ALGORIthM LITERACY

ALGORITHM LITERACY IN TEACHER EDUCATION

Internet algorithms are automated mathematical processes that use different types of data to make decisions and recommendations. Increasingly, algorithms shape nearly every aspect of our daily lives (Kitchin, 2017). For example, algorithms are used in medicine to predict the likelihood that individuals will develop certain diseases (Miotto et al., 2016) and are used by some employers as a means of determining which job applicants should be contacted for an interview (Bogen, 2019). In education, algorithms have been used to determine teacher promotion and pay (Kantayya, 2020), predict student grades (Gkontzis et al., 2018), and to determine student awards for higher education funding based on willingness to pay (Engler, 2021). Algorithms also have a profound but typically imperceptible impact on our daily lives, as nearly every action that takes place on the internet is shaped by algorithmic decision-making (Kitchen, 2017).

For teachers, algorithm literacy is crucial for several reasons additional to those explained above. First, teachers benefit from understanding the ways in which algorithms are used in the determination of educational policies that affect their teaching practice and employment status. Second, teachers must be aware of the ways in which they are exposing themselves and their students to the influence of algorithms when they use internet technologies as part of their planning and instruction. Third, to foster “students’ positive personal identity, mental and physical well-being, [and] social and personal responsibility” (BC Teachers’ Council, 2019), teachers must develop their own and their students’ algorithm literacy capacities. It is especially vital for early career teachers to possess these skills in order to meet the demands of their profession in the short- and long-term. The findings from this study will mark the beginning of an exploration of teacher candidates’ ICT and algorithm literacy along with possible connections between these types of literacy and learner agency and teacher self-efficacy. 

To what extent do teacher candidates possess knowledge about and awareness of internet algorithms? 

Learner Agency in the Human-Algorithm Relationship

How is algorithm literacy defined, according to the extant literature? 

To exercise agency in the human-algorithm relationship, one must possess algorithm literacy (also called algorithmic literacy). Algorithmic literacy can be defined as awareness of algorithm use, knowledge about algorithms, ability to evaluate algorithms critically, and ability to apply coping behaviours when engaging with algorithmic systems (Dogruel et al., 2021). The body of scholarly literature concerning algorithm literacy is rapidly growing. A Google Scholar search conducted on April 19, 2022, using the search string (“algorithm literacy” OR “algorithmic literacy”) yielded 545 results, 430 of which have been published since the year 2018. As recent news coverage makes clear (e.g., Dragicevic, 2022; Hao, 2022), there is a crucial need for algorithm literacy in our daily lives. 

 

This project will use a slightly modified PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses) protocol, a widely used and accepted framework for conducting a systematic literature review. (Moher et al., 2009). The purpose of this protocol is to “allow for planning and documentation of review methods, … guard against arbitrary decision making, … enable readers to assess for the presence of selective reporting against completed reviews, and … reduce duplication of efforts and potentially prompt collaboration” (Shamseer et al., 2015, p. 1). We are undertaking a systematic literature review with the goal of better understanding the present state of algorithm literacy research and synthesizing practical implications, with a focus on human agency in the human-algorithm relationship.

Jillianne Code, PhD

Principal Investigator & Senior Supervisor

Rachel Moylan

Co-Investigator & PhD Student

Made possible with funding from

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