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Posts Tagged ‘ethics

The Myth of Neutral Makerspaces

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Recently, I attended the Nation of Makers Conference whose theme was intentional inclusion. The single comment from the conference that stood out for me was:

Before we consider intentional inclusion, we need to consider and explore unintentional exclusion.

When I think about unintentional exclusion, I think about how implicit biases are present and strong in every human being.

An implicit bias, or implicit stereotype, is the unconscious attribution of particular qualities to a member of a certain social group. Implicit stereotypes are influenced by experience, and are based on learned associations between various qualities and social categories, including race or gender. Individuals’ perceptions and behaviors can be affected by implicit stereotypes, even without the individuals’ intention or awareness. Implicit bias is an aspect of implicit social cognition, the phenomenon that perceptions, attitudes, and stereotypes operate without conscious intention. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Implicit_stereotype)

Recent research sadly indicates that implicit bias is pervasive and insidious in makerspaces . . .

After a 10-state tour through educational makerspaces (both in-school and off-site facilities with an educational penchant), researchers from Drexel University’s ExCITe Center found a non-inclusive culture with a lack of attention to implicit biases.

Per the study, student participation rates change dramatically from K-8 (where there’s nearly equal participation by gender) to high school (where male students outnumber females by a factor of three). Program leaders and instructors remain predominantly male, and a language analysis of recruiting and instruction materials revealed evidence of implicit bias.

“Implicit bias is pervasive and insidious,” the report states. “Our evidence is specific to gender, but there may be other forms. We recommend open and frank discussions that raise awareness of implicit bias, particularly in language, internal and external communications, and design curricula that may lead to bias.” The most urgent recommendation, according to Kim, is to create concerted efforts around recruitment and language that combat existing bias in gender, race and beyond. (K-12 makerspaces lack inclusive culture, Drexel study says)

Because these stereotypical biases are often implicit and unconscious, it makes them especially resistant to awareness, exploration and modification. Due to this, I don’t believe that a truly neutral makerspace is possible but I do believe efforts should be made towards that goal or end.

Liberatory Consciousness

Liberatory Consciousness was a practice promoted and used during the Nation of Maker pre-conference and threaded through the inclusion track of the conference.

Liberatory consciousness is a force that enables an individual to live his or her life in oppressive systems and institutions with awareness and intentionality.

We understand that inequity, racial and otherwise, is the result of cumulative disadvantage built into social institutions, via law, policy, and everyday practice.

We work from an intersectional perspective, which believes that organizations and communities thrive when they build cultures that are inclusive of wide-ranging ethnic, racial, gender, sexual, religious, and national identities and abilities.

We understand that the targets of oppression are required  to be at the center of efforts to transform oppression. http://desireeadaway.com/awareness-analysis-action/ 

Philosophically, these tenets, in my perspective, are pretty amazing and right on target. The difficulty comes in operationalizing them – making them into concrete practices for makerspaces.

Developing Best Practices for Makerspaces

After the conference, I did an extensive search on codes of conduct and inclusion for makerspaces. I expected to find a decent number of articles on this topic, but became a bit dismayed on how few I found. One article that did stand out for me was by Sylvia Martinez’s Edsurge piece, Making for All: How to Build an Inclusive Makerspace (but it’s from 2015). Some of practices she recommends for creating a more inclusive makerspace:

  • Empower students not just to be passive objects of the lessons, but to include them as allies and advocates for making things that matter to them.
  • Culturally responsive, situated, and relevant doesn’t mean asking students to write hip hop lyrics about the scientific method. But it doesn’t mean ignoring hip hop either. Seeing cultural practices in a maker light can open doors and blur the lines between teachers and learners.
  • Sensitivity to surroundings. Research shows that girls react to surroundings that reflect stereotypical “hacker” culture by denying that they are interested in science and engineering. If you aren’t sure what vibe your classroom or makerspace is communicating, ask some kids.
  • Reduce competition. Both overt contests and more subtle competition, like competition caused by a lack of adequate materials and tools, can reduce participation of girls. It can also be a barrier for beginners and students who don’t see themselves as “technical.” The competition aspect raises the stakes to a level that is too risky for students to jump in and try something they may actually enjoy.
  • Don’t advantage one kind of building over another. Robots are cool, but the same technologies of micro-controllers, sensors, motors, and lights could make smart clothes, a useful invention for an elderly aunt, or better still, something no one has thought of before. Provide incentives, multiple on-ramps, praise, and glory for all kinds of making.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

