PLAYBACK: The Good, The Bad, and Who’s Missing


9.24.11 | From bullying in the younger (and older years), to colleges embracing teaching social media from a pedagogical perspective and the importance of encouraging high school girls to consider STEM career fields, this week’s Playback looks at changes in networked environments throughout education systems.

How to Make it (Really) Better: In an effort to change the conversation around cyberbullying, danah boyd and Alice Marwick released a draft of their new paper, “The Drama! Teen Conflict, Gossip, and Bullying in Networked Publics.” They also co-authored a New York Times op-ed, “Why Cyberbullying Rhetoric Misses the Mark,” with the hope of reaching a wide audience.

“I want to change the frame of our conversation because we need to change the frame if we’re going to help youth,” boyd writes at “I’ve spent the last seven years talking to youth about bullying and drama and it nearly killed me when I realized that all of the effort that adults are putting into anti-bullying campaigns are falling on deaf ears and doing little to actually address what youth are experiencing. Even hugely moving narratives like ‘It Gets Better’ aren’t enough when a teen can make a video for other teens and then kill himself because he’s unable to make it better in his own community.”

Social Media Grows Up, Goes to School: No longer just the basis for classes on SEO marketing principles, social media is now being taught from a pedagogical perspective, writes Josh Sternberg in The Atlantic.

“The medium is relatively new enough that there’s no canon shaping social media, just conceptual frameworks for looking at the effects of social media on students’ lives and communities and on society as a whole,” writes Sternberg. “The task of academics is to give students a vocabulary to understand these perspectives, tools to make sense of the theoretical discussions and think critically about social media.

Press M for Emergency: At the University of Maryland, the police department is interested in practicality only. It’s testing a free Android app called M-Urgency that allows students to send live video from their phones directly to police.

“Immediately our 911 center will receive audio and video from your phone, as well as the exact GPS location of where you are,” David Mitchell, chief of police at the University of Maryland in College Park, told WTOP. “We’ll be able to hear and see everything.”

“Our dispatcher can then transfer those images and that video/audio to police cars and emergency services personnel who are responding,” he adds.

Developed by computer science professor Dr. Ashok Agrawala and a team of students, the app is being tested by 100 students in advance of a university-wide rollout.

The Digital Revolution and Higher Education: A recently released Pew Internet report finds that college presidents have a more favorable view of online courses than the general public. Among the key findings:

Just three-in-ten American adults (29%) say a course taken online provides an equal educational value to one taken in a classroom. By contrast, about half of college presidents (51%) say online courses provide the same value.

More than three-quarters of college presidents (77%) report that their institutions now offer online courses, and college presidents predict substantial growth in online learning: 15% say most of their current undergraduate students have taken a class online, 50% predict that ten years from now most of their students will take classes online.

Increasing Girls’ Participation in STEM: Turning attention to future college students, the Women in Science and Engineering program at the University of Illinois at Chicago is hosting a Girls and Computer Science Day on Nov. 18.

Open to female high school students, participants will visit to the Electronic Visualization Laboratory where interactive games and 3-D visualization maps are created; learn about the programming language Scratch, which makes it easy to create games, animation, music and art (read Spotlight’s coverage of Scratch); and experience computer science without a computer (why it’s Computer Science Unplugged!). How do you top off a day like this? With a visit to Google’s offices, of course.

Opportunities like these are critical for many reasons, not least of which is the economy. Writing at the Washington Post, Anna Holmes explains how gender disparities in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) workforce have an effect on U.S. productivity and competitiveness:

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of computer scientists is expected to grow a whopping 24 percent between 2008 and 2018, which the Bureau says is “much faster” than average for most occupations. Rebecca Blank, acting secretary at the Commerce Department, tells me that because of this increased need, the participation of more women will keep the industry, and the country, globally competitive in the long run.

These realities have significant implications for the economy on a more micro level: Women in traditionally well-paying STEM jobs, particularly computer science, enjoy more wage parity with men than in other occupations. Lack of female presence also has long-reaching cultural and social ramifications. Christianne Corbett, a senior researcher for the American Association of University Women and co-author of the 2010 report “Why So Few?,” is blunt: “The growth of technology is driven by the people who are designing it. Without women at the design table, the interests of half the population will basically be ignored.” Adds Lucy Sanders, CEO of the National Center for Women and Information Technology: “We don’t know what women would invent because by and large right now, they are not.”

On the plus side, the number of female computer science majors is on the rise at some colleges, reports Holmes. And, as a another sign that their absence is being felt in some digital spaces, Richard MacManus, founder and editor of ReadWriteWeb, argues that online collaboration would be improved if more women were included in collective intelligence projects, such as Wikipedia.

“I’m not idly speculating here, those were the findings of a recent study by MIT’s Center for Collective Intelligence,” writes MacManus, adding, “Having more women in a group improves the collective intelligence, because it raises the level of ‘social sensitivity.’”

What’s another important factor? Giving everyone equal time to talk instead of permitting conversations to be dominated by the loudest and most opinionated voices. Now that’s a radical concept at any age.

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