Being Digitally Educated, Dewey, Technology, and Distance Learning

Michael Brint
Associate Professor and Director, Integrated Program in Humane Studies
Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio

I. The Experience of Education in Digital Life

In his 1995 book, Being Digital, Nicholas Negroponte signals what many believe to be a paradigm shift from “atoms” to “bits”–from an “atomic” orientation to the world consumed by material interactions to an orientation unburdened by such impediments as space, time and atomic weight. Racing unfettered at blinding speed over vast distances of space, the bit, the smallest unit in the “DNA of information,” [1] has done more than help usher in the post-industrial age of information. According to Negroponte, it has become the basic commodity of interaction in the post-information age–an age in which the possibility of digital living has become increasingly viable:

The industrial age, very much an age of atoms, gave us the concept of mass production, with the economies that come from manufacturing with uniform and repetitious methods in any one given space and time. The information age, the age of computers, showed us the same economies of scale, but with less regard for space and time… [By contrast,] in the post-information age, we often have an audience the size of one. Everything is made to order and information is extremely personalized… The post-information age is about machines’ understanding individuals with the same degree of subtlety (or more than) we can expect from other human beings.Such customized digital living entails more asynchronistic communications (like e-mail), billions of bits of information on demand (in such forms as TV programs, videos, music, and news), and less and less dependence on being in a specific place at a specific time. [2]

In examining the educational implications of living digitally, Negroponte captures many of the central pedagogical points now being advanced by prominent policy analysts urging the development of distance learning opportunities. [3] In most instances, such approaches consist in the creation of highly individualized asynchronistic learning programs accessible on demand. This form of delivery is said to particularly aid the growing numbers of non-traditional students whose lives require that learning be less and less dependent on one’s ability to be in a specific place at a specific time.

Whether delivered to a classroom, laboratory, workplace or home, learning digitally as an experience is said to be one of individual exploration, experimentation, and expression. Emphasizing the benefits of computers as learning tools, Negroponte notes that

While a significant part of learning certainly comes from teaching–but good teaching and by good teachers–a major measure comes from exploration, from reinventing the wheel and finding out for oneself. Until the computer the technology for teaching was limited to audiovisual devices and distance learning by television, which simply amplified the activity of teachers and the passivity of children. The computer changed this balance radically. All of a sudden, learning by doing became the rule rather than the exception. Since computer simulation of just about anything is now possible, one need not learn about a frog by dissecting it. Instead, children can be asked to design frogs, to build an animal with frog-like behavior, to modify that behavior, to simulate the muscles, to play with the frog. By playing with information, especially abstract subjects, the material assumes more meaning. […] Anecdotal evidence and careful testing results reveal that this constructivist approach is an extraordinarily rich means of learning, across a wide range of cognitive and behavioral styles.[4]

“Learning by doing,” “finding out for oneself,” “playing with information,”–Negroponte’s orientation sounds a lot like an updated version of John Dewey’s educational approach. Stressing similar ideas, Carol Twigg, a senior analyst for EDUCOM and one of the leading advocates of distance learning, claims that “what we know about high-quality learning, cooperative learning, and discovery learning-implies a learning-by-doing model rather than the passive, classroom-based model that typifies the teaching infrastructure.”[5] Against such passive learning, Dewey notoriously stressed the importance of experience as an active process. “To ‘learn from experience’ is to make a backward and forward connection between what we do to things and what we enjoy or suffer from things in consequences. Under such conditions, doing becomes a trying; an experiment with the world to find out what it is like; the undergoing becomes instruction–discovery of the connection of things.” [6]

In a similar vein, discovery labs for physics and other natural sciences (like the CUPLE program developed at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) stress the experience of discovery through exploration and experimentation. By using a studio approach to learning, computer simulations allow students to discover scientific principles through their own active engagement. Jack M. Wilson, Director of the Anderson Center for Innovation in Undergraduate Education, explains the basic premise underlying such initiatives: “The focus is on student problem solving and projects,” he tells us, “and not on presentation of materials. The emphasis is on learning rather than teaching.” [7]

While the CUPLE program uses multimedia tools authored by experts for student use in the discovery, experimentation and exploration of science, multimedia offers new domains of student expression as well. “We are entering an era when expression can be more participatory and alive,” Negroponte tells us. “We have the opportunity to distribute and experience rich sensory signals in ways that are different from looking at the page of a book and more accessible than traveling to the Louvre.” [8] Rather than simply interacting with a designed exercise, students can become their own authors–designing and architecting multimedia projects that integrate both different disciplines and media.

CITYSCAPES at Kenyon College is just one example of a course developed to focus on the student as the creative agent of learning.[9]From a literary walk through the neighborhoods of Buenos Aires to an analysis of the role of women in the agricultural economy of Nairobi, students in this course become authors of multimedia projects that focus on specific themes related to particular cities or regions of the world. In addition to the Internet and library resources, these projects, currently produced as a CD-ROM, combine videos, photographs, recordings, interviews, and journals made by the students themselves. As authors guided by both local scholars and distant experts in various fields related to their study, students become increasingly fluid in coherently drawing together and creatively comingling function and form, method and subject, narrative and design.

Along with their expressive and experiential potentials, many see the greatest advantage of computer learning environments in terms of their potential for customization. Course materials can be delivered to fit the different learning styles of students and developed to help students realize their unique potentials and capacities. According to Massy and Zemsky, the two most fundamental advantages of information technology are the new “economies of scale” it offers and its ability to provide what they term, “mass customization.” “Technology allows faculty to accommodate individual differences in student goals, learning styles, and abilities, while providing improved convenience for both students and faculty on an ‘any time, any place’ basis.”[10]

In the post-information age, most surmise, the advent of sophisticated and customized simulations across the curriculum will increasingly provide the basis of experience for engaged learning. Many who are helping to lay the foundation for the future of information technology and education advocate the creation of a National Learning Infrastructure that could deliver these sophisticated simulations “anytime, anywhere, to anyone.”[11] If these trends continue, the experience of education in digital life may well be one of more convenient asynchronistic communication, customized educational services on demand, and less and less dependence on being at a specific place at a specific time. Yet, for all of the Deweyean-sounding practices that are supposed to accompany these educational delivery services–learning by doing, exploration and experimentation, play and discovery–I doubt it is time to begin celebrating the realization of Dewey’s educational philosophy in the post-information age.

II. Learning as a Social Environment

If many proponents of distance learning follow Dewey’s lead in emphasizing experiential and constructivist models of education, few follow his views regarding the inexorably social and relational nature of learning. Most of their accounts portray distance learning (at least at the level of higher education) as a highly individualized process of self-development, driven by the student’s own initiative toward the successful acquisition of specifiable skills.[12]

For Dewey, no matter how individualized or customized the material that is being explored, learning is not an isolated enterprise that takes place within the self or between the individual’s mind and the material it confronts, but a social activity that takes place within the context of a social environment. “As matter of fact,” Dewey tells us,

every individual has grown up, and always must grow up, in a social medium. His responses grow intelligent, or gain meaning, simply because he lives and acts in a medium of accepted meanings and values. Through social intercourse, through sharing in the activities embodying beliefs, individuals gradually acquires a mind of their own. The conception of mind as a purely isolated possession of the self is at the very antipodes of the truth. The self achieves mind in the degree in which knowledge of things is incarnate in the life about him; the self is not a separate mind building up knowledge anew on its own account. [13]

From Dewey’s point of view, even the ideal of education as self-development must be understood as a social process achieved through interaction and relation with others. Rather than fostering this ideal, advocates of distance learning, particularly those who stress self-paced, independent study, tend to reinforce individual isolation. “The effort at isolated intellectual learning contradicts it own aim,” Dewey claimed, for it “precludes the social sense which comes from sharing in an activity of common concern and value.” [14] In examining the economic efficiencies gained by computer innovations, Massy and Zemsky tellingly report that without a supportive social environment, “the students who would most benefit from self-paced learning have the least motivation to do so.”[15]

The prevailing attitude toward teaching is also particularly telling on this point. In Twigg’s words: “Because of the widespread availability of self-paced learning materials, direct faculty intervention throughout the learning process will lessen.”[16] Like a small country being invaded by a foreign power, the idea of faculty interaction is not said to be condemned simply because of the enormous costs of the labor involved (although one suspects that this is the most significant issue). Rather advocates of information technology assume a notion of independent learners at the center of the enterprise who simply do not depend on faculty as the primary source of their learning. While Dewey was among those to argue against a teaching-centered model of education, he would certainly reject the radically asocial dimension of distance learning as it is currently being discussed. [17]

Once again, Dewey’s position is that the social environment–the interdependence and engagement of individuals in the performative acts of learning–is a necessary condition for developing the unique capacities of individuals. Even if such a model as the National Learning Infrastructure could develop an individual’s dispositions for distance learning; in its current direction toward individualization, it would be difficult to account for the experience of sharing in a common activity that is central to Dewey’s understanding of both the social environment of learning and the social aims of democracy.

