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academic freedom

What is academic freedom?

there is too little understanding of what academic freedom means. It is not absolute and it is not the simple equivalent of “freedom of speech.” All citizens have, or should have, the latter, but only individuals who have specified educational and professional qualifications are entitled to academic freedom within universities. In the words of the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), they are granted the “freedom to teach and discuss; freedom to carry out research and disseminate and publish the results thereof; freedom to produce and perform creative works; freedom to engage in service to the institution and the community; freedom to express one’s opinion about the institution, its administration, and the system in which one works.”

Internet freedom

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social media and freedom of speech

the use of social media, personal versus institutional, or personal in the context of an institutional repercussions, is a complex and thorny issue. How much can one criticize the institution in their personal social media? And if the institution responds, when does it become silencing the social media as expression of free speech?

Is the article below touching only a specific [political] issue, or academia, as an institution, goes beyond this issue in imposing on freedom of speech?

Why I Was Fired

http://chronicle.com/article/Why-I-Was-Fired/233640

My tweets might appear uncivil, but such a judgment can’t be made in an ideological or rhetorical vacuum. Insofar as “civil” is profoundly racialized and has a long history of demanding conformity, I frequently choose incivility as a form of communication. This choice is both moral and rhetorical.

Academics are usually eager to contest censorship and deconstruct vague charges of vulgarity. When it comes to defending Israel, though, anything goes.

Students are capable of serious discussion, of formulating responses, of thinking through discomfort. They like my teaching because I refuse to infantilize them; I treat them as thinking adults. My philosophy is simple: Teach them the modes and practices of critical thought and let them figure out things on their own.

Professors are often punished for disrupting convention in informal ways, however. My case is interesting because administrators ignored the de facto standards that regulate our behavior and exercised their power directly. This should be worrisome to any scholar who isn’t a sycophant.

The coming of “academic capitalism” has been anticipated and praised for years; today it is here.
Benjamin Ginsberg points out that in the past 30 years, the administrator-to-student ratio has increased while the instructor-to-student ratio has stagnated. The rise of untenured, or non-tenure-track, faculty exacerbates the problem; a significant demographic in academe lacks job security or the working conditions that allow them to maximize their pedagogical talent. Over a recent 10-year period, spending on administration outpaced spending on instruction. At American universities, there are now more administrators and their staffers than full-time faculty. In the past 10 years, administrative salaries have steadily risen while custodians and groundskeepers suffer the inevitable budget cuts — as do the students whose tuition and fees supplement this largess.

When so much money is at stake, those who raid the budget have a deep interest in maintaining the reputation of the institution. Their privilege and the condition of the brand are causally related. The brand thus predominates. Its predominance often arrives at the expense of student well-being.

critical thinking is a terribly undesirable quality in the corporate world, much more damning than selfishness or sycophancy. Let us then be honest about critical thinking: On the tongues of cunning bureaucrats, it is little more than an additive to brand equity, the vainglorious pomp of smug, uptight automatons who like to use buzzwords in their PowerPoint presentations.

Critical thinking by faculty is even more undesirable. In research institutions, we are paid to generate prestige and to amass grant money; in teaching-centered colleges, we enjoy excess enrollments according to fine-tuned equations that maximize the student-teacher ratio. (In elite liberal-arts colleges, we pamper the kids with simulations of parental affection.) Critical thinking is especially harmful to adjuncts, reliant as they are for income on the munificence of well-paid bosses who cultivate a distended assemblage of expendable employees.

more on social media in this IMS blog:

https://blog.stcloudstate.edu/ims/?s=social+media&submit=Search

administrative mandate of online discussions

https://www.facebook.com/groups/onlinelearningcollective/permalink/591411374822898/

Hi colleagues, My provost just put out a set of expected guidelines for instructors in online classes that emphasize expectations around discussion forums (I pasted them below). These discussion forum expectations are very narrowly defined. I am needing group-think on references that might help me put together some “best practice” alternatives. If an article or other resource comes to mind, please share!
Online Faculty Expectations
Weekly Required (all weeks)
• Faculty will demonstrate their presence in the class 5 days per week
• Respond to all students’ (who post on-time) primary discussion post if you have 9 or fewer students (1/2 of students if you have 10 or more).
• Faculty with larger courses should take special care to post to different students each week.
• Faculty who provide a weekly zoom lecture need only post on the board two other times (on two different days for a total of two other posts).
• Provide individual feedback (posted in the feedback section of the gradebook) for all discussion grades within a reasonable timeframe for students to complete subsequent assignments.
responses:
Kip Boahn top-down policy?..
Dayna Henry I balk at the admin trying to tell us what to do. At the same time, I am very angry with colleagues who did not actually offer anything in the way of virtual learning when we went online in spring. It’s hard to balance academic freedom with faculty who don’t care to learn/offer a new way of learning (for your institution). I also recognize the admin was not in their F2F courses either and likely the slacking was occurring there too. The problem is the students LOVE these folks for giving them an easy A/pass.
Cathy Curran For years I have said that administrators need to teach at least one each year or every other year. My Dean has been out of the classroom for over 20 years, the Provost for over 25 and the Chancellor has never taught. They have zero clue how to build or implement and online class. They keep making mandates that to those of us who do actually teach seem absurd. We know the “count and classify” nonsense never works but it is the same argument they use for numerical evaluations of teaching effectiveness: it is objective. The decisions they are making do not make instruction better they are all about power and control, they need us to “prove” that we are doing our job and somehow logging into the LMS five days a week does that. Sad really really sad. Well you know some do and other become administrators…

