#SHOT2016 Singapore

#SHOT2016 THATCamp will be held at Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) on June 21st, 2016

This THATCamp is organized broadly around the theme of pedagogy and is associated with the Society for the History of Technology (SHOT) annual meeting.

This is the second THATCamp hosted in association with the Society for the History of Technology (SHOT) annual meeting.  Notes from #SHOT2014 THATCamp hosted at The Henry Ford are here.

Teaching about and with technologies in higher education is the broad topic for the SHOT 2016 THATCamp to be hosted at SUTD. The full-day workshop will be a place for historians of technology, STS scholars, undergraduate and graduate students, technology specialists and others to meet and share practices, materials, tools, methods, ideas and experiences relating to university pedagogy. While the exact schedule for the day will only be decided on the morning of the day itself, we expect there to be interest in technology as a topic as well as a medium (or set of tools) for teaching. The meeting will support a joint exploration of the pedagogies of history of technology and STS courses taught in different institutional contexts and geographical locales around the world. It will also support a joint exploration of how technological interventions such as MOOCs, social media, and smart classrooms affect (or should affect) such teaching.

Some questions that may be addressed by the group:


  • How can we successfully employ new technologies in our teaching? What is success in this context and what are some good examples that we can learn from?
  • Have we succeeded in creating generative loops between the treatment of technology as a topic and the way we’ve employed technology in our teaching? What are some good examples that we can learn from?
  • What are the implications of various technologies on pedagogical issues including memory, reading, plagiarism, and academic integrity?
  • What are some of the differences and points of convergence in pedagogies situated in different places? What travels (and where) and what does not?



The outcomes of this event will also be discussed during the main SHOT conference in a roundtable session.

Low tech ideas contd.

Hello everyone. I note that Eric Kerr has a post on low-tech/no tech ideas. These are just some thoughts I want to bounce off; not a full on proposal.

There’s this blog post by Adam Crymble (PhD from KCL) that got my interest a long time ago. The link to his post is here: http://adamcrymble.blogspot.sg/2007/11/how-to-get-feedback-from-your-exhibit.html

His idea was that the glass windows along university corridors could be used for non-electronic interactive displays. For example, you could set up a survey and put a strip of stickers for people to place their votes. So for a history of technology theme you might put up a blank poster asking students to vote for the ‘greatest technological invention of all time’ and give options such as ‘fire’, ‘wheel’, ‘metal tools’ and ‘sliced bread’ for humour and engagement. Then, at the conclusion of the survey maybe have a different poster each week to discuss the importance of each in some depth, in order of survey popularity. If you want to milk it further you could have a ‘yea’ or ‘nay’ vote for each of the weekly posters.

That’s just something I thought up but maybe it could stimulate much better ideas along the same lines. The idea is to gamify a non-electronic display to reach out and grab students’ attention.

Playing with Visual Narratives

This session will incorporate visual thinking exercises as tools for classroom activities and shaping narratives about science and technology through images.  We will experiment with Lytro “living images” pictures.lytro.com/ and take our own lytro pictures.  The content and final shape of this session will be driven by participants interests and experience.

Wikipedia editing

I propose to lead a session on editing Wikipedia and wikis of a similar type.  I can present briefly on how the Wikipedia system works — notably that Wikipedia editors and articles have “histories” and therefore something like “reputations”.  We can edit articles, like the English article on THATCamp, or create an analogue in other languages, or edit related topics, or edit anything else.

One goal is to create accounts and develop the confidence and competence to edit again later.  Another goal is to take a look at wikisource.org, a closely related site which invites us to create and edit transcriptions of historic texts. This is a safe way to practice a non-native language, and to learn a historic topic.

Wikipedia and Wikisource editing can be a formal educational activity for students.  They get the satisfaction of writing or editing in a “published” format, where their work might be read and useful for years to come.  So a third goal is to develop the knowledge and confidence that this really can be done for a class.  I’m not an expert on this but the Wiki Educational Foundation can help set up materials and grading standards for a class. They have done it many times. Hopefully someone among us will have experience with wikis as classwork, and if not I can present what I know and introduce interested parties to the people and materials from Wiki Ed.

I’d welcome comments to pre-shape this potential session to be useful. Topics to edit? Have you used Wikipedia for class work?

Decolonial Pedagogy in STS

“It is not possible for the ethical subject to live without being permanently exposed to the risk of even the ethics of transgression. One of the biggest difficulties about this ethical grounding is that we have to do everything in our power to sustain a universal human ethic without at the same time falling into a hypocritical moralism. Simultaneously, it is part of our struggle for such an ethic to refuse, with dignity, the defense of a human ethic that is quite obviously only a mask for pharisaical moralism.”


“History is time filled with possibility and not inexorably determined – and the future is problematic and not already decided, fatalistically”


“Critical reflection on practice is a requirement of the relationship between theory and practice. Otherwise theory becomes simply “blah, blah, blah,” and practice, pure activism”


Quotes by Paolo Freire from Pedagogy of Freedom


This session proposes the discussion of what it means to engage in decolonial pedagogy, and the resonance of such pedagogy with the teaching of STS topics. One of the aims of decolonial pedagogy is to increase student autonomy in the process of learning – a process that is not about conditioning the mind to think a particular way but to prepare the mind to reflect on the epistemic choices available and not merely become adept in reproducing institutionally-sanctioned status-quo. It also means freeing the imposition of inflexible categories and dominant forms of understanding (i.e. expediency and short-term bankability of that knowledge) while questioning technological determinism and the criteria by which epistemic standards are determined.


