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    Blog Posts (50)
    • Breaking the cycle: why Edtech must be regulated

      Written for Education International on the International Day of Education 2021, this blog argues why unions and regulators urgently need to address the privacy invasive aspects of EdTech. Read full blog post here - excerpts below The vicious cycle: dependency on the private sector, data control and surveillance As public services get strapped for money, their dependency on the private sector will likely grow. When it comes to digital technologies, we are entering into a vicious cycle. Unless public procurement, outsourcing and public-private partnership agreements are radically changed, the private sector’s power grab will be strengthened. It is they who hold the big data and the data analytical tools. The public sector are their dependent customers. As a result, the public sector’s capacity to responsibly gather their own data and make their own analytics will either never be built or will decline. This in turn will increase their dependency on the private tech sector. We can only assume that the same vicious cycle is happening in the education sector. Educators will, like their colleagues in other sectors, become increasingly subject to the surveillance that is at the heart of all digital tools. Everything digital creates – or extracts – data. This data is combined, aggregated and turned into numerous, often opaque, probability analytics calculating the likelihood that this or that learner will succeed in mathematics, or that an educator from that area, with that gender and that age, will perform badly with large classes. These profiles, known as inferences in the tech world, will - whether we know about their existence or not - influence our personal and professional lives and the opportunities presented to us. This is why the author of “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism”, Shoshana Zuboff, is fervently calling to make markets in human futures illegal. Breaking the cycle: why we need Edtech regulations that put people before profit It is understandable if you now are thinking and feeling that this is all really bad. In many ways it is. But it does not have to be. Digital tech is not necessarily born evil. But it is not necessarily born good either. It is here that we need regulation to steer digital technology into the direction where it puts people and planet before profit. EdTech could serve very good purposes, it could reach out to learners in empowering (for them) ways. It could bring cultures and traditions together across geographical boundaries and increase our understanding of “otherness”. It could support learners in need and high performers to reach their inner potential. It could help track educators’ working time, the balance between their administrative and teaching time, and it could suggest new teaching methods and literature. To some extent digital tech does this already, but it often does so at the price of our privacy rights and human rights. The many inferences made do not disappear. A poor performing child could bear that stamp with him or her for the rest of their life. Charting the path forward: the crucial role of unions Where does all of this leave educators and unions alike? For unions to remain powerful, they must have a seat at the table in the governance and ongoing assessment of the digital technologies in place in workplaces. They should hold leadership and authorities accountable to the privacy rights and human rights impact of these tools. They should be party to an evaluation of the systems’ risk profiles – what individuals or groups intendedly or unintendedly will be disadvantaged by the algorithm? Is the tool fair, if so to whom? What trade-offs are being made, and can unions accept these? The list continues, and the details of this co-governance must be sketched out. Having co-governance structures in place will ensure that educators are included in any assessments of Edtech and heard in relation to what tools they might need (EI’s recent survey of education unions showed that this is currently not the case). Across all sectors in most countries, no such structures exist. An exception is Norway, who for 30 years now in their central framework agreement in the private sector, and previously also in the public sector, has a provision that allows for the creation of a data shop steward. This unique institution needs to be explored further, mirrored by others and its role expanded to include the co-governance of algorithmic systems. Another largely unexplored topic for unions would be to negotiate for much stronger workers’ data rights. Even within the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) workers’ data rights are limited – especially with regards to the inferences we discussed above. In many other data regulation jurisdictions workers are either entirely exempted from the data protection (for example in Australia and Thailand) or as in California are exempted until 2021. Unions need to fight back to rectify this. I speak of the need to negotiate the data life cycle at work as depicted in the figure below (Note: “DPIA” stands for Data Protection Impact Assessment - Cf. GDPR, art. 35). The Data Life Cycle at Work Unions simply must build their capacity to meet the challenges of our digitalised economies and societies. This is no easy or quick task, which is evident in the fact that currently 68% of education union respondents to EI’s survey report that they do not offer courses on the governance of digital technologies. It will require that unions pool their resources, think smartly and help one another leapfrog into a more sustainable future. Union leaders, organisers, the secretariat and the staff representatives out there need to be trained so they know the ins and outs of digital technologies. With this training in place and a strategic orientation towards the digital economy, the demands unions have for decent work, safe conditions and the respect of human rights cannot be ignored. With this survey and the lessons within, EI as a whole can take important steps towards an alternative digital ethos. One that is worker-led and that puts people and planet before anything else. --

    • EdTech Needs a Strong Union Response

      In 2020, we worked with Education International to unravel the role of teachers' unions in the introduction of education technologies in schools and higher learning institutes. The survey covering the entire world paints a very bleak picture of digital divides, lack of consultation with teachers, failure to protect learners' and educators' privacy rights and more. Read the summary report here Download full report here:

    • Digital Tools for Trade Unions

      Published in 2019, this report by Dr Jonnie Penn and Dr Christina Colclough provides an overview of digital tools built for, or by, workers. It provides loads of great examples of organising and campaigning apps and services that can boost your communication, outreach and impact. We divide the tools into custom outreach tools and general outreach tools. The report is a result of our scanning of digital tools that we believe can boost union outreach to members, particularly young members. Some tools are designed by unions, others not. Some are free to use, others not. Some are hugely successful, while others have only just begun their journey. The tools we present here give a taste of what is available. New apps and services are popping up all the time. The ones we present for you in this report are neither conclusive, nor exhaustive. But they are some of the best, and the most innovative. At the heart of each tool we profile is the aspiration to harness information to boost impact. We’ve asked each development team to share lessons learned along the way. You’ll find lessons like ‘co-build with users, not just for them’ and ‘scale slowly even if the world wants you to scale fast.’ Our aim is to shine a light on how pioneering groups have merged digital tools with the spirit of collectivisation. In what follows, we also outline more than a dozen off-the-shelf digital tools (many of which are free) that you can put to use today to become more organised in planning, making budgets, making presentations, or just staying in touch with members or your team. We welcome your thoughts, feedback and experiences! Have a read! This will certainly inspire you.