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more on online discussions in this IMS blog
https://blog.stcloudstate.edu/ims?s=online+discussions

CRITICAL PEDAGOGY IN AN AGE OF ONLINE LEARNING

CRITICAL PEDAGOGY IN AN AGE OF ONLINE LEARNING

http://libjournal.uncg.edu/ijcp/article/view/1055/892?fbclid=IwAR3SHDRFlxTbj7lMAuVJ_BsO3wLQaYEcEXEukUPQVXDDOqEnHg_XT9VJ1SE

Paulo Freire and Critical Pedagogy

Freire’s pedagogical concepts, such as problem posing, dialogue, praxis, conscientiazation and the politics of education, were devel-oped in a pre-Internet era. His work in popular education was deeply interpersonal and involved spending significant time in a community becoming familiar with the culture, linguistic patterns, and lifestyle of the people before ever embarking on teaching.

struggles to employ a critical pedagogy in the increasingly assessment-oriented, outcomes-based environment

While designed to make teaching in the online environment more efficient, these systems confront the critical pedagogue with challenges to create a teaching-learning environment that promotes critical reflection not only on the content of a course but on the very way in which content is delivered.

teaching in cyberspace requires a different teaching paradigm altogether

p. 170 Feenberg (2009) developed the Critical Theory of Technology (CTT),

p. 171 As outlined by CTT, technology creates a cyber culture that redefines human identity and the meaning and means of human interaction (Gomez, 2009). When viewed through this lens, online education is not simply another tool for the promotion of learning, but rather an all-encompassing environment managing and controlling access to information, structuring relationships, and redefining individual identities.

p. 171 While masquerading as efforts to enhance student learning, these industries are clearly profit-oriented. Knowledge has become a commodity, students have become consumers, faculty have become content providers, and schools operate as businesses

p. 172 Like Feenberg (2009), Freire would be concerned with the values and principles embedded in the technology of online learning, as well as the cyber culture it has created.

p. 173 Schools did not venture into online learning because they thought it was a better way to teach, but rather because they saw it as a way to reach unreached student populations with the promise of off-site educational offerings. Only later was attention given to developing online pedagogies.

Whereas education in the United States was originally viewed as a way to prepare students for effective citizenship, now it is seen as a way to develop loyal and capable employees of their corporate overlords

p. 174 A second area of concern is the banking nature of the LMSs. One of the underlying assumptions of an LMS like Blackboard™, Moodle™, or Brightspace™ is that the online platform is a repository of resources for teaching and learning.

Freire vehemently rejected this banking approach to education because it did not recognize or encourage the student’s creative, exploratory, and critical abilities. In the banking model the teacher is regarded as the holder and transmitter of knowledge, which is then imparted to the student. The banking model assumes the student is an empty vessel and does not value or recognize the student’s experiential and cultural knowledge

By contrast Freire argued for a problem-posing, constructivist approach that invites students to critically engage their world and one another. In the critical classroom, the student at times takes on the role of teacher and the teacher becomes a learner, inviting a sharing of power and mutual learning. While this approach can be carried out to an extent online, the LMS is set up to be the primary source of information in a course, and the teacher is assigned as the expert designer of the learning experience, thus limiting the constructivist nature and mutuality of the learning process.

p. 175 A third area of concern is the limited access to online learning to large sectors of society. While e-learning advocates tout the greater access to learning provided by online learning (Goral, 2013; Kashi & Conway, 2010), the digital divide is a reality impacting millions of students.

p. 176 A final area of concern is the disembodied nature of the online learning process. One of the major attractions of online learning to potential students is the freedom from having to be in a classroom in a particular time or place.

p. 177 Embodied learning means students must not only engage the cognitive dimension (thinking and reflection), but also partake in concrete action. This action in reflection, and reflection in action, referred to as praxis, involves acting on and in the world as one is seeking to learn about and transform the world.
To limit education to the transmission and reception of text-based knowledge without action undermines the entire learning process (Escobar et al., 1994).
Freire believed dialogue begins not with what the teacher professes to know, but with the student’s experience and knowledge.

p. 179 For Freire, the building of a learning community is essential to creating meaningful dialogue; this is also true for those who seek to teach effectively online. Palloff and Pratt (2007) contend that all online teaching must begin with building community and stress that a carefully constructed online learning community provides a space for students to test ideas, get feedback, and create a collaborative learning experience.
For Freire, learning was a social and democratic event where authoritarianism and control of the learning process are minimized.
“reading the world,” or conscientization, that is, understanding the larger political context in which experience occurs and knowledge is situated. In the current era of Facebook, Twitter, instant message, and other social media, in-depth discussion and analysis is often absent in favor of brief, often innocuous statements and personal opinions.
Through online academic databases, students have easy access to far more sources of information than previous generations. Furthermore, search engines like Google, Yahoo, and the like bring students in contact with remote sources, organizations, and individuals instantly.

p. 180 the challenge is not only the accessing of information, but also encouraging students to become discerning purveyors of information—to develop “critical digital literacy,” the capacity to effectively and critically navigate the databases and myriads of potential sources (Poore, 2011, p. 15)

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more on online teaching in this IMS blog
https://blog.stcloudstate.edu/ims?s=online+teaching

https://blog.stcloudstate.edu/ims?s=online+learning

Hong Kong and technology

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more on facial recognition in this IMS blog
https://blog.stcloudstate.edu/ims?s=facial+recognition

more on surveillance in this IMS blog
https://blog.stcloudstate.edu/ims?s=surveillance

Oculus Quest

VR Review: Here’s How Oculus Quest Compares With Go — Apps and All

By Jaime Donally (Columnist)     May 23, 2019

https://www.edsurge.com/news/2019-05-23-vr-review-here-s-how-oculus-quest-compares-with-go-apps-and-all

When the Oculus Go was first released, the educational apps were limited.

many more educational apps flooding the Oculus Experiences market

The Oculus Quest is mainly being marketed as an all-in-one VR gaming system, but I see much potential for classroom lessons.

The Oculus Go delivered a VR view, but the Oculus Quest provides us with interactions.

One major difference between the Quest and the Go is the lack of motion sickness with the new device.

The 6 degrees of freedom (6DoF) provides mobility for the student to walk forward, backward, left, right, jump up and squat down. In other words, they can move around just like they would in real life.

The affordable starting price of $399 for 64 GB is comparable to other classroom devices, such as Chromebooks, laptops and iPads.

between the Quest and the Go is the high cost of the apps. By contrast, the majority of my Oculus Go apps were free.

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more on Oculus in this IMS blog
https://blog.stcloudstate.edu/ims?s=Oculus

Policy for Artificial Intelligence

Law is Code: Making Policy for Artificial Intelligence

Jules Polonetsky and Omer Tene January 16, 2019

https://www.ourworld.co/law-is-code-making-policy-for-artificial-intelligence/

Twenty years have passed since renowned Harvard Professor Larry Lessig coined the phrase “Code is Law”, suggesting that in the digital age, computer code regulates behavior much like legislative code traditionally did.  These days, the computer code that powers artificial intelligence (AI) is a salient example of Lessig’s statement.

  • Good AI requires sound data.  One of the principles,  some would say the organizing principle, of privacy and data protection frameworks is data minimization.  Data protection laws require organizations to limit data collection to the extent strictly necessary and retain data only so long as it is needed for its stated goal. 
  • Preventing discrimination – intentional or not.
    When is a distinction between groups permissible or even merited and when is it untoward?  How should organizations address historically entrenched inequalities that are embedded in data?  New mathematical theories such as “fairness through awareness” enable sophisticated modeling to guarantee statistical parity between groups.
  • Assuring explainability – technological due process.  In privacy and freedom of information frameworks alike, transparency has traditionally been a bulwark against unfairness and discrimination.  As Justice Brandeis once wrote, “Sunlight is the best of disinfectants.”
  • Deep learning means that iterative computer programs derive conclusions for reasons that may not be evident even after forensic inquiry. 

Yet even with code as law and a rising need for law in code, policymakers do not need to become mathematicians, engineers and coders.  Instead, institutions must develop and enhance their technical toolbox by hiring experts and consulting with top academics, industry researchers and civil society voices.  Responsible AI requires access to not only lawyers, ethicists and philosophers but also to technical leaders and subject matter experts to ensure an appropriate balance between economic and scientific benefits to society on the one hand and individual rights and freedoms on the other hand.

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more on AI in this IMS blog
https://blog.stcloudstate.edu/ims?s=artificial+intelligence

History of Syria

Syria: proxy theatre of war

Never in the interests of the ordinary citizen

The Syrian people’s uprising began as a struggle over social and economic conditions, a fight for democracy in place of repression. Now it has been hijacked by regional and global conflicts

Karim Emile Bitar 21 January 2019

https://mondediplo.com/2013/06/02syria

If there is a constant in the history of the countries of the Levant, it is the conflict between the aspirations of their inhabitants for freedom, and the realpolitik that has led to the sacrifice of those aspirations to the geostrategic interests of foreign powers.

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