A Tanglegram of Teaching

|Matt Offord

Humans, things and information are dependent on one another, connected to one another through chains of behaviour (Hodder 2012:54). Data is therefore just one part of a larger assemblage (Brown 2020, Williamson et. al. 2020). Data as separate and valuable without context essentially renders data flat and lifeless just as surely as a fish dies when removed from the ocean.

This week I wished to capture my data architecture (Williamson 2020) and bring it to life as Heidegger’s equipmental totality (Hodder 2012:28). The items on my desk are the architecture of my teaching rather than data specifically. In my teaching, I am not exposed to Learning Analytics Dashboards as described by Brown (2020) and although data on my students slops around the Moodle data lake, I rarely go to the shore, preferring to depend on my interactions. During Covid-19, these items are how I teach (of course they are connected to a wider network of internet pages and servers). I listed the items: phone, webcam, laptop, headphones and tablet. I collected two forms of data: the hours spent on each piece of equipment and how dependent I am on them for teaching.

Dataveillance by Matt Offord 2021

The thingometer is the gauge to the side of each object while the coloured marks show how many hours each is used each day. The laptop, it seems, is crucial for teaching, especially when linked with the webcam and headphones for live teaching. Neither the phone nor tablet are indispensable but provide redundancy for the others. The laptop (with its entangled person, me) can wrangle all the data, qualitative and quantitative and deliver all the teaching necessary. Or to put it another way, it conducts more dataveillance than the other things (Williamson et. al. 2020, Brown 2020)

Brown, M. 2020. Seeing students at scale: how faculty in large lecture courses act upon learning analytics dashboard data. Teaching in Higher Education. 25(4), pp. 384-400

Hodder, I., 2012. Entangled: An archaeology of the relationships between humans and things.

Williamson, B. Bayne, S. Shay, S. 2020. The datafication of teaching in Higher Education: critical issues and perspectives. Teaching in Higher Education. 25(4), pp. 351-365.

4 thoughts on “A Tanglegram of Teaching

  1. I love this. The ‘Thingometer’ is an inspired idea. What you have really captured very well in the viz, and your reflection, is that data are inseparable from the entangled architecture of things from which they’re produced. Data in this sense have their own ‘social lives’ as they emerge from and evolve/mutate through relations between devices, software, user interactions, and other datasets. In principle you could push this further and say the code, the chips, and the various materials that makes computing possible all play important roles in making data possible to produce, analyze and visualize too. I like the way you’ve begun thinking about how the Thingometer could enable you to reflect on teaching itself.

    • Thanks Ben, I like the idea you propose of going deeper into dependency and networks to the component level, it really makes you think just how dependent we are on THINGS, the pandemic really shows this too

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *