Data Justice Presentation Cover Photo

Using Open Data & Open Source Tools to Support Social Services & Social Change

A presentation I gave at the Minnesota Social Services Association (MSSA) in March, 2014. This was the first iteration of an ongoing series of presentations and writing on the political economy and infrastructures of “data”, as well as the concept of #DataJustice.

The goals of this session were to: (1) spark conversation, debate, and collaboration around the use of open data in social services and social change; (2) engage participants in actively considering how open data might change their work; and (3) empower participants to take leadership in the growing open data and data justice movements within their field!

You can read the presentation narrative here and find the accompanying slides here.

by Moyan Brenn

A vision for a PARCMOOC (pronounced: PARK MOOC)

Okay, yes, the name is ridiculous. But I think there’s something in this idea. I want to mashup Participatory Action Research (PAR) and a Connectivist MOOC (cMOOC). I have a few topics in mind, but the organizing idea is actually most important to me at this point. The fact that it could be called a “PARC MOOC” makes me think of getting out, being outside, being with others in public, and I think that’s good imagery to start with.

I see Participatory Action Research as a methodology that has ethical implications for research practice. Ethically, it shifts social research from being about other people to research as an everyday practice we do with other people to change the political, social, cultural, and economic circumstances of our lives. It’s not empowering, it’s offering tools to be self-determining. There’s tons of writing that supports this shift on the grounds that it is a kind of research that really respects people. I also added the phrase “everyday practice”, because I think in the world we live in (especially in the West) requires research to skillfully and effectively navigate it. I agree with Arjun Appadurai’s assertion that research can no longer be considered a skill that scholars gain over time, but a right to which we all have access (See Appadurai – the Right to Research).Continue Reading A vision for a PARCMOOC (pronounced: PARK MOOC)

#OpenTogether: A Proposal for the Study & Practice of Openness

I joined the #OpenSource and Maker movements in my early teenage years, when I began building computers and teaching myself to write software, first in HTML and Basic, then Javascript and PHP and CSS. The Learning With New Media study entitled Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out tells the story my growing involvement in my teenage years with computers and the world of open source. I taught myself (and learned with friends) how to code, how to fix computers, how to build computers, and I gained a whole lot of practical experience programming. More importantly, I learned to be an autodidact. I’m always surprised when people tell me, “I don’t know how to do X.” I often respond with a friendly query: “Have you tried Googling it?” It’s my first default when it comes to learning something new. And if I’m interested enough, I pursue those new ideas with some serious tenacity.Continue Reading #OpenTogether: A Proposal for the Study & Practice of Openness

“The Educative Committee”

I was sitting this evening with a small group of students that are working as TAs for one of the classes I am teaching this Fall semester. On one of our many tangents, we spoke about one of our students and talked about how we had each relayed information about our interactions with this student to each other. The interaction reminded me of a paper I wrote a while back which I called “The Educative Committee.” My idea was that every student, every young person, should have a number of different people looking out for their learning and growth from a number of different perspectives. These people should be in constant communication, updating, supporting, and challenging each other to help each individual student grow.

At the time I wrote the paper, I recall feeling like something of an idealist. Yes, it was a great idea, but honestly, how could this ever happen? The simple logistics of having such a conversation are impossible, not to mention all the work that would be done to have to convince anyone that this was worthwhile. Impossible. Yet, here we were, doing just that. I quickly realized that this is what we do in our program generally. Once you are a student, you are welcomed into our community, and then each of us is looking out for your growth and development as much as possible.

So, why not do this more broadly? Maybe teachers should act less as instructors and more as conveners — bringing together the people necessary to move each person forward in their own learning trajectories. Certainly, there are many adults (and youth) interested in helping in our classrooms. Why not bring them in as learning mentors? Why not start building “educative committees” (though I suppose I like the term learning committees more).

I also find this inspiring because it puts everyone in the position of being an educator. If we are in someone’s life, we are also a part of their “learning committee”, and therefore are responsible for thinking about how they might grow, or what we might teach them.