People learn in different ways. The way we teach should reflect that


Article by Jason Williams-Bellamy and Beth Simone Noveck: “There’s never been more hybrid learning in the public sector than today…

There are pros and cons in online and in-person training. But some governments are combining both in a hybrid (also known as blended) learning program. According to the Online Learning Consortium, hybrid courses can be either:

  • A classroom course in which online activity is mixed with classroom meetings, replacing a significant portion, but not all face-to-face activity
  • An online course that is supplemented by required face-to-face instruction such as lectures, discussions, or labs.

A hybrid course can effectively combine the short-term activity of an in-person workshop with the longevity and scale of an online course.

The Digital Leaders program in Israel is a good example of hybrid training. Digital Leaders is a nine-month program designed to train two cohorts of 40 leaders each in digital innovation by means of a regular series of online courses, shared between Israel and a similar program in the UK, interspersed with live workshops. This style of blended learning makes optimal use of participants’ time while also establishing a digital environment and culture among the cohort not seen in traditional programs.

The State government in New Jersey, where I serve as the Chief Innovation Officer, offers a free and publicly accessible online introduction to innovation skills for public servants called the Innovation Skills Accelerator. Those who complete the course become eligible for face-to-face project coaching and we are launching our first skills “bootcamp,” blending online and the face-to-face in Q1 2020.

Blended classrooms have been linked to greater engagement and increased collaboration among participating students. Blended courses allow learners to customise their learning experience in a way that is uniquely best suited for them. One study even found that blended learning improves student engagement and learning even if they only take advantage of the traditional in-classroom resources. While the added complexity of designing for online and off may be off-putting to some, the benefits are clear.

The best way to teach public servants is to give them multiple ways to learn….(More)”.

Dollars for Profs: How to Investigate Professors’ Conflicts of Interest


ProPublica: “When professors moonlight, the income may influence their research and policy views. Although most universities track this outside work, the records have rarely been accessible to the public, potentially obscuring conflicts of interests.

That changed last month when ProPublica launched Dollars for Profs, an interactive database that, for the first time ever, allows you to look up more than 37,000 faculty and staff disclosures from about 20 public universities and the National Institutes of Health.

We believe there are hundreds of stories in this database, and we hope to tell as many as possible. Already, we’ve revealed how the University of California’s weak monitoring of conflicts has allowed faculty members to underreport their outside income, potentially depriving the university of millions of dollars. In addition, using a database of NIH records, we found that health researchers have acknowledged a total of at least $188 million in financial conflicts of interest since 2012.

We hope journalists all over the country will look into the database and find more. Here are tips for local education reporters, college newspaper journalists and anyone else who wants to hold academia accountable on how to dig into the disclosures….(More)”.

A Matter of Trust: Higher Education Institutions as Information Fiduciaries in an Age of Educational Data Mining and Learning Analytics


Paper by Kyle M. L. Jones, Alan Rubel and Ellen LeClere: “Higher education institutions are mining and analyzing student data to effect educational, political, and managerial outcomes. Done under the banner of “learning analytics,” this work can—and often does—surface sensitive data and information about, inter alia, a student’s demographics, academic performance, offline and online movements, physical fitness, mental wellbeing, and social network. With these data, institutions and third parties are able to describe student life, predict future behaviors, and intervene to address academic or other barriers to student success (however defined). Learning analytics, consequently, raise serious issues concerning student privacy, autonomy, and the appropriate flow of student data.

We argue that issues around privacy lead to valid questions about the degree to which students should trust their institution to use learning analytics data and other artifacts (algorithms, predictive scores) with their interests in mind. We argue that higher education institutions are paradigms of information fiduciaries. As such, colleges and universities have a special responsibility to their students. In this article, we use the information fiduciary concept to analyze cases when learning analytics violate an institution’s responsibility to its students….(More)”.

Responsible Operations: Data Science, Machine Learning, and AI in Libraries


OCLC Research Position Paper by Thomas Padilla: “Despite greater awareness, significant gaps persist between concept and operationalization in libraries at the level of workflows (managing bias in probabilistic description), policies (community engagement vis-à-vis the development of machine-actionable collections), positions (developing staff who can utilize, develop, critique, and/or promote services influenced by data science, machine learning, and AI), collections (development of “gold standard” training data), and infrastructure (development of systems that make use of these technologies and methods). Shifting from awareness to operationalization will require holistic organizational commitment to responsible operations. The viability of responsible operations depends on organizational incentives and protections that promote constructive dissent…(More)”.