July 1, 2018 at 11:35 pm

Teaching Ethics in the Age of Technology

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Ethical decision-making should be included as a 21st century skill (overused term but don’t know of an alternative).  Some would profess that ethical decision-making has always been a needed skill.  But we are living in the most complex era of human history.  Information access and abundance, and emerging technologies are advancing, and being developed and disseminated at rates that the human mind often cannot comprehend.  Now more than ever ethics should be integrated into young people’s educations.

Society is a dynamic system. It must, by nature, evolve in order to survive. As we develop the new definitions of appropriate behavior in the online environment it is imperative that many members of society be engaged in this ongoing dialogue. An informed community and active discussion of ethical issues will enable society to determine civil and just manners to deal with the nuances of technological advancement (Rezmierski, 1992). By opening this dialogue within the K-12 environment, teachers will be able to prepare students to understand the proper use of technology and explore the issues that will continue to unfold (Using Moral Development Theory to Teach K-12 Cyber Ethics).

Every day, news of cyber-crime, theft of intellectual property, or the next cyber-bully suicide is part of today’s reality. School districts all across America must ensure that cyber ethics is part of curriculum. Today’s student is tomorrow’s business leader. Each student should have the ability to receive proper education. In order for students to receive that education, each teacher needs to go through adequate training in order to provide a solid foundation to each student. Current statistics should be a national wakeup call to act and provide teachers the proper tools necessary. The future of this nation’s infrastructure will depend on it (Should it be mandatory for schools to teach cyber ethics?)

Each year, the John J. Reilly Center puts out List of Emerging Ethical Dilemmas and Policy Issues in Science and Technology.  These can be used as a source for ethical dilemma discussions in middle school and high schools classes:

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  • The Right to Privacy versus the Right to Know:  The dizzying advances and the ubiquitous nature of communications and computers, and the astounding increases in the amount of data produced and collected in the world, have fundamentally changed the meaning of what constitutes an expectation of privacy.  Computer data mining systems and advanced statistical techniques, operating on prodigious amounts of structured data, pictures, and numerous electronic signals, are allowing unprecedented knowledge of individual preferences and behavior.  In addition, individuals freely share surprising amounts of private information – which becomes searchable and discoverable – on social media systems and commercial sites. Unfortunately, the policies, regulations, laws and ethical codes of behavior in regard to privacy and data have lagged far behind technology development, reflecting instead twentieth-century precedent and case law. (Data Collection and Privacy)
  • Internet Access as a Human Right: Mobile wireless connectivity is having a profound effect on society in both developed and developing countries. The penetration of smart phones and tablets has led to consistent doubling of mobile data usage on an annual basis, which is putting tremendous pressure on telecommunication networks and the government bodies that regulate the radio frequency (RF) spectrum. These technologies are completely transforming how we communicate, conduct business, learn, form relationships, navigate, and entertain ourselves.  This confluence of wireless technology developments and societal needs present numerous challenges and opportunities for making the most effective use of the radio spectrum. How can we make the most effective use of the precious radio spectrum, and to close the digital access divide for underserved (rural, low-income, developing areas) populations? (List of Emerging Ethical Dilemmas and Policy Issues in Science and Technology 2013)
  • Data Chip Implants in Humans: From locating lost children to keeping your financial data and medical records handy, we’re about to see a surge in datachip implants. Able to transmit and store data, chips will soon enable us to verify our identities, see if our children have traversed the boundaries (or “hopped the geofences”) we set for them, give paramedics and doctors immediate access to our medical records, allow us to go wallet-free as we pay for our groceries via a handswipe, or even store our educational and employment data for a job interview.  Can these implants become a mandatory form of ID? How do we protect our privacy from hackers? Can this data be sold to law enforcement or other companies? Does the good outweigh the bad? (List of Emerging Ethical Dilemmas and Policy Issues in Science and Technology 2014)
  • Neuro-enhancements:  Brain stimulation devices are most commonly used in treatment for various neurological and behavioral conditions, but the same technology can be used to enhance the human brain beyond its natural abilities. But should it? And at what point do we cross the line? Do we have a responsibility to be the best humans we can be? (List of Emerging Ethical Dilemmas and Policy Issues in Science and Technology 2014)
  • Human-Machine Interfaces: Thus far, the main purpose for developing brain-computer interfaces has been to allow amputees and those who suffer from paralysis to mentally control a mobile robot or robotic prosthesis. They have already made possible some remarkable feats, such as partial restoration of hearing in the deaf, direct brain control of a prosthesis, implanting false memories in a rat, and downloading a rat’s memory of how to press a lever to get food and then uploading the memory after the original memory has been chemically destroyed.. And if we can implant wiring, then, in principle, we can turn the body or any part of it into a computer. But while most of us have no problem with prosthetic limbs, even those directly actuated by the brain, nor with pace makers, or cochlear implants, we may feel uncomfortable becoming part machine. At what point does the interface between body and machine dissolve? When we can make our bodies part machine, is it necessary to redefine personhood? Will we all be assimilated? (List of Emerging Ethical Dilemmas and Policy Issues in Science and Technology 2014)
  • Predictive Policing: The National Institute of Justice defines predictive policing as “taking data from disparate sources, analyzing them and then using the results to anticipate, prevent and respond more effectively to future crime.” Some of these disparate sources include crime maps, traffic camera data, other surveillance footage, and social media network analysis. But at what point does the possibility of a crime require intervention? Should someone be punished for a crime they are likely to commit, based on these sources? Are we required to inform potential victims?  (List of Emerging Ethical Dilemmas and Policy Issues in Science and Technology 2014)