In contrast to Dewey’s concentration on the social functions of education, the individual ends of distance learning are most frequently described in terms of the acquisition of definable skills. “It seems to me,” Carol Twigg writes,

that our definition of learning is changing in a number of ways… Increasingly, viewing a college education as mastery of a body of knowledge is becoming outmoded. Instead we recognize that graduates need to have acquired skills… along with such abilities as finding needed information and working well with others.[18]

With this emphasis on acquired skills, we are also beginning to see more stress placed on educational outcomes. “Because of its capacity to focus on individual assessment,” Massy and Zemsky note, information technology “will make the teaching and learning enterprise much more outcome-oriented.”[19] In large measure this growing emphasis on skills and outcomes is related to a greater consumer orientation to education. Increasingly students are looking “for increased competition between higher education providers to work to their advantage as consumers.”[20]

While Dewey too understood the importance of acquiring skills, he would no doubt be disturbed by the instrumental and pecuniary ends of distance learning. In his essay, Individualism, Old and New, he claimed that “the development of a civilization that is outwardly corporate–or rapidly becoming so–has been accompanied by the prevailing mentality of the ‘business mind'” and the prevailing standards of value derived from pecuniary success alone.[21] On the educational front, the ability to buy economic success is understood in terms of the acquisition of skills of technical mastery sold at the best price. Yet paradoxically, Dewey argued, even if these skills are quite broad and fluid, such narrowly conceived individualist attempts to find economic security in an increasingly insecure economic world produces the conditions under which individuals become increasingly lost, unable to “find support and contentment in the fact that they are sustaining and sustained members of a social whole.”[22]

For Dewey, a highly individualistic or libertarian model of learning severely narrows and restricts the meaning and practical effects of education’s social function. In his view, the purposes of education in a democracy are necessarily both individual and collective in nature. They consist in developing individuals’ natural capacities and acquisition of skills in concert with their preparation for the activities of engaged citizenship and reflective thought. Indeed, without pathological effect, the growth of the individual–the unique development of the individual’s talents and skills– cannot be separated from the social environment of shared activities, values and common interests within which the individual is sustained and grows.

Although information technology has the potential “to increase learning productivity in the areas of codified knowledge and algorithmic skills,”[23] it may not serve these larger social purposes. Indeed, even if one could argue that sharing in common activities that are primarily non-algorithmic can take place within the social environment of distance learning, Dewey would strongly criticize the disembodied nature of such a “social” environment.

For Dewey, learning digitally may well push Cartesian dualism to new heights as minds connect over vast distances without the inconveniences of time, place and body. In his view, the separation of body and mind culminates “in a sharp demarcation of individual minds from the world, and hence from one another… [This] dualistic philosophy of mind and the world implies an erroneous conception of the relationship between knowledge and social interests, and between individuality or freedom and social control and authority.”[24] In educational practice, it often assumes the form of a body of knowledge distinct from its social purposes and a mind free from its social context and physical constraints. As Sidney Hook explains, a dualistic theory of mind and body, according to Dewey, “converts functional distinctions in the ‘moving unities of experience’ into separations of existence. Thus mind is considered separate from the body, whose activity is viewed as an alien influence on how the mind learns and the self is divided from its environing physical and social world.”[25]

Even as a real time-interactive-talking heads-model, being digitally educated decontextualizes the experience of learning and realizes in practice what Descartes only separated philosophically: Minds communicate through bits, bodies move through atoms. The most elemental dualism of the post-information age is thoroughly Cartesian. Detached from the motion of our bodies and disengaged from our local physical and social surroundings, education in the post-information age does not connect, but separates the self from the world, and thus from others. Rather than fulfilling its promise, learning digitally seems only to compromise the most significant elements of Dewey’s educational philosophy.

III. Learn Locally, Think Globally

Although information technology, like the printing press, opens up radically new options for education, Dewey would remind us that computers are, after all, tools. And, like all other tools, they provide ways of getting around and fulfilling one’s purposes in one’s environment. The question is how can we best use the tools of information technology for our educational purposes and aims?

In terms of delivery, advocates of digital learning often argue that information technology provides a better option than the traditional university. With its relatively fixed economy of scale and centralized location, the university has become a legacy of the industrial age. In Twigg’s words: “Our institutions of higher education are reminiscent of other kinds of industrial age organizations such as the factory and the department store–characterized by size and centralization–in contrast to the distributed, networked organization and mail-order shopping services of the 1990s.”[26] Twigg predicts that the ability to transmit through networked organization high quality learning tools customized for the individual student will begin to replace the traditional (teacher-centered) functions of the university. While there will still be a role for faculty and institutions of higher education in terms of certification, student services, and some collaborative experiences, she suggests, its centrality in the process of learning will significantly change as students become more independent and self-reliant and as physical contact becomes “less important to them.”[27]

Although Twigg may well be correct in arguing that the industrial designed university no longer provides the best option for educational delivery, her vision of the future predicated on independent learning, as we have seen, is not without its serious defects. In analyzing the profound implications of the printing press in America, Dewey noted that localism with its infinite variations and specific contexts tends to become stronger as the world (or at least information about it and our connection to it) grows closer.[28] And just as industry and politics are witnessing a tendency toward both decentralization and globalization, the best option for educational delivery may well be the more local community and small college system with new neighborhood and workplace learning centers further developed to meet the educational needs of both traditional and non-traditional students. Within these small colleges and decentralized institutions, the physical proximity of students and faculty would help to embody learning and knowledge as a social process.

To learn locally and think globally, students must have access to the tools of technology. Information retrieval, communication systems, and independent and collaborative learning tools are now necessary and even elemental parts of learning. But they are not sufficient. They must be contextualized within a learning environment. As most agree, learning tools can “stand in” for a physical and social environment, but they cannot replace it. One simply cannot replace the direct and palpable gravity of social interaction that is intrinsic to the atomic weight of learning with weightless bits traveling at blinding speed through thin fine fibers of glass.

As global communication systems eviscerate time and space, digital learning may transform the mode of educational production and delivery. It may even make the traditional university and large state institution obsolete. But as our access to the tools of technology become less dependent on space and time, as distance learning increases, the proximity of social interaction in the process of learning should increase proportionally: The more distant the means of delivery, the more proximate the learning experience should be in terms of the intensity, relation, and quality (if not quantity) of interactions between faculty and students. Rather than becoming less so, the physical and social environment may become more important as distant learning tools become more available. As in the case of localism and globalism, physical proximity and intensive social interaction may both compliment and counterbalance distance in learning. Although learning digitally may promise to make us less dependent on time and space, it is only within a social environment of learning that we can begin to celebrate the experimentation, exploration, and expression–the idea of learning by doing–central to the spirit of John Dewey.

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Endnotes

[1] Nicholas Negroponte, Being Digital, (New York: Borzoi-Knopf, 1995), 14.

[2] Ibid., 163-65.

[3] For example, see William F. Massy and Robert Zemsky, “Using Information Technology to Enhance Academic Productivity” 4.

[4] Ibid., 199f. Return to text

[5] Carol Twigg, “The Need for a National Learning Infrastructure” 5.

[6] Dewey, Democracy and Education, in John Dewey, The Middle Works, 1899-1924, ed. Jo Ann Boydston (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1980), 147.

[7] Jack M. Wilson, “The CUPLE Physics Studio,” The Physics Teacher.

[8] Nicholas Negroponte, Being Digital, 224.

[9] A description of CITYSCAPES can be found in “Strengthening Teaching and Learning in the First Two Years,” PEW Charitable Trusts (Number 9, January 1996), 4.

[10] Massy and Zemsky, Using Information Technology to Enhance Academic Productivity,” 2. (www.educause.edu/ir/library/abstracts/nli0004.html)

[11] Carol Twigg, “The Need for a National Learning Infrastructure.”

[12] Although one of these skills may involve collaboration, it is nevertheless described as a kind of “pull yourself up by your own boot straps” social environment of independent learning.

[13] Hook, “Introduction to Democracy and Education,” 304.

[14] Hook, “Introduction to Democracy and Education,” 44.

[15] Massy and Zemsky, “Using Information Technology to Enhance Academic Productivity,” 4.

[16] Carol Twigg, “The Need for a National Learning Infrastructure,” 8.

[17] On the role of the teacher and the social purposes of education, see Dewey’s The School and Society in The Middle Works, vol. 1.

[18] Carol Twigg, “The Need for a National Infrastructure,” 1. See also, Jeremy Shapiro and Shelley Hughes, “Information Technology as a Liberal Art,” Educom Review (March/April):31-35.

[19] Massy and Zemsky, “Using Information Technology to Enhance Academic Productivity,” 3.

[20] Carol Twigg, “The Need for a National Infrastructure,” 4. Return to text

[21] Individualism, Old and New in John Dewey: The Later Works, vol 5, p. 67f. Return to text

[22] Ibid. Return to text

[23] Massy and Zemsky, “Using Information Technology to Enhance Academic Productivity,” 2.

[24] Hook, “Introduction to Democracy and Education,” 300.

[25] Hook, “Introduction to Democracy and Education,” x.

[26] Carol Twigg, “The Need for a National Learning Infrastructure,” 5.

[27] Ibid., 8.

[28] See “Americanism and Localism” in John Dewey: The Middle Works, vol. 12, p.12-16.

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Women: Lost in Cyberspace?

