Education is that which remains, if one has forgotten everything one learned in school.
— Albert Einstein

One of the most fundamental questions that can be asked about education as such is what it is for and why do we need it? As described in my report “GÅ INN I DIN TID – Fra ide til handling” many computer science students raised the more specific question “Why do we need social informatics?”

The most obvious and generally accepted answer is that education aims at providing students with knowledge and skills which match the demands of employers, thus enabling students to find jobs and employers to find employees, i.e. education has a purly vocational goal. If we look upon the more specific question of why social informatics, we might find the above mentioned goal clearly stated in the California State University Long Beach description of the aim for the course Social Informatics: “This course is designed to help you become an effective working computer professional”[i].

So is education, including Social Informatics, then only concerned with practicality and quickly enabling a student to get a job?

In Greek thinking, the ideal of paideia included the development of moral virtues and logical and rhetorical skills which were thought essential for becoming a good human being and democratic citizen. In a similar vein, today‘s liberal education in the USA and other countries aims at providing students with a basis of general, non-specialised knowledge and skills which allow them to contribute actively and positively to society (Bohlin 2008). In German philosophical and educational thought, J. G. Herder, Wilhelm von Humboldt, Hans-Georg Gadamer and others have developed the concept of Bildung, a word which in its most literal sense means formation, but which here refers more specifically to formation or cultivation, in education or otherwise, of human moral virtues and other capacities. (Herder 2002, Humboldt 1791-1792/1993, Gadamer 1960/1989.)

From the 1960s we have, within the Nordic and Germanistic countries, seen a revival of the German concept of Bildung. This 18th century concept was originally constructed for describing a way of combining knowledge and personal growth within a frame of Greek tradition, and it has been transformed into an aim for schooling not just for the elite, but for all students. From being an aim for a very limited group in society it has become an aim for all students. This ambition has implications for our thinking about what knowledge is, how knowledge can be obtained and who should have access to knowledge and culture.

Whereas competences can be described in fairly objective terms, Bildung is a far more complicated term to handle because it implies values, such as respect for tradition of knowledge, art and scientific thinking, judgement, tolerance and generosity towards others, critical thinking and exploration of own reasoning, flexibility of mind, courage in expressing personal opinions. Bildung includes the ability to engage in immanent critique of one’s society, challenging it to actualize its own highest ideals.

In my opinion Social Informatics is all about training computer science students in critical thinking and exploration of their own ways of thinking and arguments, flexibility of mind, courage in expressing personal opinions and challenging society.

This excellent video, written and performed by Kevin Honeycutt and produced by Charlie Mahoney, goes to the heart of the matter as for why it`s about time to get teachers educated in ICT. Not necessarily the technical aspects of it, but the didactic use of ICT to enhance learning. The Norwegian Ministry of Knowledge states that the teachers are to be knowledgable in ICT, including Web 2.0 tools, so as to be able to build bridges between the school and the everyday life of children og young people. This movie could also be titled “I Need My Teacher Education Lecturers To Learn 3.0”, as the level of didactic ICT knowledge in Norwegian Teacher Education is appalling.

Since the fall of 2002, Department of Computer Science, Nesna University College, has been working with a project called “Getting involved”. The project was a part of the undergraduate course in Computer Science, and the course Social Informatics. The main focus of the project was to try to fight the constant sexual abuse of children on the Internet with information and awareness projects directed both towards the computer students of Nesna University College and towards the local computer industry and local primary, secondary and upper secondary level schools.

Project Getting Involved was done in collaboration with Save the Children Norway. Also the Norwegian police unit Kripos took an active interest in the project, and this was the only national project of this kind that they involved themselves in, among other things by sending one or two officers as speakers at the yearly national Getting Involved seminars.

Unfortunately it has not been possible to keep the project going and it is therefore discontinued

Mo i Rana, 26.10.2009
Per A. Godejord
Dean, Nesna University College

Social Informatics Wiki

Social Informatics Resources is a wiki managed by me. It aims to provide a guide to research resources and teaching materials for lecturers and students in social informatics and includes video lectures, sound lectures, slideshare lectures, text based lectures, relevant search pages from Google, suggestions for curriculum and a guide to lecture SI. A forum, and a student page has been established for thoughts, comments and resources contributed by students and others who wish to participate. The references are mainly in Norwegian. There are links to other social informatics wikis.

Meet Andrew Vachss live!

Those of you, who have followed Project Getting Involved from the start, will remember that the New York based lawyer and author Andrew Vachss participated shortly in the project.

At the 24th of September 2003 our department hosted a small conference with speakers from the police, lawyers, Save the Children Norway, Telenor, University of Umeå and our third year Bachelor students. The title of the conference was “Internet – a hiding ground for paedophiles?” With this conference as a backdrop we hosted two online discussion sessions between our students and Andrew Vachss.

These two sessions was meant to be an experimental example on how to teach ethical topics to computer students using Moodle as a communication tool, and was a part of our “Project Getting Involved”

Read more about it here: Online seminar with Andrew Vachss (2003).

It is therefore with pleasure that I further the information that on Wednesday, January the 14th, it will be possible to engage in dialogue with Andrew online, in regard to his last book in the Burke series. Read more about this event at his web site, and register for the meeting here.

Might we say that blogging is a tool for “Social Mind Mapping”?

Dr. Beata Godejord claims so, in her posting Blogging – “Social Mind Mapping” (EduMed).

What do you think?

Beata Godejord, PhD.

What is Social Informatics?

Is the expression “Social Informatics” (Norwegian: Samfunnsinformatikk) something that best can be used in describing a specific course in Computer Science, or is it also a widely accepted term describing a scientific taxonomy?

I recommend every one interested in Social Informatics to take a look at “Information Society: From Theory to Political Practice” (editor: Róbert Pintér).

Do we need to re-define the term “Social Informatics”?

Social Informatics is not the most profiled course within the Computer Science or Information Science studies in Norway. It seems to me that it`s not only students that consider social issues of computing boring and unimportant, but that many lecturers also view Social Informatics as a nuisance.

For those lecturers who understand the importance of social issues of computing, there are three things to consider:




Engage your students, grab their hearts and minds, and you may throw the text books away and enjoy Social Informatics together with your students.

For those who missed the 6th National Conference on sexual abuse of children in digital media, it is now possible to view all the contributions on our Tv Web.

For those of you out there who does not understand Norwegian, the conference had one presentation in English: “Educational Consequences of Media Development”, by Beata Godejord, PhD. This contribution takes a critical look at some of the negative aspects of the Media world of our kids, and what Teacher Education can do about it.

A bit of this and that

The Internet is filled with resources one should know about, especially if you are in the field of distance education. For a nice and comprehensive list of Web 20 applications, take a look at my good friend Tom Erik Holteng`s blog.

Some links I have come across today is VSide, a 3D world calling itself the Facebook of Virtual Worlds. For those already exploring Second Life, this might be a place worth checking out. Worlds in Motion wants to build an Online World Atlas, and that might be useful for those of us who want to keep track of the various virtual worlds and online multiplayer games on the Net. For those who want an overview of Distance Education resources, the Distance-Educator.com is the place to start. Also check out the BlogTalk Radio and the eLearning Technology Talk.