Integrating digital technologies for learning — A complex multi-dimensional decision-making process

One key point in the OLIVE project is to explore ways to integrate digital technologies in teaching and learning and figure out technological tools, platforms and services of the Internet that best serve pedagogical purposes. The integration of technologies in learning and education requires different types of decision-making from the part of teachers. Based on this consideration, the focus of this blog post is on themes relevant to complex decision-making required when technology use comes into the foreground of pedagogy. These themes were discussed during the workshop of OLIVE on 7 & 8 December 2021 that was organized online by the School of Education at Birzeit University in the West Bank.

The themes and topics of discussion concern instructions of use (manuals) and issues of cyber security and violations of digital rights in Palestine.

Instruction manuals usually attempt to mediate the decision-making process with information and practical steps, especially to those beginners who have only recently embarked on the long journey of technology use into the classroom for pedagogical purposes. One such example is the instruction manual that the team of OLIVE at the University of Eastern Finland are proposing for the purposes of the project. 

The manual aims to show multiple ways for information delivery and access. In this way, the design of the manual illustrates that one way is not necessarily the only or the best way to achieve a goal. Something may work in video format (e.g., how to set up group work in web conferencing platforms), something else might require a different channel, platform or software. This combination includes five different ways of use of video technology (with voice over and without, as slideshow, embedded as connected objects (ThingLink platform), or in action, animation, and interactive video format. 

These are quite distinct approaches to digital storytelling and convey diverse metaphors of language (written and oral), image (still and animated), action and interaction. According to a study (Vivitsou 2020), digital storytelling in education introduces informal elements contrary to the formal disciplinary tradition and offers an opportunity for communicative engagement in web-based settings where exchanges can both converge with and diverge from established instructional norms. Such integration has a non-conventional character and, as a result, challenges the status quo in teaching and teaching methods.

In research, digital storytelling is a visual method that brings to the fore and reconstructs narratives through the analysis of the message, underlying structures and techniques, how this is conveyed to audiences, and what channels of communication are used. Considering that the focus of educational technology research heavily relies on the use of tools nowadays, a shift toward the societal impact of technology use is necessary for a holistic approach to digital technology integration in teaching nowadays.

Toward this direction, the workshop hosted a cross-boundary talk on digital technology and the Internet by Nadim Nashif . Nadim is a social entrepreneur and digital rights defender, and the founder and executive director of 7amleh – The Arab Center for the Development of Social Media

The Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media is a non-profit organization that advocates for Palestinian digital rights. 7amleh’s mission is to create a safe, fair and free digital space and, to this end, studies and conducts research on Palestinian digital rights. At the core of 7amleh activities, in addition to digital rights, is digital activism and digital security capacity building opportunities to activists and civil society. In his bold talk, Nadim brought onto the scene the need for a multidimensional perspective on digital technology and the Internet by integrating activist work into educational/pedagogical purposes. The talk tackled, among others, issues about the ways social networks, mapping technologies and digital economy platforms are manipulated to restrict access rights for Palestinians and to violate internationally acknowledged resolutions. Google maps, for example, do not use any term related to Palestine of the internationally recognized ‘Palestinian Territory’, in accordance with the UN General Assembly Resolution of November 2012. 

Discrimination against women, youth and the queer community were also brought up during the talk. According to the research conducted by 7amleh, during the Covid-19 period there has been an increase in gender-based violence and domestic violence. Some manifestations of such violence include hacked accounts, unauthorized publishing of personal details, extortion, receiving visual material with inappropriate content, and others. In addition, several members of the Palestinian queer community were attacked publicly by the Palestinian Authority, following announcements of events on social media. 

Such phenomena of discrimination happen on different domains and can be virtual (i.e., exclusively online, such as the account-hacking violation). They can also take place in hybrid ways (e.g., the persecution of youth or LGBTI+ community members due to social media published announcements).

No matter, however, whether violations are connected with real-life events, they remain violations of human rights. Nowadays, there are efforts in academia to address inequalities by making policies for equality (e.g., see Bhopal’s (2022) study) in Europe and elsewhere. Although possibly challenging, this would be a legitimate goal and orientation for OLIVE project for curricula in teacher education that take into consideration digital inequalities and discrimination. In this way, the project will serve its purpose for transformation and inclusiveness.

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