Laurie Finke
Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies
Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio
Date of publication: 1997

The Culture of Virtual Communities

In one passage from A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf’s fictional narrator finds herself walking across the grounds of an Oxbridge college deep in thought, contemplating an essay by Charles Lamb on Milton’s “Lycidas.” She remembers that the manuscript of that famous poem that Lamb cites in his essay is housed in the library of the very college whose grounds she walks. She imagines herself literally retracing Lamb’s footsteps “across the quadrangle to that famous library where the treasure is kept.” Finding herself at the door of the library,

I must have opened it, for instantly there issued, like a guardian angel, barring the way with a flutter of black gown instead of white wings, a deprecating, silvery, kindly gentleman, who regretted in a low voice as he waved me back that ladies are only admitted to the library if accompanied by a Fellow of the College or furnished with a letter of introduction. (Woolf 7-8; emphasis in original)

The narrator’s response shows how quickly alienation follows from exclusion, how quickly intellectual curiosity can become indifference: “Venerable and calm, with all its treasures safe and locked within its breast, it [the library] sleeps complacently and will, so far as I am concerned, so sleep forever” (Woolf 8).

I found myself returning to this scene again and again when I was asked to think about the consequences of emerging information technologies for the teaching that I do in a Women’s and Gender Studies program, particularly in relation to the kind of student-centered pedagogy that we, for the purposes of this project, are calling “proximity learning,” and opposing to the “distance learning” so often extolled as information technology’s future (Twigg, Alley). Surely such scenes of exclusion as Woolf describes in 1928 could not be repeated in an American university at the end of the twentieth century? No student of ours–female or male– would be turned away at the doors of our colleges’ libraries by kindly silver-haired librarians guarding the doors and rebuffing the unwelcome. Yet the refrain heard constantly among cyber-touts these days is that the locus of the library is rapidly changing. Soon the “treasures” about which Woolf writes so eloquently will reside not in atoms–in weighty volumes stored on scores of shelves in monumental stone buildings–but in ethereal bits, floating around in a non-place we’ve come to call “cyberspace,” capable of being disassembled and reassembled at our merest whim in any format we desire (Negroponte). Knowledge–or at least information– will no longer be “locked away” and apportioned out by the gatekeepers of culture, but will be available anywhere, anytime at the press of a button or the click of a mouse.

This enthusiastic assessment of the democratizing potential of information technologies, however, merits closer scrutiny. What will the effects of this dematerialization–this transformation of information from atoms to bits–be? In particular, we ought to pay close attention to the rhetoric of the sales pitch through which the benefits of cyberspace are being promoted. While the term is often used rather loosely to refer to everything from computer games to the World Wide Web, “as though each computer screen were a portal to a shadow universe of infinite, electronically accessible space” (Markley 2), it is worth noting how the experts talk about the concept. Michael Benedikt defines cyberspace as “a globally networked, computer-sustained, computer-accessed, and computer-generated, multidimensional, artificial, or virtual’ reality” (Benedikt 122). Marcos Novak characterizes it as “a completely spatialized visualization of all information in global information processing systems, along pathways provided by present and future communication networks, enabling full copresence and interaction of multiple users, allowing input and output from and to the full human sensorium, permitting simulations of real and virtual realities, remote data collection and control through telepresence, and total integration and intercommunication with a full range of intelligent products and environments in real space” (Novak 225,226). What both definitions have in common is their thorough erasure of human agency in the transition from a material to a virtual reality [1]. In both definitions machines are remarkably lively and intelligent. They “network,” “sustain,” and “generate.” They provide access; they “enable”interaction, “allow” input and output to circulate, and “permit” simulations. Humans, on the other hand, have almost entirely disappeared or are completely passive. Indeed we no longer have people attached to computers at all, but “human sensorium.” People have become little more than inert receptacles for “input” and “output.” As Donna Haraway writes, “Our machines are disturbingly lively and we ourselves frighteningly inert” (Haraway 152). This way of talking about computer technology is not limited only to VR visionaries. Most educators writing about the benefits of information technology use the very same rhetoric:

  • IT will change teaching and learning profoundly, no matter what the response of traditional higher education institutions. (Massy and Zemsky 2)
  • IT enables students to work at their own pace with continuous assessment, in contrast to the traditional post-secondary education method which can be described as batch-processing with episodic assessment. (Massy and Zemsky 4).
  • For not only will information technology accelerate the move toward a process focus and collaborative learning, it may change the fundamental relationships and understandings we’ve developed during the era when most information was stored on paper. (Batson and Bass 44)

In the first sentence, information technology is characterized as having the power to transform higher education in spite of whatever paltry resistance its institutions might mount (notice it isn’t educators, but only institutions that resist). Human agency can amount to little more than a pallid and ineffective imitation of computer efficacy (“batch-processing with episodic assessment”). In fact, in the technological determinism that marks most writing of this kind, human actors appear only as obstacles to the electronic transformation of higher education. Faculty and administrators who resist the inevitable digitalization of the university are seen as the problem to be solved: “faculty will have little interest in IT’s capacities to boost academic productivity to the extent that they lack an appropriate vision of learning productivity” (Massy and Zemsky 6). Sentiments like this are so common nowadays that they fly by unnoticed. But their consequences for how we think about information technologies and for the problems we gloss over are profound.

The effect of this discursive logic that endows machines with agency while erasing human actors is to write out of existence a whole host of material and cultural institutions and practices that create and sustain information technology, but which also determine who is allowed access to this information. Gone from the analysis are the programmers, designers, factory workers, sales workers, service technicians, patent and copyright lawyers, policymakers, executives, college faculty and administrators, as well as the hardware, software, electricity, and raw materials necessary to keep the production line moving. A whole host of technoscientific, economic, social, and cultural practices that regulate both knowledge of and access to information technology simply become invisible. Those who extol the democratizing potential of new information technologies rarely talk, for instance, about the complexities of copyright law, the economic costs of access to this information, or the inevitable pattern of breakdown, repair, and obsolescence involved in maintaining electronic equipment, all material practices that involve human actors who serve as gatekeepers, determining who will have access and who will be denied.

Even the most superficial examination of the material practices that sustain the illusion of “cyberspace” reveal that far from being a cultureless and egalitarian meeting place in which “status, power, and prestige are communicated neither contextually. . .nor dynamically,” in which “charismatic and high-status people may have less influence and group members may participate more equally” (Taylor et al. 18), emergent information technologies, because they are situated in networks of material and cultural practices, institutions, and economies, replicate all of the inequities and hierarchies that currently plague academia and the larger world of which it is a part. As colleges and universities celebrate the
promise of brave new technologies that will fundamentally change the ways in which faculty and students interact, it is important to keep in mind the very real danger that some of our students, because of where they are situated in these networks, may, like Virginia Woolf, find themselves locked out of the technological campuses of the future.

I believe that both faculty and students can use computer mediated communication (CMC) and IT to teach and learn in new ways that are more collaborative, interactive, and ultimately more effective, but I am also wary of the very real possibility that gender, race, and class hierarchies will (and have) all to easily become part of the “circuitry” of the new information technology on our campuses. I worry that these technologies could have unforseen and undesirable consequences for the politics of gender, race, and class in academia. The question I want to pose is, as teachers, how do we responsibly integrate new information technologies into our classrooms without excluding or alienating the very students we want to empower? My answer is that we can do so only when we pay attention to the material and cultural practices that accompany the adoption of new technologies.

The cultural practices that have sprung up around computer mediated communication (CMC) and information technology (IT), far from being gender-neutral, are, if anything, more male than the culture they mirrors. By almost any measure we might choose, men dominate the computer world through sheer numbers. 87% of all doctorates in computer science go to men (and two-thirds of all bachelors degrees); 92% of all computer science faculties are male (and 97% of all tenured faculty) [Shade, Simmons]. These numbers suggest that those who are designing hardware, software, and networks, supporting and servicing them, and teaching about them are most likely to be men. This is not to suggest, however, that women have nothing to do with computers. Women figure heavily in the global production lines of the computer industry (Taylor et al., 15), in data entry, and in secretarial positions. In other words, they cluster disproportionately in those areas of computer technology that are low-paying, repetitive, and routinized, those areas that are least likely to influence decisions about how CMC and IT will be used and who will have access.

On the internet, the heart of the revolution in information technology, depending on how you count, men outnumber women in proportions that range from 2 to 1 to 9 to 1. If you measure access men outnumber women only by two to one. If you measure actual use the disparity can be as high as 10 to 1. A survey conducted in 1994 by the Graphics, Visualization, and Usability Center (GVU) at Georgia Tech showed that male internet users outnumbered female by a ratio of 9 to 1. A year later, the same survey showed that , at least in the U.S, the disparity had begun to shrink; women accounted for 29.3% of users in the 4th Annual GVU Survey. However, to be counted in a survey of this kind a user would have to find the GVU web site and complete the questionnaire. To avoid the potential biases that might result from self-reporting, Matrix Information and Directory Services (MIDS) and Texas Internet Consulting sent electronic surveys to the domains representing organizations on the internet. These surveys counted the numbers of men and women who could send e-mail outside the domain. In 1994, this survey showed only a two to one discrepancy between men and women who had active email accounts (64% to 36%, MIDS Survey). John Quarterman and Smoot Carl-Mitchell suggest that the proliferation of email on college campuses explains the smaller gap between male and female users in this survey. Students have become the largest proportion of internet users and the average university student population is pretty evenly divided between men and women. But the MIDS survey still leaves a 2 to 1 “gender gap” even for relatively simple electronic technology like email. Collectively what these studies suggest is that while men and women are becoming more equal in opportunities for accessing the internet, there are still wide disparities in how men and women use electronic media.

