LIS 490 Community Informatics Studio was in its’ premiere semester during Fall of 2012. The class took a studio based learning style, where the first half of the course was based around heavy readings from scholars taking an inquiry based approach to learning and the second half was fueled heavily by studio work where the class worked to develop their own popular technology workshops. The students worked individually, while consulting often with classmates, instructors and community partners to create the projects.
Creating my Workshop
It was a long, constantly evolving road for me to travel as I created a topic and a plan for my workshop. At first, I was driven by using my skills of social media and writing to help fuel my workshop and then I was driven by the need base of which community I would be serving. I ended up working with a lower socio-economic class, of senior citizen women who take a weekly computer class at Salem Baptist Church.
The lab is open from 10:30 until noon on Saturday’s for senior citizens (typically people over 60) who come for basic computer needs. There are usually between four and six woman present, most who don’t have their own computers. There are seven total computers in the lab and they are older versions of PC’s. The machines tend to freeze and crash often which can be frustrating for the woman because they are already skeptical of technology. Some of them use their family member computers, but for a lot these weekly sessions are the only time they use a computer.
Throughout the course of the semester, my ideas evolved and expanded, as in turn I cut them down to make sure I could create a manageable workshop which would not overwhelm myself or the participants. It helped for me to spend time and get to know the people I’d be working with, taking the ideas from Virginia Eubanks and Jane Addams of working closely with a small group of people over a large period of time. Eubanks lived next to the YWCA and Addams was at the Hull House. My goal is to help senior citizens become more aware of their relationship with technology and to help them establish a common connection with their peers. Together the individuals can develop a plan to move forward with their technology.
All of my goals are primarily taken from the ideas and framework of Virginia Eubanks and Diana Nucera. Nucera makes several points that technology learning is crucial to bring communities together, and in this instance individuals within communities. “Technology learning has been positioned as an individual endeavor. We are engaging media and technology as pathways for communities to learn together and to become connected with one another.” (Nucera).
Eubanks also fueled my idea for having a workshop primarily based on discussion, because she talked about the importance of engaging all people in a broader discussion about the relationships among technology, citizenship and social justice. She stresses how there is no room for a technology based change if there is not an increased awareness about how technology shapes our sense of community and self.
I thought senior citizens would be an important demographic and project because of many concepts we discussed this semester, including:
- Bridging the digital divide and working with communities of lower socio-economic status.
- Finding a greater meaning for people’s use of technical and research skills.
- Major questions about the shape and impacts of technological systems are too often answered by a small group of experts who typically have a limited understanding of the interaction between technology and everyday life. In a democratic society, it’s important for individuals to have a say in these matters and to do so people must be more informed, critical and thoughtful about these relationships. (Eubanks)
- In order for people to change and to learn, it is important for people to come together, which is something established from Diana Nucera in her talk. “In order for self transformation to happen, you need to know you’re not alone.” (Nucera)
Introduction and Ground Rules
Eubanks discussed the importance of explaining yourself and letting your participants to have a voice in what is happening, so that they can feel like equal members of the discussion. She also introduced the idea of ground rules which she said were very important to make everybody feel at ease in the situation.
What is Technology? Icebreaker
Using the technology icebreaker is a way to open everybody up and see what level the different participants are at, a method Eubanks often employs. Having the individuals pair up, helps them establish a common ground with another individual, aiding the other student’s major kindheartedness. Something Addams stressed was that people in lower socio-economic communities feel intimidated by something that is a charitable effort, they find themselves resisting the help.
Main Discussion and how technology plays into daily values
The main discussion is based primarily around the frameworks of guided inquiry. Guided inquiry is typically geared towards children but I found myself able to substitute senior citizens in for them. Both groups are comprised of people who have limited knowledge towards this topic (here saying technology) It may not be as easy to substitute in other topics.
I want the discussion questions to be guided by the K-W-L-F-U-N ideas. It’s important to extend this from just the KWL questions so that guided inquiry is used and the participants are pushed to a deeper level.
What do I know? (K)
What do I want to learn? (W)
What did I learn? (L)
How do I find out? (F)
How do I share what I learned? (U)
What will I do next time? (N)
It is also important to remember the process of guided inquiry and these points while facilitating the discussion. It is important to keep these ideas in mind during the discussion, because it will help me lead everybody in the proper direction based on their individual experiences.
-learn by being actively engaged in and reflecting on an experience
-learn by building on what you already know
-develop a high order of thinking through guidance at critical points in the learning process
-there’s different ways and modes of learning
-individuals learn through social interaction with others
-individuals learn through instruction and experience in accord with their cognitive experience
Connecting technology to a persons values relates to Eubanks and her research that people can offer solutions based on local knowledge and building networks based on truth, trust, reciprocity and reconciliation.
Reflection and discussion
The phases of reflection and discussion draw mainly from Stoecker and his ideas of participatory evaluation, which he says occurs when there’s a unified purpose and commitment to open participation, desire for organizational self reflection and improvement, and commitment to the time required to participate. All of these objectives should have ideally been established during the workshop which would allow participants to thoughtfully evaluate what they have learned and how they want to progress forward with that knowledge.
Giving the participants a hand out at the end of the workshop is an example of guided inquiry because the users are learning through different forms of technology than just discussion.
This workshop was an effort to bridge together several of the strongest ideas from our readings to create the best possible product for the women at Salem. Hopefully through the connection of these researchers, they can find a connection to others about their technological ideas.
Eubanks, V. (2011). Digital dead end: Fighting for social justice in the information age. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Kuhlthau, Carol C., Maniotes, Leslie K., & Caspari, Ann K. (2007). Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st Century. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited. Chapters 1, 2, & 6.
Nucera, Diana. “Detroit Future: A Media Based Economy.” Virtual, Champaign. 9 Oct. 2012. Lecture.
Stoecker, R. (2005). Research methods for community change: A project based approach. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.