Decolonial pedagogy also questions the notion of educational bankability, a problem first raised by education-activist and philosopher Paolo Freire, that presumes the idea that education is merely a preparation for furthering the goals of capitalistic exploitation and the corporate order; an education that fragments knowledge and distances the learner from an ability to form intellectually reflexive judgments. Decolonial pedagogy sees learning coming from the self and from one’s community, using one’s natural tools of curiosity to research knowledge from the ground up, instead of mimicking the requirements of an alien system and one that emphasizes mere rule-following.


The question of decoloniality increases in relevance when considered from the viewpoint of teaching STS, with its own political, cultural, and ideological value-ladenness, in societies still attempting to make sense of its intellectual legacies, and in reconciling what appear to be disjunctive epistemic systems.


The questions proposed for this session, though they are not exhaustive by any means, are:

  1. How does one create a syllabus in STS that is sensitive to the diverse backgrounds of a class without exoticizing, marginalizing, discriminating or privileging a way of thinking about science and technology in the broadest possible term?
  2. How does one encourage learner-based intervention and break down the barriers of entry especially in dealing with seemingly “technical” topics in STS, itself a form of culturally-induced barrier that shuts down conversation?
  3. How does one reconcile the neoliberal university’s obsession with “SMART” learning through the rhetoric of student-centered learning but is potentially another form of blackboxing knowledge access while dictating the process of learning, and produce further inequalities among learners, especially in the associated costs (financial and otherwise) passed on to the learners?
  4. How do you bring in the question of STS in relation to decolonizing approach, and how can that approach look like?
  5. Is disruptive edtech compatible with a decolonial pedagogy? See (hackeducation.com/2014/12/02/top-ed-tech-trends-2014-buzzwords)

Computer models and simulations in higher education

Computer models and simulations have been used to aid complex real-life negotiations such as the Law of the Sea Conference (dspace.mit.edu/bitstream/handle/1721.1/47033/computermodelsas00nyha.pdf?sequence=1). Simulations have also been developed to facilitate the teaching and understanding of complex topics such as climate change (www.climateinteractive.org/programs/world-climate/) In this particular case of the Climate Change Negotiations Game, a traditional role playing exercise has been greatly enhanced with the use of a computer simulation. I will like to explore how we can increase the use of computer models and simulations in higher education.

In the coming academic year, I will be working with a student (as part of a UROP project) in developing a computer simulation exercise that can be used in a negotiation workshop that I conduct outside of the formal curriculum for students at Tembusu College. As such, I will like to

(1) “TALK” about the contexts in which computer models and simulations can supplement existing teaching pedagogies and their effectiveness, and

(2) brainstorm on how we can structure a computer model and simulation aided activity into a class with specific teaching objectives. I hope to find collaborators who are keen to “MAKE” and prototype a simulation that will fit into a one-day teaching session to introduce students to the issues in complex multi-party negotiation.

If you are keen to participate in a session of this kind, please contact me at

I am also keen to participate in all forms of experiential learning activities that tries to introduce an element of “technology” into the activities as I am also exploring creative uses of technology that can be incorporated into experiential learning. Hopefully, this can help to spark off ideas that I can use for other seminar classes that I teach at the college.

Teaching with “Non-Technological” Technologies

The technological revolution in higher education is regularly promised but, like flying cars and jetpacks, seems to be always just on the verge of arriving. MOOCs and DOCCs, flipped or virtual classrooms, screencasting, and e-learning dominate the current landscape but in previous decades typewriters, projectors, educational television, and CD-ROMs brought with them renewed promises of a pedagogical paradigm shift.

Often this revolution is portrayed in terms of technological interventions, additions, and disruptions in what is taken to be a non-technological space. But hasn’t teaching always been technological? Were not abacuses, writing slates, ink pots, and blackboards technologies with their own particular scripts for scholastic action? Are not both books and e-books technological aides?

In truth, technologies have always been a part of teaching but we seem to spend much less effort reflecting on the influence of these outmoded methods than the potential impacts of Udacity [1] or Minerva University [2, 3]. The purpose of this session is not to assess whether or not revolutions in teaching tracked technological innovations, nor to embrace or thwart new revolutions. Instead, we will explore the contention that anachronistic technologies offer particular values that cannot or should not be superseded by hi-tech solutions. We will look at the pedagogic values of lo-fi technologies, slow technologies, and ‘non-technological’ technologies. What does the ‘low tech’ classroom offer an educator and a student?

If you would like to participate in this session, email me at .


[1] edition.cnn.com/2012/07/05/opinion/bennett-udacity-education/index.html

[2] www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/09/the-future-of-college/375071

[3] www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/04/05/minerva-project-plans-different-kind-online-education


Try out classroom exercises

In my teaching, I would like to develop more classroom exercises. I am particularly interested in exercises that can be used for one of two things:

(1) to give students a taste of how one might look at, problematise and analyse, certain artefacts, phenomena or cases. I am thinking of the exercise devised by Robert Martello and Jonathan Stolk to introduce their course The Stuff of History (Olin College) which brings together history of technology and materials science. The version I experienced at one of Olin’s summer workshops a few years ago had us (in small groups) choose an item from a big pile of heterogeneous stuff and examine it by comparing the material composition and societal impacts of this modern artefact with those of an ancient counterpart.

(2) to create an experience that ‘brings home’ something of importance for the class and/or individual students in it. I am thinking, for example, of role play as a way to get students to break away from the constraints of being themselves when exploring an issue from multiple perspectives.

For this proposed THATCamp session, I would like to bring one of my classroom exercises to try out on, and critically evaluate with, other participants. The exercise will be for the interdisciplinary seminar on ‘Fakes‘ which I’ll teach again later this year with students at Tembusu College, National University of Singapore.

I would also like to be a participant in classroom exercises others wish to try out.

If you are keen to participate in a session of this kind let me know ()! We can then think about what time limits to set for the exercises, flesh out what kind of critical evaluation would help us improve them, etc.