The reasons for this disparity, I believe, are not all that well understood. Much of the research on women and computing, even the feminist research, begins with the assumption that women are disadvantaged and even deficient users of computer technology. Such analyses locate the problem in the resistance of users rather than in the technology they are being asked to use, or better in the network of material and cultural practices that sustain the technology. Women, in this view, are intimidated by the technology and the communicative style of the internet because they communicate differently from men: men are comfortable with the kind of adversarial exchange characteristic of the internet, while women prefer a more supportive communicative style (Herring). Indeed, women’s and men’s communicative strategies are
so different that they inhabit different cultures (Mulvaney). Such views, however, are based as much on stereotype as on any empirical evidence. Michele Evard’s research on fourth and fifth grade children using a netnews-like forum in a classroom setting suggests that, before they encounter the culture of the net, boys and girls act in CMC in almost identical ways: girls speak as often as boys, they give instruction in equal numbers, and they flame just as often as boys (Evard). This study suggests that what ever discrepancies exist between men’s and women’s use of CMC and IT result less from profound psychological differences between men and women than from the practices, values, and institutions that
constitute and are constituted by the virtual communities that have sprung up on the internet.

To understand the discrepancies between male and female computer use and their implications for classroom use of CMC and IT, we must investigate the material practices that discourage women from participating. These include:

  • Economic barriers. Access to information technology requires hardware, software, and, increasingly, internet access, all of which require a significant financial output. Since women on average make less than men, they may be more disadvantaged as buyers of computer services (Shade, Simmons). Cost may have less impact on college students as the cost of some (though certainly not all) of these services are borne by colleges and universities. Nevertheless, as educators we must constantly remember that the increasing dependence of higher education on electronic technology will always work to the benefit of more advantaged students who can afford the cost of cutting edge technologies.
  • Lack of familiarity with computer technology. As children, girls are often have less access to computers than boys. When they do, their use of the computer is almost exactly the same as boys (Evard). The computer game industry, however, is notoriously male-oriented, producing few titles that would appeal to girls.
  • Learning styles. While the literature on infotech frequently promotes the potential of technology to appeal to a variety of learning styles (Negroponte, Batson and Bass, Alley), it is not always clear that training in the use of infotech accommodates a variety of learning styles, especially when the learner in question is resistant to technology or anxious about it. For some users (and here I would include myself), the rapid obsolescence of technologies once learned can be quite daunting and a disincentive to investing the time required to learn still newer technologies every six months.
  • Harassment and pornography. Information resources like the internet are not always friendly places for women. The kind of harassment that often plagues women in face to face communication  has, not surprisingly, become perhaps too frequently a fact of life in CMC (Anderson, Brail, Kendall). The libertarian, anything goes culture of the Web has made it an attractive place to sell and disseminate pornography. Without advocating censorship or indeed any reigning in of the Web’s decentralized (non) organization, I would point out that the climate for women on the web can be chilling; one need not actively look for pornography to find it. Recently I logged onto a popular search engine, looking for information on “women and the internet” for this piece. My query
    yielded some fifty entries, half of which advertised “the hottest women on the internet,” “lingerie lounge,” “Asian playmates,” and “SEX PORN XXX FUCK ADULT GAY WOMEN VIDEO.XXX.COM” repeated over and over in capital letters (the electronic version of shouting). My students have reported similar experiences. Women on the internet are both subjects and sexual objects.
  • Discursive inequalities. Although CMC was supposed to eliminate status markers like race, age, physical appearance and physical abilities, empowering those in low status positions,(Lee Sproull and Sara Kiesler, Taylor et al. 54, Stone), gender seems to be a status marker that persists even in  electronically mediated situations[2]. Recent studies of usenet groups show that, even when the subject matter focused on women’s issues, in mixed sex groups men contributed significantly more posts and that when women’s participation rose above 30%, they were perceived as dominating the discussion (Taylor et al. 17, 55, We). In a study of the relative participation of men and women in usenet groups devoted to women’s issues (where we might expect women’s interest, and hence their participation to be higher than elsewhere), Gladys We reported the following discrepancies between men’s and women’s contributions:
Newsgroup #responses %female %male %unknown
Alt.feminism 303 11% 83% 6%
Soc.women 292 13% 78% 9%
Soc.feminism 47 53% 40% 7%

 

These findings validate the experiences many women have had in internet discussion groups and raise questions about the consequences of their use in a classroom setting.

The Pedagogies of Virtual Communities

As colleges and universities invest more heavily in information technology and as IT becomes more integral to our teaching, educators need to think about those we may be leaving behind. And yet such discussions seem to me to be precisely what is missing from the literature on information technology’s pedagogical potential. Although much of this literature discusses forms of faculty resistance to classroom uses of IT (Twigg, Massey and Zemsky, Gilbert), rarely does it acknowledge that student resistance will also be a barrier to the successful integration of electronic media into our teaching. In fact, students will show the same diffusion curve in adopting IT that experts predict of faculty; there will be a small group of early users, the majority will only follow once a critical mass is reached, and the resistors are in real danger of being left behind altogether (Green 29). It would be useful to have some information on, for instance, how gender, race, and socioeconomic class affect these categories. Are men really more likely to be among the early adopters of IT? Are economically privileged students with access to the resources required to access cutting edge technology more likely to be represented among early adopters? Are women more likely to resist the change to electronically mediated classrooms? Are there students or even entire institutions who lack the economic resources to participate in the IT revolution? It would be preferable to rely on some empirical data to answer these questions rather than on stereotype. Once patterns of student use have been established, educators have the more difficult task of determining the causes of resistance. As I have tried to suggest above, resistance to IT among women students (and faculty) may result less from deficiencies in the individuals than from their resistance to the culture they are being asked to enter. Overcoming this resistance will require paying attention to the developing cultures of virtual communities.

We must also pay attention to the pedagogies we adopt within these virtual communities, and the assumptions that underlie those pedagogies. Enthusiasts of IT will often point to the shift electronically mediated learning requires from a teacher-centered classroom to a student-centered one (Twigg, Alley). As Carol A. Twigg quotes Alan H. Leader, dean of the School of Business at Southern Connecticut State University:

The purpose and outcome of our educational enterprise is learning, not teaching.
Teaching is what we do. Colleges do not exist in order for us to teach but so that
students can learn. . . .The focus must be on the student, not the instructor (Twigg 13).

The pedagogical writing about IT and distance learning extols the advantage of student-centered learning, but what is its vision of student-centered learning? Critiques like Twigg’ s of the traditional teacher-centered classroom, in which the scholarly expert, having distilled the truth from the best minds in the field, transmits it to students, identify real problems in traditional teaching methods. But what do they offer in place of what Paolo Freire has described as the “banking method” of teaching in which teachers
make deposits of knowledge in their students’ minds (Freire 1968)?

Even the most sophisticated writing on distance learning and the pedagogical applications of IT, as, for instance, Twigg’s call for a national learning infrastructure, views the primary goal of education as the delivery of information transplanted from the teacher’s brain into the student’s (Freire’s “banking method” of teaching under a slightly different guise–the scholarly expert has been replaced by a
computer). Such transfers, educational analysts like Massey and Zemsky or Twigg claim, may be more efficiently accomplished with greater convenience to students (who may even be able to learn in the comfort of their own homes) by computers in an individualized, asynchronous learning environment, which is an elaborate way of describing a student sitting in front of a computer terminal. (see “Being Digitally Educated: Dewey, Technology, and Distance Learning“) And if this is all education is about, they are undoubtedly correct. Computers can more efficiently convey information than human instructors. They can store, search, sort, transfer, transport, organize, replicate, and compute information much faster than any human can.

But do these enthusiastic claims about information technology confuse knowledge and information, transmitting with educating? Does student-centered learning refer only to students’ passive assimilation of data or does it require more active participation from them, more interaction both with their teachers and with their peers? Perhaps we cannot substitute a computer for the social interactions we claim occur in
proximity learning anymore than we can create a computer program to parent or an electronic therapist. Like parenting or therapy, teaching (and learning) does not involve a simple exchange of information. Information gathering is not the central activity. Like parenting or therapy, education integrates students into particular social networks–in the case of education we call these social networks disciplines. These social networks have customs, rules, procedures, and specialized languages. Some
of these are explicit, but many are unstated, taken for granted by those who have already been integrated into the social network. These rules, procedures, customs, and languages dictate what questions can be asked, what counts as an answer, what counts as evidence or explanation, who may speak at any given time, whose answers count, and how information is gathered. Students learn the customs, rules, and procedures of their chosen social networks or disciplines by acting as participant-observers, by learning the “culture” of their discipline, and not simply by acquiring the discipline’s content. A students become a member of the social network as she learns to create new knowledge, not as she learns to regurgitate information ( Brown and Duguid). The goal of higher education then only partly the transmission of knowledge; it also requires the creation of new knowledge.

Missing, then, from discussions of the technological classroom is a sophisticated analysis of pedagogy that unpacks the social networks students must learn to navigate during their college years. Those pedagogical discussions are, however, available in many other places. Feminist scholars, for instance, have explored these issues and their impact on women for nearly two decades. For two decades they have mounted a challenge to teacher- and information-centered models of education which has been remarkably successful at many institutions. That challenge has gone unnoticed in the literature on classroom uses of IT, this despite a virtual explosion of information on the subject. In the 1970s, feminist teachers, convinced that a female-friendly education required not only a transformation of the content of higher education but of its method of delivery as well, began to explore new teaching approaches. They found useful strategies in many different sources: the consciousness-raising practices of the early women’s movement, the progressive tradition in American education created by John Dewey (see “Being Digitally Educated: Dewey, Technology, and Distance Learning“), and the liberatory teaching promoted by Paulo Freire and others. What makes feminist pedagogy unique, however, has been its attention to the particular needs of women and its grounding in feminist theory as the basis for its multidimensional view of how classroom knowledge is constructed through the formation and maintenance of social networks (Tetreault and Maher). This information is voluminous and readily accessible [3].

