from Mozilla (Firefox) about ways to empower parents for some technology challenges. That sounds like a good thing, but particularly when it applies to schools, parental control has cons along with pros.

Many digital platforms offer parental control settings. The most common and most popular allows parents to shield young people from “inappropriate” content. Restricting "mature content" and what is "inappropriate" takes us into a controversial area. Who defines what should be restricted? Mozilla says that "the way platforms identify what that means is far from perfect."

YouTube has apologized after its family-friendly “Restricted Mode” recently blocked videos by gay, bisexual and transgender creators, sparking complaints from users. Restricted Mode is an optional parental-control feature that users can activate to avoid content that’s been flagged by an algorithm.

That example takes me back to the earliest days of the Internet in K-12 schools when filters would block searches for things like "breast cancer" because "breast" was on the list of blocked words.

Limiting screen time is another strategy and is within a parent's control but is certainly controversial within a family. Kids don't like their screen time to be limited.

Mozilla actually had questions for itself about what to call the series. They quote Jenny Radesky, an MD and Associate Professor of Pediatrics-Developmental/Behavioral at the University of Michigan, as saying that “Parental mediation is [a better] term, parental engagement is another – and probably better because it implies meaningful discussion or involvement to help kids navigate media, rather than using controlling or restricting approaches.” She pointed to research that suggests letting children manage their own media consumption may be more effective than parental control settings offered by apps.

The internet has risks, but so do parental controls. Many kids in the LGBTQI+ community can be made vulnerable by tech monitoring tools.

Sensitive information about young people can be exposed to teachers and campus administrators through the school devices they use.

As parents and eductaors, we want to protect students, especially the youngest ones. We als want to, as a society, instill in younger generations why privacy matters.

RESOURCES

Electronic Frontier Foundation https://www.eff.org/search/site/parents

Mozilla https://blog.mozilla.org/en/internet-culture/deep-dives/parental-controls-internet-safety-for-kids/