Learners can also examine and analyze recent court cases related to online behavior:

  • In the 2010 Roger Corey Bonsant case, Bonsant, then a 17-year-old high school student, was arrested and charged with criminal defamation after he was accused of creating a fake Facebook page using a teacher’s name and image. While the case is still being decided, this is an example of criminal ramifications that students may face for participating in dubious online acts.
  • Several cases exist in which students who created false Facebook or MySpace pages featuring the names and likenesses of teachers and administrators. On these pages, students published items painting the educators as drug and sex addicts. In some cases school punishments were reversed by courts, due to the fact that the student activity took place off school grounds and presumably was not sufficiently “disruptive” of the school environment to override the students’ right to free speech. The victims depicted in these false Facebook pages could very well have filed charges, however.
  • In 2011, a 12-year-old Seattle girl was arrested and charged with cyberstalking and first-degree computer trespassing. Authorities alleged that she stole a former friend’s Facebook password, logged into the account and posted explicit content. She was found guilty and sentenced to probation. (The girls’ school does not seem to have been involved in this case.)
  • Six Nevada middle-schoolers were arrested in January, 2011 for using Facebook to invite other students to take part in “Attack a Teacher Day.” They were all arrested and charged with communicating threats, as several specific teachers were called out in posts to the Web site.
  • In the Phoebe Prince case, Prince was bullied (both in person and online) by a group of teens at her Massachusetts high school after it was discovered she had a brief relationship with a boy. The boy’s girlfriend and a group of her friends systematically tormented Prince in retaliation. The bullying was considered a factor in Prince’s January 2010 suicide. All the teens involved were arrested on manslaughter charges. They eventually pled guilty to lesser crimes and were sentenced to probation and community service.  See more at: http://www.educationworld.com/a_lesson/lesson-plan-booster/cyber-ethics.shtml#sthash.x9lXKv3v.dpuf

Some of the results or benefits of intentionally teaching ethics at school:

  • Helps develop critical thinking skills
  • Focuses on higher levels of Blooms’ taxonomy of analysis, synthesis, and evaluation
  • Assists learners in becoming critical consumers of technology
  • Facilitates the exploration of real world, authentic problems
  • Develops knowledge, skills, and judgement that can be used in both personal life and later in the workforce

Additional Resources:

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

March 20, 2014 at 1:05 am

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