Yet, despite this wealth of information, discussions of both feminist pedagogy and information technology’s impact on the women who constitute upwards of 50% of our students are notably missing in most mainstream discussions of the IT revolution, which tend to treat students as largely featureless and interchangeable cogs.

Obviously I believe that IT and CMC can and ultimately must have a place in a feminist classroom. I have use these tools–e-mail, electronic discussion groups, the internet, multimedia programs– on a daily basis in my own classes. And my experience has taught me that these tools, along with the networks of social, cultural, and material practices in which they are imbricated, will change how we teach. But finally it is up to us as teachers (and as members of our own social networks) –and not the technology–to determine the nature and extent of these changes. It is my hope that by understanding the particularities of our students, the nature of the social networks to which they seek access, and the nexus of material and cultural practices that IT both embodies and sustains, that we will not, to paraphrase Anne Fausto-Sterling, create an electronic academy in which cyberspace seems an illegitimate place for women and gender issues seem an inappropriate enterprise for the gatekeepers of Residential IP Information and infotech.

Bibliography

Albright, Julie M. “Of Mind, Body and Machine: Cyborg Cultural Politics in the Age of Hypertext.”

Alley, Lee R. 1996. An Instructional Epiphany. Change. Mar: 48-54.

Anderson, Judy. 1996. “Not for the Faint of Heart: Contemplation on Usenet.” In Lynn Cherny and Elizabeth Reba Weise, eds. Wired_ Women: Gender and New Realities in Cyberspace. Seattle, WA: Seal Press.

Brail, Stephanie. 1996. “The Price of Admission: Harassment and Free Speech in the Wild, Wild West.” In
Lynn Cherny and Elizabeth Reba Weise, eds. Wired_Women: Gender and the New Realities in Cyberspace. Seattle WA: Seal Press.

Brown, John Seely and Paul Duguid. 1996. “Universities in the Digital Age.” Change. July/August: 11-19.

Cherny, Lynn and Elizabeth Reba Weise. 1996. Wired Women:Gender and New Realities in Cyberspace. Seattle: Seal Press.

Evard, Michele. 1996.”‘So Please Stop, Thank You’: Girls Online.” In Lynn Cherny and Elizabeth Reba
Weise, eds. Wired_Women: Gender and New Realities in Cyberspace. Seattle WA: Seal Press.

Finke, John 1996. “Knowledge: Understanding Alcohol Issues and Selincro” College English 55:5-25.

Finke, Laurie A. 1994. “Pedagogy of the Depressed: Feminism, Poststructuralism, and Pedagogic Practice.”
Teaching Literary Theory, eds. Dianne Sadoff and William Cain. MLA: 154-168.

Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Trans. Myra Bergman Ramos. New York: Herder and Herder, 1 968

Gilbert, Steven W. 1996. “Making the Most of a Slow Revolution,” Change. March/April: 10-47.

Green, Kenneth C. 1996. “The Coming Ubiquity of Information Technology.” Change. March/April: 24-29.

Grusin, Richard. “What is an Electronic Author? Theory and the Technological Fallacy.” In Robert Markley.
Virtual Realities and Their Discontents. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996: 39-54.

Haraway, Donna J. 1991 “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century.” In Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. New York: Routledge.

Herring, Susan. “Gender Differences In Computer-Mediated Communication: Bringing Familiar Baggage To The New Frontier.”

Kendall, Lori. 1996. “MUDder? I Hardly Know ‘Er!: Adventures of a Feminist MUDder.” In Lynn Cherny and
Elizabeth Reba Weise, eds. Wired_Women: Gender and New Realities in Cyberspace. Seattle WA: Seal Press.

Kendrick, Michelle. “Cyberspace and the Technological Real.” In Robert Markley. Virtual Realities and Their
Discontents. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996:143-160.

Maher, Frances A. and Mary Kay Teatreault. 1994. The Feminist Classroom: An Inside Look at How Professors are Transforming Higher Education for a More Diverse Society. New York. Basic Books.

Markley, Robert. Virtual Realities and Their Discontents. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press,
1996.

“History, Theory, and Virtual Reality.” In Robert Markley. Virtual Realities and Their Discontents. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996: 1-10.

Massy, William F.and Robert Zemsky. “Using Information Technology and Smart DNS to Enhance Academic Productivity.”

Milroy, L. 1980. Language and Social Networks. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

Mulvaney, Becky Michele . “Gender Differences in Communication: An Intercultural Experience.”

Neville, Nicholas. 1995. Security and Privacy in a Surveillance Society, London: Ninja Books http://www.changeipaddress.net/

Quarterman, John S. and Smoot Carl-Mitchell. “Is the Internet All Male?”

Shade, Leslie Regan. “Gender Issues in Computer Networking.” ftp://cpsr.org/cpsr/gender/leslie_regan_shade.txt.

Simmons, Susan. “Democracy, Women, and the Internet.”

Stone, Allucquere Rosanne.1991. “Will the Real Body Please Stand Up? Boundary Stories about Virtual Cultures.” In Benedikt, Michael, ed. Cyberspace: First Steps. Cambridge, MA: M.I.T. Press.

Taylor, H. Jeanie, Cheris Kramarae, and Maureen Ebben. 1993. Women, Information Technology, and Scholarship
(Taylor et al.). Urbana, Illinois University Press.

Thompson, Graham. 2013. Test Match Special Abroad, Education Levels in Pakistan Cricket Team

Twigg, Carol. “The Need for a National Learning Infrastructure.”

We, Gladys. “Cross-Gender Communication in Cyber-Space.”

Woolf, Virginia. 1929. A Room of One’s Own. New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich.

Endnotes

[1] I am indebted to Richard Grusin for this point (see Grusin 1996, 40-41).

[2] Though “computer crossdressing” in CMC is by no means unheard of and given the lack of bodily cues, relatively easy to achieve, it is not at all clear whether such behavior has challenged or simply reinforced traditional gender stereotypes, see Stone, 82-85, Kendrick 155-159, and Kendall.

[3] A gopher site maintained by the Women’s Studies librarian at the University of Wisconsin contains a searchable bibliography on women and information technology with seven hundred entries. (gopher://silo.adp.wisc.edu:70/00/.uwlibs/.womenstudies/.infotech/.infofull)

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Accessing Learning Resources

In the early days of the internet, there was virtually no restrictions or blocks on any sites.  Of course there were password protected resources and access to normally restricted systems was still limited.   Yet there was certainly no wide scale restrictions based on location or origin of the connections.

Indeed the profiling of internet users has come relatively recently for most of us.  People generally expect to have access to any site in exactly the same way as all other users, however this is definitely not the case.  The most widespread filtering is currently based on your physical location.  This is surprising for a distributed digital platform like the internet but it’s becoming more and more common.

What happens is your IP address will be logged when first accessing the resource, then the location of that address will be checked.  This is relatively easy to do and the vast majority of sites have this capability.  Even those with no interest in filters will use things like Google Analytics in order to see where their visitors are coming from.  Obviously this is useful to  most sites in order to prepare suitable content. enable translations or just to see where potential customers are coming from.  So a plumber based in South London, UK would be rather unhappy to find out that the majority of his web traffic was coming from Mexico for instance.

Yet this is not our issue, the problem comes when website actively restrict access based on location.   It could be for a variety of reasons, yet normally this comes down to profit maximisation.  However many educational sites which previously allowed access to anyone online have started to filter traffic too.  In some cases this is fairly understandable. visitors mean bandwidth which means costs in both hardware and network capabilities.  Most organisations don’t have the resources to provide high availability servers and sites to vast numbers of concurrent connections so they naturally restrict access to specific groups.

For educational resources this doesn’t seem right, and of course can be extremely frustrating for individuals.  The information on academic networks is of course often very unique, and very specialised.   So if you find yourself based on your location rather than skills or background that’s a very non-academic route to take.  Blanket bans of countries will often have this effect, as people trying to access online resources from Nigeria no doubt have often experienced.

There is a way though to bypass these blocks by following the methods used by people who require a level of anonymity online.  Internet marketers for example who by and sell sporting goods online are particularly good at this.  Using specialised servers called sneaker proxies and banks of IP addresses they can buy and sell from e-commerce sites irrespective of their location.  You can read about these sneaker entrepreneurs in this post, and learn about their methods.

These are large scale operations though and if you just want to download a scholarly article or PDF from somewhere then it’s a little bit overkill.  You don’t need a bank of IP addresses with low ping rates in major cities, usually it’s just the ability to route through an address in a specific country.   Obviously if you want to access secure systems then you’ll need permission and/or an account to be able to access it.

What many people do is to use a VPN (virtual private network) to take control of their IP address.    This creates an encrypted tunnel to a third party server before requesting whichever resource you require.  The useful fact is that your actual IP address is hidden and the web server only sees the address of the VPN server.  This means that as well as providing security it also offers a way to hide your location.  Now there are lots of different types of these VPNs which provide for different functions, there are even residential VPN programs like this which can be used for accessing certain home user sites too.

