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My Notes from ISTE2016: Tuesday Keynote-Ruha Benjamin-"Set Phasers to Love Me" Reimagining the Default Settings of Technology & Society

Dr. Ruha Benjamin, assistant professor of African American Studies at Princeton University was the Tuesday Keynote at the ISTE 2016 Conference
Her talk centered on the question, "How can we harness science and technology for greater equality?"

What is the purpose of education? She is hoping to stretch our thinking on education and equity. 

Big Picture
There is little doubt we are living in social crisis. Most can't look to Hospitals for health, police for safety, politicians for leadership or even schools for imparting knowledge.
The world is at war with itself. All manner of social struggle over material and social resources. 
At the same time, the very idea of a society where we care and sacrifice for one another is undermined. In this context, the question is how do we make our schools laboratories of democratic participation? Where the potential for each individual child is realized, and we experiment with technologies of love, reciprocity and justice! We need to incubate a better world in the eyes of our students!

The teaching profession is under attack because teachers if actually unified and empowered, can change the direction of history! 

The next generation will come alive with possibility or will be crushed by the weight of our problems.
Adopting technology without wrestling with our current gap is to choose to not make a difference.


She shared 5 "Provocations" that defined her talk.

Why is it that we can imagine growing heart cells in a lab, but unable to imagine growing empathy for our fellow human beings?
We imagine shiny new technologies but we don't invest in our social reality and personal relationships.
Our classrooms must become laboratories for social change.
Most predictions for bio technology assume that change will be for the better.
Imagination is critical in the design of technology. 
Her experience in the Marshall Islands, gave her a real life look at the effects of technology on the world. Eybeye has chronic health issues due to the nuclear testing that occured there. But other islands did not have the same testing. Whose version of the good life is being ignored?
The battle over real power tomorrow begins with the struggle over who gets to dream today. Alex Rivera

Google's online advertising has been shown to be sexist and cost is higher based on race or zip code. Algorithmic discrimination, COULD be designed to be aware of these biases. We as consumers need to demand more socially concious tech development!
We need to develop socio-technical literacy so that all peoples interests are part of the design process.
She gave the illustration of benches to deter people experiencing homlessness to illustrate how techology is used for nefarious purposes. 

How often do we design things to deter the "problem student?

The common understanding of what counts toward technology is too limited. What about the "default settings" and social codes, like race, class, gender?

  • Michael Robinson quote: Science tells us men and women are biologically different, including their brains and skills...
  • "Don't be nervous, you're hot, no one expects you to do well...
IBM-Hack a hair dryer advertismenet campaign
Sexism, racism and classism are coded into the fabric of our society. We need to work overtime to overcome this! We can't just prepare our students to succeed as it is, we need to help them transform these social constructs as well.

Code Switching tends to hide the fact that not all codes are created equal.
Chris Emdin-Hip Hop to teach science. The classroom changes to meet the students where they are.
She used Gamergate as an example of how technology has a problem with codes.
HEre are 2 ways for our students to approach life more broadly
Recreation, competition and consumption need to change to Mastery, collaboration and 
Re-wrote codes rather than code switch!
Stretch out rather than lean in!
She shared data from Fair Play-Violence Gender and Race in Video Games

Unless we become proactive to address racist messages in and out of the classroom, white good/black bad will persist.
5 Ways to restrict our imagination for students

  1. Ahistorical Fallacy- just because some people broke the glass ceiling, doesn't mean others are guaranteed the opportunity to move forward
  2. Legalistic Fallacy- Just because workplace rules have changed doesn't mean sexism doesn't still exist.
  3. Individualistic Falacy- Recognize that some code authority as being "aggressive." 5 ways Men in Tech Can Combat Sexism!
  4. Fixed Fallacy- What should our measure of progress be? Our aims should evolve. Nettrice Gaskins has done much to contribute to culturally situated education.
  5. Tokenistic Fallacy-One bright bulb does not an enlightenment make! Black Girls Code is great, but it is a drop in the bucket.
She ended by noting that "The Clock is Ticking" Be vigilant in keeping technology from increasing social divide!

Her final thought: 
Children are the most precious treasure a community can posess. The bear the seeds of the character of future society.They are a trust no community can neglect with impunity.or leave them entirely to their own "devices'The belogn to the community to share in it's purpose!Baha'i Writings

LOVE is the most powerful technology at our disposal! Turn it on often!


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