Leave the #post-fact / #post-truth-society in 2016!

We do not live in a #post-fact or #post-truth-society. We should really stop normalizing this sentiment!! If we know something to be a lie or false, let’s call it that instead of coming up with catch phrases to rationalize and become comfortable with – well….it’s true enough.

There is plenty of evidence throughout history – very recent human history – that shows how various types of normalizations can be harmful. There are many examples of when willfully giving consent to deceit and falsity (explicitly or implicitly), has not only done a disservice to society, but has cost human lives. The list of agreements we have made with lies is long; from little white lies to big lies. Let me provide four (perhaps) extreme examples of when accepting false narratives has been very harmful:

  • The earth is flat or the earth is the center of the universe. How many people were imprisoned and perhaps killed as a result of questioning this false assumption? Galileo is just one famous example.
  • la_belle_hottentotBlack people are genetically inferior. How many people have been treated as less human because of that? The slave trade is one example. Skulls and remains of Afrikans were displayed in European museums (some only returned recently), by those who went to repulsive extents to prove preposterous claims, is another. Consider what happened to the Herero and Nama of Namibia in 1904 and the ramifications of that to today. Look up the case of Saartjie Baartman of South Africa and see what damage the falsity of inferiority brought.
  • luckycigaretteHow about cigarettes/nicotine not being harmful? Advertised as healthy and endorsed by doctors even when manufacturers knew of the addictive properties and side effects.
  • Invade Iraq because their biological and chemical weapons (weapons of mass destruction) pose a clear and present danger to the word.  Fast-forward to present, how many lives have been lost as a result and the distabilasation that followed?

We are not in a #post-fact or #post-truth-world. Yes, there are very many influencers that argue for this perspective. Paul Krugman’s piece in the New York times, The Post-Truth Campaign is just one example. I disagree with this phrasing that has entered and is being accepted into the vernacular especially in the US with a sense of resignation. I hear it on TV, read it in newspapers and heard it the other day on National Public Radio (NPR).

It is true that we are in a world were some are either comfortable with true enough or do not care when they are not telling the truth. The world has always had people like that, those who stretch the truth. The majority of us, if we are honest, can recall instances when we have not been completely honest or said things that were false. The difference is that in the past we called things rumors when they were not true and relied on news outlets to do fact checking and not print or broadcast things that they knew were not true. Now many news outlets spend hours discussing things that they know to not be true. This is combined with many of us on social media who are more concerned with seeming engaged and being perceived as being well read, all the while taking cover under the blanket of “sharing or RT doesn’t equal endorsement”.

Instead of calling out falsities for what they are, terminologies are being coined to explain what is being viewed as a novel phenomenon. Whether it is in promoting or proclaiming absurd ideas/solutions in education or in politics, lying is not a new phenomenon. While it may be a good academic exercise to find a term that explains what is happening, we need to be careful not to normalize things that cause harm. We need to stop making acceptable that which is or should be unacceptable. Hopefully we leave the #post-fact or #post-truth-society concepts in 2016.

Interrogating our shifting and evolving identities

meI am Namibian by birthright and citizenship. I was born in Windhoek, and spent my formative years growing up in Ongandjera. I graduated from high school in New York from the United Nations International School (UNIS). All my degrees are from universities in Pennsylvania, USA and I am currently an assistant professor at Oklahoma State University. I state this to be clear that my worldview originates in Namibia, but my life experiences are also that of a world citizen, aware of my origin, and my ever shifting evolving position. Some people read this and automatically dismiss me as not being Afrikan “enough”. Others read it and somehow find me more “palatable” because my indigniety has been influenced, Continue reading

Are we talking about the same thing?

The discourse of and around Learning, Design & Technology fascinates me. I am specifically referring to words that are sometimes taken as a given, globally understood and accepted when discussing education and technology. These conversations often remind me of a scene from the movie Rush Hour.

I am interested shared meanings and understandings words that may seem very common. I am currently exploring this through two projects. The first project probes the understanding of what it means to be “learner centered”. Dr. Michael Grant and I presented a portion of this research at the AECT conference in 2013, and will soon collect data in at least two other countries. In the second project, I am collaborating with Dr Shu-Hsiang (Ava) Chen on trying to understand what we mean, globally, when we say “Open Educational Resources”.

Continue reading

On conversations

I am concerned about
the conversations we have
the conversations we do not have and
the conversations we are not having

I am concerned about
the student who is growing up as a victim
the student who is being convinced
by conversations that he is the victimizer

I am concerned for the black child
who has to justify that black is beautiful
while her friend’s skin is a given beauty
carrying the baggage of oppression
having to justify not being a threat
Continue reading

Reflections on the CIES Conference Part 2

CIES and Special Interest Groups

During the CIES SIGs open houses a gentleman came to our table (the Indigenous Knowledge and the Academy – IKA), and remarked “I’m a member of your SIG. I registered and paid your dues”….I responded jokingly, ‘welcome home’…He asked “What can you do for me? What do I get from this SIG?”

He was not the only person to ask this question at the conference. There were many other discussions on the role of SIGs in the association and why they exist. I think SIGs serve three main purposes: Continue reading

Reflections on the CIES Conference – Part 1

A CIES Divide

The Comparative International Education Society (CIES) Conference just wrapped up (CIES 2015 – Washington, D.C. – March 8-13) and I’m left with making sense of my time there. I had a great time at the conference and learned a lot. I remain convinced that CIES is an association that I’ll continue to be a member. As it can be said for any conference, the sessions (including mine) ranged from Excellent to….hmmmm, I’m not sure what that was about. Rather than reflect on specific sessions, I’ll focus on what I perceived as a divide within CIES. Continue reading

What I read…DBR

Design Experiments in Educational Research

Cobb, P., diSessa, A., Lehrer, R., Schauble, L. (2003)

In this article Cobb et al., explain the ideal characteristics, context and what is involved in “conducting a design experiment”. Design experiments are not only empirically ways of tuning what works; rather they exist to develop humble theories that target domain-specific learning processes. Design experiments are distinguishable by three characteristics: they are extended (iterative), interventionist (innovative and design-based), and theory-oriented enterprises whose “theories” do real work in practical educational contexts” (pg. 13).

The five main purposes of design experiments are: Continue reading

On Privacy

Someone remarked recently that the only way to keep a secret is to keep it to yourself, meaning that the minute you say ‘something’ to another, the risk of that ‘something’ being share with others increases exponentially. Similarly, in today’s age of wide information availability, the question of ‘is privacy dead?’ is often posed because most of our digital information are either readily available or can be easily obtained. So the question then is no longer whether or not privacy is dead, rather the new question should be, ‘are we ok with the loss of privacy?’ ‘are we ok with privacy being dead?’. Responses or reflections to such questions have a significant ramifications.

On Data/Information

There has always been a lot of information and data; what is different today is that information is easier to access especially because of the ever expansive global network facilitated by the internet.We are more connected today than perhaps any time in history. Images from Gaza or Ferguson are accessible as instantly to a person in Windhoek as they to a person where they are being captured.

In one sense, this is good. It makes it difficult for the masses to say they were unaware especially of certain atrocities. On the other hand, it also gives many of us false Continue reading