For most people though any simple VPN is a  worthwhile investment as it protects your connection and allows you to pick a country for your IP address.  This is as far as the majority of blocks goes and for instance switching to a UK or US VPN will give you access to many English speaking resources online.

What’s the Aim of Education?

All across the world, there are different education systems and perceptions.  Often it’s tempting to copy a ‘successful’ model perhaps from high flying Far Eastern country or a sophisticated European system.  However before any education system is implemented it’s important to focus on it’s intended goals for the population at large.  The options are now more numerous than ever before largely due to opportunities available on the internet.  There are a myriad of options online available to everyone and I don’t just mean the ability to unblock US Netflix and watch US movies to improve your English!

Video Transcript

Everyone agrees that education is hugely important.  The thing is we’re not particularly sure what we want from it.  The aim of education should be to prepare us for the challenges of adult life.  Yet from this perspective it’s clear that schools fail all but for tiny portions of their students.

Whether in highly academic private schools.  Or in deprived government-run ones trouble-dealing with life’s challenges remains very wide spread indeed. Human ingenuity, energy, goodwill, and talent is being lost on an industrial scale.  To get more ambitious about education doesn’t necessarily mean spending more money building more schools, employing more teachers or making exams more difficult.

Rather, it should mean focusing more on the real purpose of education. There are two fundamental tasks it should help us with: working and sustaining good relationships.  In order to address these needs a future national curriculum might specify that the following subjects be studied Firstly, capitalism A conspiracy of silence exists around the economic system we live within.

We find it hard to change its bad sides or defend its strengths because we simply don’t fully understand how it works.  A subject like maths should be geared to teach its number one utility for 99% of the population dealing with money. Such classes would demistify the global economy by teaching students the importance of the means of production and how profits are made.  The role of cashflow, HR leadership, marketing, and competition would also be studied In a perfect school system you’d also then study a really big second subject yourself.

Young students would be introduced to the idea that we humans are extremely prone to misunderstanding ourselves.  They would be taken through the concepts of delusion, defensiveness projection and denial in everyday life.  Individual tutors would be on hand to help students towards personality maps with particular attention paid to their neurosis and fears.

Doing this would ensure that students learn a lot about how complex they truly are and what types of people they would be best suited to hang out with.  A crucial unit would be devoted to career self-knowledge.  What job are you best suited to? Students would spend three hours a week exploring what they might do with their futures.

Then we would study relationships. Being intensely aware of the social and individual cost of every unhappy relationship.  An ideal education system would emphasize the acquisition of skills that help people to live better together.  There would be units on kindness and forgiveness as well as on anxiety-reduction techniques. In this educational utopia it wouldn’t only be children who would go to school but adults as well.  Schooling would be for life Education wouldn’t just be taking place in classrooms media and the arts would be made to maximize their teaching potential and help to teach people what they actually need to learn.  We’re so hung up on the challenges of running a massive education system we’re failing to pinpoint the real source of its problems These are primarily about money, salaries or discipline.  These are only a consequence of a more fundamental problem Right now and with no-one quite meaning for this to happen we’ve simply got the wrong curriculum

Additional References: To Access geo-blocked educational courses in different countries you may need to hide your location.  The traditional method is to use a proxy server, however you may need one with residential IP addresses.  You can read more about these options in this post discussing how to unblock US Netflix online from anywhere in the world.

Eurythmy Article Part 2

Here’s the second part of the article.


Why have I never heard of eurythmy?

Because it started in Europe and, like all dance companies and orchestras, needs financial support. There are big professional companies that perform all over Europe with live orchestras. The Stuttgart Eurythmy Company was asked to choreograph and perform the dance section in Gluck’s opera, Orpheus and Eurydice at the Paris Opera. There are approximately thirteen training centers in Europe, which includes South Africa and Russia, as opposed to one established in North America. The one in Boulder, Colorado, which is new, is the second one in this country.

Do most eurythmists get jobs as performers?

Many eurythmists work as teachers in the Waldorf School movement which teaches eurythmy to all the children from kindergarten through high school. Why have the Waldorf Schools taken up eurythmy? They believe it promotes health, as did the ancient Greeks. But, it also develops motor-nerve and muscle coordination, especially when the children work out with copper rods. There is a lot done in public education for the intellect, through computers which are impersonal, and we do quite a bit to develop a sense of competition by the use of aggressive will forces through sports, but what we neglect badly is the development of the feeling life through art. Of course, children have a strong feeling life or soul life, but is it nurtured, refined and guided.

Isn’t that a bit rough on sports?
They do promote team play. Yes, they do, but always with the aim of winning at the expense of someone else. Eurythmy is extremely social. We even do some forms that have been developed just for their social aspect. Of all the arts, eurythmy may be the most social. Of course, theater requires team play, but then you have leading roles and supporting roles. There are no leading roles in eurythmy unless you do a solo piece. Playing in an orchestra is very social, but painting means you are alone with your canvas, sculpture is individualistic, writing is very solitary.   It’s a concept often mentioned in programmes about education but rarely covered adequately.  Take for instance the various educational resources on the BBC website.  It has comprehensive coverage at least if you use a VPN to access the full BBC site, yet there is little mention of Eurythmy.

Does eurythmy have other applications?

Yes, it’s widely used as a healing art. There are sets of exercises for specific illnesses. Curative eurythmists have been hired by schools and clinics, but usually they work in private practice with a qualified medical doctor. Some eurythmists are developing “eurythmy in the work place”, so that all the employees do eurythmy before sitting down to their desks, or standing behind the counter. Eurythmy has been done in prisons, wedding ceremonies, and as part of church services.

What exactly do curative eurythmists do?

There are certain sequences of sounds for specific illnesses. For instance L-A-O-U-M for shortness of breath. This exercise is good for heart patients. “L” is used to improve circulation.

This sounds a bit way out.

Well, the Native Americans do rain dances. It is not only their intentions that are important, but the sequence of sounds in their chants. Those sounds affect the surrounding atmosphere. Julius Caesar reported that the ancient Druids could turn back the tide with their incantations. This knowledge of the magic quality of language has been lost to us. There are different groups, artists and healers, who are once again interested in exploring these connections. It was a natural part of ancient societies. Yogis can control their blood circulation. How does bio-feedback really work? Curative eurythmists also use certain exercises that are accompanied by imaginations. There are general, hygienic exercises that can be done by anyone, like Tai Chi. Some of these exercises are solely to promote healthy soul qualities like positivity and hope.

Additional Reading: Allan Taylor, Which is the Best BBC VPN?, Janes Press, 2017

Educational Concepts: Eurythmy – Part 1?

The below article is provided for reference only and was discovered in a web archive. The authors of this site have no real knowldege or opinions on this subject so please come to your own conclusions.

Eurythmy was started at the turn of this century by the Austrian philosopher, Rudolf Steiner. He was asked by one of his pupils about a new form of dance movement just about the same time that many new things in the dance world began to happen. Isadora Duncan had shocked the theater world by her free form of movement based on Greek styles. Ruth St. Denis, Martha Graham, Mary Wilgman were all breaking new ground. People were looking for new kinds of expression beyond classical ballet. Rudolf Steiner suggested movements that follow the patterns of spoken speech sounds and musical tones. For example, the eurythmy gesture for “B” follows the movement made by “B” in the breath stream. The discovery that sounds produced patterns had already been made by the scientist Chladni with his famous Chladni plates.

It’s actually difficult to find historical and background information even online especially from the US. There are lots of resources in the US but most are advertisements or simply very basic resources. You can find stuff online but you’ll need to bypass various geo-blocks depending on where you’re based. For this you’ll need access to a VPN or better still some rotating proxies which can hide your real location.

What does eurythmy look like?
The eurythmist, a man or woman, wears silk veils that enhance the gestures of the flowing arms. “B”, for example, becomes a much larger gesture when the veils move with it. One is struck by the use of vivid colors. The silk gowns or loose pants are carefully coordinated with the large silk veils. The choice of colors is based on the mood of the piece to be performed. In the Overture to the Herbrides by Mendlesohn, the stage is filled with 12 to 20 dancers in beautifully modulated shades of blue and green. Sometimes, for instance in the performance of a fairy tale, the silk veils are shortened and draped, head pieces are added, tights are used to give a more costumed effect. The movements can be very quick and dynamic, but the general impression is of flowing movement.

Modern dance is anything but flowing. Where does this flowing come from?
The flowing quality appears for several reasons. One: For most dancers the center from which they move is the center of the physical body, the naval. This center is important because it controls the balance of the body as it moves through space. The eurythmist, however, takes the center in the larynx and uses the space over the head to great advantage. This center assumes the use of sheathes around the body. The Kathakali Dancers of India still indicate this region over the head by wearing their elaborate, tiered headdresses. The colorful feather headdresses worn by tribal people are an indication of the aura of the human being that was once a common perception. The second reason for the flowing quality is that everything which is alive is permeated by water. Life requires a fluid condition. The eurythmist is trying to move with this fluid, life-giving substance as opposed to movements which arise solely from the nervous system and look jerky.

Is this fluid-life element something new?

No, one notices it in some oriental dances and also in Hawaiian dances. Steiner called it the etheric element.

Are the eurythmists inventing as they go along or has the dance been worked out before?
Traditionally, each piece is choreographed and the gestures have been decided by the group or the artistic director. For a piece that might last three minutes on the stage, hours have gone into the rehearsal. Each piece is rehearsed weeks ahead of time. There is just beginning now in the eurythmy world experiments with improvised eurythmy. Just as actors have to be very skilled for good improvised work, so it is for eurythmists. After all, this is a new art form. We have a lot ahead of us to discover.

Additional:
Educational References: Best VPN for BBC iPLayer

Studying Abroad – Choosing a School

The world has got much, much smaller in the last couple of decades especially if you’re looking at studying options.  In years gone by travelling and studying abroad was normally restricted to those who had significant financial means.  Nowadays students from all sorts of backgrounds are choosing to study all over the world.  Most Universities and colleges are well set up for supporting international students, indeed many rely on them.

Where in the world should I go?

When you’re planning a vacation, you choose somewhere that you will enjoy spending your leisure-time in, or somewhere that will provide interesting opportunities and experiences. When choosing a destination for your language-study, you should think about these things, too; since you will probably have some free-time (you may have more or less, depending on your study-program), you should definitely consider what kind of activities you would like to be available for you. Is a school in the countryside right for you, or do you crave the excitement of the city? Do you want to travel somewhere exotic, or would you prefer to learn in a more-familiar environment?
Of course, you should also consider the cost of various destinations.

A language program can offer much more than just studying – you can search different databases by hiding your IP address, check out this post about backconnect rotating proxies.

I don’t know which language school is appropriate for me.

Some of the things to consider when choosing a school that’s right for you are: the courses it offers, its location, the size of both the school and individual class size, tuition costs, and facilities. You can find this information right here on our site; just browse our catalogue of schools or search for specific details with our search engine.
As well, you can refer to our magazine. We have features on recommended schools, which excel in the categories above.

Is it better to study in a suburban area, or in the city itself?

Answer Here are some of the pros and cons of both locations:
Suburban location
Not as crowded or busy as city, and may be safer than living downtown.
But, transportation to and from the city can be more difficult, especially for late-night trips.

Downtown location
Many more leisure-time options; bars, discos, shopping, and city-culture.

Question Can a school be too-big? Or too-small?

A bigger school is more likely to have well-equipped facilities, and will probably have a wide-range of courses and levels. This will give you more options for studying, as well as lots of different people to meet and converse with.

In a smaller school, however, you may find that your program can be adjusted to suit your individual learning-needs. The atmosphere in a smaller institute is also more personal, and less students means more teachers per student!

A large number of students at the school I want to go to are speakers of my native-language. Will this make it very hard for me to learn a new language?

While it is very important to have an opportunity to speak with students from other countries or native-speakers from outside of the school as much as you can, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t be able to learn and improve at a second language. Many language schools have a “No first-language” policy, and it is strictly kept. Also, you may be inspired by native-speakers of your own language who can speak the second language better than you do! Different schools will have different student-nationality backgrounds; we list this information on our school pages.

Does the quality or content of the lessons depend on the price of tuition?

Every school provides opportunities to learn language, and each school has their own curriculum. Differences in the cost of tuition are probably not because of the actual quality of the lessons. More likely you’re paying extra for a school in a wealthier neighborhood, or with more expensive facilities.

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By this author: Where Can I Buy Proxies for Instagram

Creating a Great Health Service isn’t Easy

To outsiders the US system of financing the State can be quite confusing. After all there’s few countries that can effectively come to a standstill so quickly as the USA. Usually the political brinkmanship doesn’t quite lead to a shutdown, but it’s often pretty close. This is the case especially when they’re are controversial issues involved like defense or healthcare.

US Governments back in 2013 have actually seen some significant problems as concerns federal government financing. Raising taxes, and clamping down on tax evasion are apparently easy compared to some problems over government financing. Whereas some governments (such as China and some UAE emirates) appear to like spending in defiance of such international patterns, austerity measures have actually been implemented across Europe, leading to the then Chancellor George Osborne needing to make deep and undesirable cuts to a lot of government departments. However, he most likely considers himself fortunate compared with his American equivalent Jacob Lew, who changed very long time Obama advocate Timothy Geithner early this year.

You can see some of the best coverage on the US TV networks and also on some international News channels like the BBC.    The other channels can be more difficult to obtain but all involve changing your IP address, just look for residential proxies for sale and you should find a service that allows access.

In the United States, one of Congress’ main tasks is to pass costs expenses that money the federal government, and its activities and companies. Such costs can be discussed and passed at any time of year- however the Capitol has to keep in mind that its financial year runs from October 1st to September 30th. It was one of those investing expenses that almost caused basic important government services to grind to a stop late in 2015.

However, this time, America was not so lucky; a shutdown finally happened. The trigger was the Client Defense and Affordable Care Act, the formal name for the President’s longstanding signature domestic policy expense, Obamacare. An extremely divisive expense, it was utilized by a group of Republican Congressmen and Senators as a bargaining chip. Led by freshman Senator Tom Cruz (Texas), Republicans require that any new financial legislation for government includes steps that would wear down Obamacare. Inevitably, Democrats have contested this. Effectively, the last couple of weeks saw the Republicans holding the federal government to ransom by not accepting alternative steps, as the clock ticked down to the deadline by which financial costs to money government had to be passed.

As the deadline expired, without any measures having actually been passed (except a last minute step to pay the front line military in the event of a shutdown), there was efficiently no loan to pay the government to enable it to run. Whilst the Eurozone is stagnating and in numerous member states are in extraordinary economic difficulty- at least there is money available to permit the government to operate.

The preceding the shutdown was characterized by some strong, forceful political leaders who stood absolutely by their convictions. Notable among the designers was John Boehmer, tbe combative Republican Speaker of tbe Legislature who has actually been a long standing critic and thorn in the side of Obama’s government. Provided his combative, uncompromising design, House of Commons Speaker John Bercow might learn a lot from him. Obama himself has been similarly uncompromising, choosing not to pull back and to enable his individual job of a healthcare expense to be derailed. Both sides are resolutely staying with their convictions, and although ready to work out throughout the aisle, are choosing not to jeopardize their positions.

Although only positive that politicians are standing up for convictions and principles, such decision, although praiseworthy, is causing terrific damage across the board. Science (consisting of space probes), military, city government, veterans affairs, public parks, museums, libraries- the list goes on. all are effected, with many simply ceasing to operate, and government employees not being paid. When it comes to the long term effects- that could last for a very long time.

After almost a week, Secretary Lew need to covet Chancellor Osborne; Osborne might need to handle serious budget plan cuts and constraints, but the British government can still operate. Mr. Lew would most likely prefer to be handling a banking scandal such as the long running PPI mis-selling scandal rather than a shutdown. At this stage, is there an end in sight?

It is assuring that the answer to that a minimum of is yes. There is great pressure to come to a resolution. Indeed, many Republicans- even those who encouraged and supported the brinkmanship that resulted in the shutdown- are now crucial of Boehmer’s continuing stalemate. Lots of want the crisis to be averted, and for bipartisan conversations, and see the need for concessions on both sides.

Throughout this, President Obama stays resolute. Resolute in his assistance of Obamacare, undaunted in condemning the Republican brinkmanship that led to the shutdown, and undaunted in his determination to end the domestic crisis. Nevertheless, there are indicators that, if the shutdown goes on for much longer, it is possible that the Republicans will stop utilizing Obamacare as a bargaining chip in efforts to obtain a financing costs passed. Not likely, it is a possibility; just time will inform how the shutdown is dealt with. If that does occur, it will be a success for Obama- however at what expense?

Given how detrimental the shutdown will be to America and the average American, it is to be hoped that both celebrations have the ability to look for a resolution quickly. At least Congress needs to just think about funding itself; the nature of the Eurozone indicates that all the EU nations need to actively think about financing (and in circumstances even bailing out) other member states, in addition to their own financial issues.

Further Information: How to Watch British TV in USA

Bitcoin Questions in Dutch Examinations

It’s a common discussion among professional educators – how to make your subject up to date and relevant to the modern world. After all there’s nothing to sound the death knell of learning than hearing students suggest that your subject is out of date or ‘pointless’. For some subjects it’s relatively simple to bring them into the modern world, subjects like languages and geography can have their curriculum brought up to date relatively easily.

Ironically though, it’s some of the most fast moving and advanced subjects that are more difficult to bring up to date for a variety of reasons. Obviously sciences like Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics are vitally important and are changing all the time. Unfortunately that change comes at an advanced level and it’s difficult to bring those concepts into the more basic Pre-University curriculum.

It is possible though and many educators make a real effort to try and introduce modern examples and concepts into their lessons in order to engage more with their students. Mathematics is a prime example and it’s important to try and bring the formula, concepts and theorems to life with proper examples. After all explaining how mathematics might be used to help install sneaker proxies which can be used to start an Ebay empire from your own home will obviously interest a few cash strapped teenagers.

Furthermore bringing in any buzzword or up to date technology like Bitcoin will also help attract interest. It’s a lesson that the Dutch education authorities seems to be learning slowly and incorporating into their education system. Proof is to be seen from a translation of a Dutch examination which has been circulating around various social medias sites regarding Bitcoin questions in the Maths exam.

According to a rough translation of the test paper spreading on Reddit, college students were actually given the following question introduction:

” Bitcoin is actually a digital currency that simply exists online. It has already survived since January 1st, 2009, and can be utilized as settlement method in webstores and with regards to other online services. Bitcoin is not, like traditional cash, created by a central bank. Rather, all bitcoin that exist are simply produced by having computers take part in dealing with specific mathematical problems. This works as follows: everyone is able to run specific software on his/her computer that participates in working out such an arithmetical problem. The owner of the computer that solves the problem receives 25 (newly created) bitcoin as a bounty. Because it was the case that in 2014 such a problem is solved every 10 minutes, 25 new bitcoins were actually created each and every 10 minutes. On January 1st, there were (approximately) 12.2 million bitcoin.”

