Reading through the Knox (2014) paper, the prominent idea seemed to be a ‘shift in control’ when creating resources for learners. It wasn’t long ago that tutors would keep total control over their ‘home (institutional) made’ resources, but now thanks to the possibilities online learning can offer, there is a large emphasis on ‘sharing good practice’ as well as ideas and resources. As a practitioner, you would be selling your students short if you didn’t at least make use of the range of online content available through the various digital channels available. From Youtube videos to social discussion via Twitter, extending the classroom into these digital domains really does suggest ‘there is no inside and outside, but rather a relation set of practices and mobilities’ (Fenwick et al).
Does it matter that ‘educational activity cannot be entirely controlled by teachers, students, or the authors of the software’? There is of course a duty of practice from the teachers point of view not to share anything ‘risky’ online, but if an algorithm is controlling the recommended videos how can we be sure students aren’t getting distracted by a ‘frivolous’ suggestion? However, these algorithmic suggestions can also open a student’s (and teachers) eyes to new and exciting ideas based on other viewers behaviours, this may produce far more useful suggestions than if a lone teacher was curating the content by themselves.
So is it a case of larger the community, the more relevant the recommendations? If so, the teacher needs to let go of some of the control and trust the algorithms to become their teaching assistant.
Earlier in the week, I analysed my own social media accounts in regards to the suggestions that were made via algorithms. I created a QuillConnect which gave me various insights into my own Twitter usage compared to my followers, as well as those I follow. QuillConnect noted I generally tweet about ‘education, music and business and tech’, which I would have to agree with. The relevance of this information relies heavily on the correct metadata and tagging within each tweet, but even so I would have to agree on the results. One thing which interested me with QuillConnect was the question it posed at the end of the study, ‘How can you increase your Twitter reach?’, the answers was ‘If you are looking to increase your reach, you could try using hashtags that are more likely to be picked up’, so does this mean that by having similar interests and conversations as others will maximise your amount of Twitter followers? Is this what is of paramount of importance???? Surely having your own opinion and chosing your interests from the heart is more important than gaining more followers, however, social media possibly forces users into this game, the more followers the more relevant you are….However, if you are marketing a business or event, the more visibility the better.
I also analysed my Youtube, Spotify and Netflix accounts, and for the most part the suggestions were valuable, however it was interesting looking at these recommendations with a critical eye rather than just taking them for what they are. Comparing these suggestions alongside the ‘six dimensions of public relevance algorithms’ put forward by Gillespie produce some critical questions around impartiality and objectivity.
Knox, J. K. (2014). Active algorithms: sociomaterial spaces in the E-learning and Digital Cultures MOOC. Campus Virtuales, 3(1): 42-55.
Gillespie, T. 2012. The Relevance of Algorithms. forthcoming, in Media Technologies, ed. Tarleton Gillespie, Pablo Boczkowski, and Kirsten Foot. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.