Is Plagiarism Wrong?


Agnes Callard at The Point: “…Academia has confused a convention with a moral rule, and this confusion is not unmotivated. We academics cannot make much money off the papers and books in which we express our ideas, and ideas cannot be copyrighted, so we have invented a moral law that offers us the “property rights” the legal system denies us.

Here is an analogy. Suppose that I legally own a tree on the edge of my property, but not the apples that fall into the road. I might create a set of norms that shame people who take those apples: if you want one of “my” road-apples, you must first bow down to me or kiss my ring. Otherwise I will call you a “thief,” and if you insist that the apple you have just picked up is your own, I will compound the charge with “liar.”

The academic’s problem is that all of their apples fall into the road. Academia is an honor-culture, in which recognition—in the form of citations—serves as a kind of ersatz currency. In ancient Greek, there is a word “pleonexia,” which means “grasping after more than your share.” Plagiarism norms encourage pleonectic overreach. One can see such overreach in the fact that those with perfect job-security—famous, tenured faculty—do not seem less given to touchiness about having “their” ideas surface in the work of another, unattributed. Quite the contrary. The higher one rises, the louder the call for obeisance: kiss my ring! Stigmatizing plagiarism serves those at the top.

But isn’t there some form of reward—respect, gratitude, admiration, eternal life in historical memory—that people are entitled to on the basis of their intellectual work?

No. If you are an academic and you want to feel waves upon waves of gratitude, I have a simple recommendation for you: do a half-decent job teaching undergraduates. You don’t need to—and probably shouldn’t—teach them “your” ideas; if you help them furnish their minds with some of the great ideas of the past few millennia, they will thank you in ways no citation can: gushing notes of heartfelt appreciation, trinkets to fill your office, email messages of remembrance a decade later. They will come to your funeral. They will tell their children about you.

More generally, if I may indulge in some moralism myself, I would insist that no one can be entitled to gratitude or remembrance or appreciation. Write something worth reading. Put your ideas out there, and hope that someone will make something of them. Give with an open hand, and stop thinking about the tokens with which you will be repaid. Be happy to be worth stealing from. The future owes you nothing….(More)”.

An Open Letter to Law School Deans about Privacy Law Education in Law Schools


Daniel Solove: “Recently a group of legal academics and practitioners in the field of privacy law sent a letter to the deans of all U.S. law schools about privacy law education in law schools.  My own brief intro about this endeavor is here in italics, followed by the letter. The signatories to the letter have signed onto the letter, not this italicized intro.

Although the field of privacy law grown dramatically in past two decades, education in law schools about privacy law has significantly lagged behind.  Most U.S. law schools lack a course on privacy law. Of those that have courses, many are small seminars, often taught by adjuncts.  Of the law schools that do have a privacy course, most often just have one course. Most schools lack a full-time faculty member who focuses substantially on privacy law.

This state of affairs is a great detriment to students. I am constantly approached by students and graduates from law schools across the country who are wondering how they can learn about privacy law and enter the field. Many express great disappointment at the lack of any courses, faculty, or activities at their schools.

After years of hoping that the legal academy would wake up and respond, I came to the realization that this wasn’t going to happen on its own. The following letter [click here for the PDF version] aims to make deans aware of the privacy law field. I hope that the letter is met with action….(More)”.

Digital Media and Wireless Communication in Developing Nations: Agriculture, Education, and the Economic Sector


Book by Megh R. Goyal and Emmanuel Eilu: “… explores how digital media and wireless communication, especially mobile phones and social media platforms, offer concrete opportunities for developing countries to transform different sectors of their economies. The volume focuses on the agricultural, economic, and education sectors. The chapter authors, mostly from Africa and India, provide a wealth of information on recent innovations, the opportunities they provide, challenges faced, and the direction of future research in digital media and wireless communication to leverage transformation in developing countries….(More)”.

Community Colleges Boost STEM Student Success Through Behavioral Nudging


Press Release: “JFF, a national nonprofit driving transformation in the American workforce and education systems, and Persistence Plus, which pairs behavioral insights with intelligent text messaging to improve student success, today released the findings from an analysis that examined the effects of personalized nudging on nearly 10,000 community college students. The study, conducted over two years at four community colleges, found that behavioral nudging had a significant impact on student persistence rates—with strong improvements among students of color and older adult learners, who are often underrepresented among graduates of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) programs.