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    • Workshops | The Why Not Lab

      Workshops See examples of the workshops we hold right here. Get inspired! We can mould and combine them so they fit your needs. Our workshop series include practical exercises, good literature to read and lots and lots of valuable information to boost your digital demands. What's all this about digitalisation? A critical introduction to the myths and realities of digitalisation. What's all this about digitalisation and how is it affecting our life and career opportunities? Algorithms @ work ​ Surveillance and monitoring systems are in sharp demand. What should workers demand to protect their human rights and stop the commodification of workers? Co-governing algorithms Algorithmic systems at work must be governed. We have the model! Learn how to hold management responsible and accountable to the digital systems they are applying. Rights, gaps - use & fill them Digital systems sometimes cut across existing laws and regulations. What are our legal rights, where are the gaps, and how should we fill them? Negotiate the data lifecycle Workers' data rights need improving across the world. We have developed the data lifecycle at work to illustrate key areas where unions and regulators must set in - and why! collective The future of skills is competencies Many future of skills debates neglect the key role of human competencies. This workshop puts these back on the agenda. Appraisal systems need improving to ensure diverse, inclusive labour markets! Unions & data storytelling ​ Use tech wisely and get access to new sources of data that you can use in your negotiations, campaigning and organising. Know what's available, and how you can tap into it responsibly Organisational change ​ Transforming your organisation requires changes on many fronts: cultural, strategic, leadership, tools, skills and more. We have the tools to guide you. Map the disruption and head for change

    • About | The Why Not Lab

      About the Why Not Lab The Why Not Lab is a boutique value-driven consultancy that puts workers at the centre of digital change. We offer our expertise exclusively to progressive organisations, trade unions and governments. The Why Not Lab has a two-fold mission to ensure that the digital world of work is empowering rather than exploitative. We: ​ Equip workers and their unions with the right skills, know-how and know-what to ensure collective rights in the digital age; ​ Put workers' interests centre stage in current and future digital policies ​ ​ Both are necessary. Politically, even in discussions on the future(s) of work, workers' interests are seldom heard or even considered. This must change. To bridge digital divides and prevent the objectification of workers that is currently underway, workers must be empow ered so they can table an alternative digital ethos. The Why Not Lab aims to support exactly this through our training, policy and strategic support. ​ The Why Not Lab is run by Dr Christina J. Colclough - a fearless optimist who believes that change for good is possible if we put our minds and heart to it. She works with experts and partners across the world to provide the best advice at all times. Read more about Dr. Colclough below Please note: We believe all workers have the right to Rewarding Work in the digital age. We have therefore adopted a differential pricing principle so we can support workers and organisations from all regions of the world. Do contact us with any inquiries. Dr Christina J. Colclough Regarded as a thought leader on the futures of work(ers) and the politics of digital technology, Christina is an advocate for the workers’ voice. She has extensive global labour movement experience, where she led their future of work policies, advocacy and strategies for a number of years. She was the author of the union movement's first principles on and the . Workers' Data Rights Ethics of AI A globally sought-after keynote speaker and workshop trainer with over 150 speeches and trainings the last 3 years, Christina created the Why Not Lab as a dedication to improving workers' digital rights. She is included in the all-time Hall of Fame of the world's most brilliant women in AI Ethics. ​ Trusted Positions ​ Christina is a Member of the Steering Committee of the Global Partnership on AI (GPAI) and she is Advisory Board member of Carnegie Council's new program: AI and Equality Initiative She is, furthermore, a member of the . OECD One AI Expert Group , the UN's Secretary General Roadmap for Digital Cooperation and is affiliated to FAOS , the Employment Relations Research Center at Copenhagen University. Testimonials John C. Havens . E.D., IEEE Global Initiative on Ethics of Autonomous & Intelligent Systems & Council on Extended Intelligence In an environment where rhetoric often rules all, Christina provides hard-hitting yet pragmatic and solutions-oriented counsel on issues including the future of work, human autonomy, human rights, and technology governance in general. ​ She is my "go to" person on any issues related to AI and the future of work based on her specialized knowledge of worker's rights and actual global policy and economics relating to these issues versus only aspirational techno-utopian ideals. She is also a gifted and personable speaker, transforming highly nuanced and complex technical and political issues into conversational, story-oriented speeches. What We're Reading

    • Contact | The Why Not Lab

      Let's Connect! Towards a Future of Rewarding Work We believe in the richness of diversity, equal opportunities and inclusive meetings, panels, speaker line ups etc. We urge all requestors to diversify their events as much as possible, and will happily recommend excellent folks in our stead. Submit Thanks for contacting The Why Not Lab. You will hear from us soon, Christina

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