Considering from the preceding basic principles, students were asked to resolve 5 different mathematical problems. The questions asked that pupils “calculate in exactly what year the level of bitcoin went beyond 18 million,” “calculate from whichever year on the prize will be definitely below one bitcoin,” “identify the biggest quantity of bitcoin that could be in circulation,” in addition to presenting addition challenges built on the formula used to figure out the above mentioned questions.

Netherlands Warming to Cryptocurrency

Dutch High School Assessment Provides Bitcoin-Themed Questions. The test has already been provided to students complying with increasing appreciation of cryptocurrency on the part of Holland’s companies.  Now no-one is suggesting that just adding a few mentions of Bitcoin will turn the Netherlands into a crypto hub full of bitcoin entrepreneurs, however it can only help.  Making mathematics more relevant is vital to ensuring children become more engaged in the subject.   Teaching them about the maths behind Bitcoin or the algorithms behind a residential ips proxy which they can use to setup an Ebay shop online!

During March, the Law court of Amsterdam established that bitcoin posesses “properties of wealth” while adjudicating a civil rights case concerning an individual pursuing payment from an unfinished deal relating to bitcoin mining. The law court concluded that “bitcoin represents a value and is transferable” and “hence shows characteristics of a property right. A claim for remittance in Bitcoin is, consequently, to be regarded as a promise that qualifies for verification.”

Earlier this month, the minister of the Dutch Blockchain Coalition, Rob van Gijzel, presented a nationwide blockchain study agenda, which had been ordered by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy. The ministry had established a designated task force, TopTeam ICT, tasked with evaluating the potential legal, economic, and ethical significances of disseminated ledger technology in the Netherlands.

Growth of the Hi-Tech Classroom

For my generation the amount of technology in our classrooms was fairly limited. During my time, we did see the initial phases and in the UK that was mainly revolved around the installation of some BBC Micro computers. Unfortunately the number of teachers who knew how to use these at even a very basic level was quite small. Certainly computers never made it into other areas of the syllabus like they do today.

In fact technology and more specifically the internet is probably considered almost essential to most students today. As I watch my children complete their homework, it’s at a computer screen and I can’t remember any of them ever looking in my lovely encyclopedia collection.

Outside the developed world the onset of technology is even more important. Sometimes even teachers are in short supply and the internet and technology can be used to fill that gap. The growth of online learning material has been quite breathtaking and you can with some effort take a University course from your desk in virtually any subject under the sun. The access to real knowledge is incredible and although there are some restrictions, it is possible to circumvent them.

If the infrastructure is available then any blocks and filters can be easily bypassed. In this brief blog post there is a video demonstrating how to watch Match of the Day online, a UK sports programme. However using that same VPN system you can bypass virtually any sort of filter to access any resource you like.

Technology and the Education System – Technology has become an ever present factor in different facets of our lives, but most increasingly in our education system and for pupils in these schools. This could be seen by the increased amount of technologies that each student possess – from smartphones, to iPods, and iPads. And also the increased amount of technologies in the classrooms themselves – from smart boards to computer labs and on-line classes. Although some of this increased technology may have disadvantages such as cyber bulling, sexting, and plagiarism, the advantages technology has in the education system greatly out ways these.

Evolving technology in schools helps disabled children attend school with minimal help, helps prepare students for using technology in the real world, and helps expand the students capability to get more knowledge about the world. The new advances in technology have helped students with both physical and mental disability be capable to attend school easier. New innovations in wheelchairs have allowed students with physical disability To participate in sports with their fellow students. Wheelchairs have been created so students can partake in track and field along with other sports like basketball. Casey Followay of Wooster, Ohio, is an example of a student utilizing a racing wheelchair that’s also him to race in his high school track team.

In addition to wheelchairs, new speaking devices, such as the electronic pointing device and sip and puff system, were invited to allow students with speaking and physical impairments to be capable to communicate. The electronic pointing device allows the pupil to control the cursor on a pc screen without using their hands.

John Williams

Writing from New Zealand

 

Group Learning Techniques

We’re all different but the stereotypical view of study is usually a very solitary one. The lonely student on their own in a library among a pile of books, it’s what we expect to some extent when becoming a student. However for many this is not an efficient way of studying and one that they might find extremely difficult. Joining a group which is involved in your subject can be an excellent way of both studying new subjects or reinforcing existing learning.

Traditional educational techniques are changing all the time and it’s always worth re-evaluating your own study methods. For example there is a whole world of resources available on the internet from all different sources. Obviously you have to be careful where you use, citations are important and you should try and ensure that the source is reliable. Many English language students for example spend lots of time watch UK TV abroad – http://uktvabroad.org/ , simply because watching programmes from the BBC is an excellent way to learn the language. Others do the same with different languages, you can access any countries online TV stations if you invest in something like this IP cloaker software.

If you’re confused you can ask for someone to clarify, and ideas could be made more personally relevant by employing them to your very own life. In the mean time, your tutor can listen to in which difficulties seem to be arising and attempt to explain in a way which makes more sense to you. Collective thinking In a discussion you take your comprehension forward alongside other students. As we grope to express a notion another could contribute from a somewhat different angle while a 3rd then tries to describe what’s being said. The team advances by pooling its thinking resources. Inside the shared understanding produced by the group you and yourself able to use ideas that you can’t yet grasp independently.

When you’re reading. Writing. Or thinking on one’s own, it is easy to get stuck. Discussion is a method of playing with the language and the ideas and the meanings of negotiation in a favorable environment. Creating connections and recognizing implications Discussion helps you to explore how ideas link to every other. You suddenly see a concept has broader meanings than you’d realized and you start to enjoy your new knowledge is not simply a pair of different items, but as a working body of interconnected ideas. Applying ideas to practical situations Many concepts and theories that you think you know end up being more ambiguous and jarring than you realized whenever you attempt to use them to real examples.

For instance its all very well to get a clean chart of the workings of the human body, but to see a live operation and determine what you are able to see is another matter. Working collectively helps with mapping ideas into reality. Other guesses and approximations of students will help you in producing your own. Together you share in interpreting situations. Matching concepts to cases and making judgements about the significance of particular explanations. Practising skills Group sessions too offer an environment where you are able to develop skills. You may be provided with difficulty sheets to work on.

Given a role- playing situation to act out. Documents to analyze and draw conclusions from or sample article to indicate and talk. This sort of session can be described as a workshop It’s an opportunity for a tutor to give feedback and support, coaching you in skills applicable to your field area. Learning the terminology of the topic In the mean time, as you participate in discussions, a subtle form of learning goes on in the background.

Primer on Social Research Methods

As far as information collection is concerned, most customers are fairly satisfied with the idea of depth interviews or focus groups, as an example, yet with regards to the investigation, they tend to request the figures. This may often lead a good deal of head scratching along with furrowed brows, along with remarks, for example, Well, it is only hearsay or even How does that tell us anything? Therefore, what’s the point of qualitative investigation, and what can it tell us? To start with, what it can’t tell us is how far, how many, who when, that’s statistical data derived from qualitative data collection and evaluation, like surveys and audits.

What qualitative information tell us is why, what and how the specific research object means to the respondent. The strongest use of qualitative approaches on commercial social study is applying qualitative techniques, or when the statistical proof is already known. In case the quantitative information reflects the skeleton of a response into the research questions, qualitative information provides it flesh. After we’ve established with the customer the figures come from another origin along with of the focus group or of the interviews are on the meaning of the research object, another question is how can you know they’re telling the truth, or if they’ve made a mistake? That’s the largest question of all and the response is I do not know.

Although there are obviously standard formats and practices for conducting this sort of research, sometimes you’ll have to be flexible in your approach.  Data obtained from face to face interviews can be much more accurate than if you are relying on postal or online methods.  For example, marketing reports prepared for a company developing UK TV overseas for the domestic market have to be careful about their target audience.   There is little point in including people who are never likely to form part of your customer base e.g. non-English speakers as at best they will skew the data and at worst completely invalidate it.

Without exclusive access to the head of another person it’s impossible to know if they’re telling the truth. More prosaically, they might be merely repeating the facts as they see it, but be mistaken. This leads customers to then question the value of qualitative research, feeling that there’s no scientific component to it. Qualitative study can easily be as rigorous as qualitative research if done properly. The research uses a basic script or even aide memoire to make sure that all the relevant tissues are all discussed with of the respondent, but of the respondent is allowed to digress to a limited extent as she or he might then introduce other relevant problems that the researcher hadn’t thought of.

These topics then enter of the script and are used any time procuring the next respondent. This tends to ensure that issues are dealt with in the information collection. The analysis of the data starts instantly upon completion of the first interview. The researcher develops a series of themes along with viewpoints that may be best thought of as mini theories about of the topics being researched. After each interview she or he reviews and modifies these themes and viewpoints, and possibly adds new ones. If there are geographical components it may be a good idea to split these up and identify them.  For example if you’re researching across the European Union, then you could classify your data by country – grouping those UK TV watchers from Ireland, separately from those in France and so on.  This can add much more value to both your data but also a depth to the report and conclusions too.