“These results offer powerful evidence on the potential, and imperative, of using technology to support students during the most in-demand, and often most challenging, courses and majors,” said Maria Flynn, president and CEO of JFF. “With millions of STEM jobs going unfilled, closing the gap in STEM achievement has profound economic—and equity—implications.” 

In a multiyear initiative called “Nudging to STEM Success, which was funded by the Helmsley Charitable Trust, JFF and Persistence Plus selected four colleges to implement the nudging initiative campuswide:Lakeland Community College in Kirtland, Ohio; Lorain County Community College in Elyria, Ohio; Stark State College in North Canton, Ohio; and John Tyler Community College in Chester, Virginia.

A randomized control trial in the summer of 2017 showed that the nudges increased first-to-second-year persistence for STEM students by 10 percentage points. The results of that trial will be presented in an upcoming peer-reviewed paper titled “A Summer Nudge Campaign to Motivate Community College STEM Students to Reenroll.” The paper will be published in AERA Open, an open-access journal published by the American Educational Research Association. 

Following the 2017 trial, the four colleges scaled the support to nearly 10,000 students, and over the next two years, JFF and Persistence Plus found that the nudging support had a particularly strong impact on students of color and students over the age of 25—two groups that have historically had lower persistence rates than other students….(More)”.

Complex Systems Change Starts with Those Who Use the Systems


Madeleine Clarke & John Healy at Stanford Social Innovation Review: “Philanthropy, especially in the United States and Europe, is increasingly espousing the idea that transformative shifts in social care, education, and health systems are needed. Yet successful examples of systems-level reform are rare. Concepts such as collective impact (funder-driven, cross-sector collaboration), implementation science (methods to promote the systematic uptake of research findings), and catalytic philanthropy (funders playing a powerful role in mobilizing fundamental reforms) have gained prominence as pathways to this kind of change. These approaches tend to characterize philanthropy—usually foundations—as the central, heroic actor. Meanwhile, research on change within social and health services continues to indicate that deeply ingrained beliefs and practices, such as overly medicalized models of care for people with intellectual disabilities, and existing resource distribution, which often maintains the pay and conditions of professional groups, inhibits the introduction of reform into complex systems. A recent report by RAND, for example, showed that a $1 billion, seven-year initiative to improve teacher performance failed, and cited the complexity of the system and practitioners’ resistance to change as possible explanations. 

We believe the most effective way to promote systems-level social change is to place the voices of people who use social services—the people for whom change matters most—at the center of change processes. But while many philanthropic organizations tout the importance of listening to the “end beneficiaries” or “service users,” the practice nevertheless remains an underutilized methodology for countering systemic obstacles to change and, ultimately, reforming complex systems….(More)”.

Sharenthood: Why We Should Think before We Talk about Our Kids Online


Book by Leah Plunkett: “Our children’s first digital footprints are made before they can walk—even before they are born—as parents use fertility apps to aid conception, post ultrasound images, and share their baby’s hospital mug shot. Then, in rapid succession come terabytes of baby pictures stored in the cloud, digital baby monitors with built-in artificial intelligence, and real-time updates from daycare. When school starts, there are cafeteria cards that catalog food purchases, bus passes that track when kids are on and off the bus, electronic health records in the nurse’s office, and a school surveillance system that has eyes everywhere. Unwittingly, parents, teachers, and other trusted adults are compiling digital dossiers for children that could be available to everyone—friends, employers, law enforcement—forever. In this incisive book, Leah Plunkett examines the implications of “sharenthood”—adults’ excessive digital sharing of children’s data. She outlines the mistakes adults make with kids’ private information, the risks that result, and the legal system that enables “sharenting.”

Plunkett describes various modes of sharenting—including “commercial sharenting,” efforts by parents to use their families’ private experiences to make money—and unpacks the faulty assumptions made by our legal system about children, parents, and privacy. She proposes a “thought compass” to guide adults in their decision making about children’s digital data: play, forget, connect, and respect. Enshrining every false step and bad choice, Plunkett argues, can rob children of their chance to explore and learn lessons. The Internet needs to forget. We need to remember….(More)”.