This workshop facilitates discussion of participants’ uses and ideas of technology in ways that will empower them. The icebreaker allows participants to take ownership over a technology idea and to consider the effects from a more powerful position–that of creator versus user. It is not assumed that participants will have anxiety due to learning about new and emerging technologies; however, this introductory activity will open the floor to discussion of technology concerns. In line with Eubanks’s idea of popular technology, the workshop creates a space for the creation of collective knowledge by providing large amounts of time for class and team discussions. In order to determine communication and technology concerns and create the a plan of action, workshop participants will be given open studio and group project time like those who engaged in popular technology projects at the YWCA of Troy-Cohoes Community Technology Lab where Eubanks worked.
Participatory design methodology is employed in this workshop as it facilitates the shared effort to create a plan of action. Similarly to participatory action research, which is another aspect of popular technology, participants will collect and analyze data collaboratively, which in turn shifts power and has lasting social benefits. It is social capital and the view of all participants as knowledgeable that are major goals of popular technology. Popular education is also a technique that popular technology, and thus this workshop, draws upon. “Popular education trusts in the oppressed: in their ability to reason, analyze their experiences, and intervene in the dominant social order.” (Eubanks, 2012, p. 105).
In the beginning of the workshop, the facilitator makes a point that everyone in the room may be experts of technology use and organizational assessments, drawing on Freire’s idea that the awareness of incompletion–in this case that of the facilitator’s–makes people more human or conscientious. In opposition to the traditional “banking model” pedagogy, the workshop treats participants as co-creators of knowledge as they evaluate their assessments and determine solutions. First, participants will work independently on the assessment handout to assist in relaying their needs, concerns, and ideas. They will then convene with team members to compare responses. This opens the door for pluralistic decision-making, especially as organization leaders will be in less oppressive roles in relation to their team members.
After that, there will be a class discussion in which the facilitator will provide minimal input and not recommend solutions as it may cause an unbalanced shift in power. Again, the facilitator should not suggest that she has more knowledge or expertise in a particular area. When the facilitator provides an overview of communication technologies, she will keep these ideas in mind by asking the participants questions about their knowledge of the new and emerging technology and ways that they may see it as beneficial to their organizations.
An approach to research and community engagement that Stoecker emphasizes the most is participatory action. Instead of a facilitator working with organizations to analyze their concerns and draw her own conclusions about actions that should be taken, the participants are able to collect and analyze their own data and develop their own solutions. Although the facilitator has created questions from which participants may work from, they are not specific or suggestive of certain issues in any way. The facilitator also avoids bias by not suggesting technologies or other solutions to teams. The facilitator states that proposed solutions should be viewed as that of trial and error to emphasize that she is not expecting any particular outcome and separates herself from group discussions to offset any objectivity. With the Diagnose-Prescribe-Implement-Evaluate model in mind, the workshop will allow participants to first survey themselves, brainstorm possible solutions on their own, review various digital technologies, and then take ownership over what technologies and objectives may assist them in reaching their goals.
Stoecker’s ideas of participatory action are also influential to the workshop as teams establish informal relationships, or weak ties, with one another. It is expected that these relationships will be formed through information sharing and empowerment. The workshop in itself allows the organizations to have power over their own operations in the same way that whole communities become empowered by participatory action research. Stoecker has stated that many programs are not developed with careful research or community involvement. By providing the opportunity for organizations to work on their own issues, this workshop will help to ensure that they develop plans that will beneficial to them.
In line with progressive education, the facilitator is a leader and not a dictator. Interactions with teams will be from a more supportive role. Also in accordance with Dewey’s ideas, participants will learn by experiment or experience and will be free to make their own decisions regarding solutions without imposed standards. The facilitator will not rush participants to fit into the constraints of an agenda yet will be adjust to group needs. For instance, if participants request more details on certain technologies, the facilitator will cater to their requests. In addition, although an action plan is typically created after a logic model, teams will decide which models they would like to use. Also of importance, participants will have the opportunity to build social capital–a goal of progressive education–by sharing their experiences with the entire group. Dewey states that traditional learning is associated with boredom, however, the facilitator will encourage participation and interaction by asking participants to take turns reading portions of the logic model and action plan handouts aloud to the class, to share their experiences, and to learn in the process of creating plans.
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Dewey, J. Experience and education. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997.
Eubanks, V. (2011). Digital dead end: Fighting for social justice in the information age. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Evaluation Logic Model. (2012). Retrieved April 26, 2013, from http://www.uwex.edu/ces/pdande/evaluation/evallogicmodel.html
Freire, P. Pedagogy of the oppressed. (2000). New York: Continuum.
Reflect and improve: A tool kit for engaging youth and adults as partners in program evaluation. (2005). Retrieved April 3, 2013, from http://www.theinnovationcenter.org/files/Reflect-and-Improve_Toolkit.pdf
Schmitz, C. C., & Parsons, B. A. (2004). Everything you wanted to know about logic models but were afraid to ask. Juvenile Justice Evaluation Center. Retrieved from http://www.insites.org/documents/logmod.htm.
Stoecker, R. (2005). Research methods for community change: A project based approach. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
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