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IAS Fellows’ Seminar – Social Opportunity Spaces: supporting knowledge brokers in moving critical educational resources

October 25, 2021 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm

IAS Fellow’s Seminar by Professor Alan J. Daly, University of California, San Diego

Despite the immense pressure the current pandemic has put and continues to place on the educational sector, these times also provide an unprecedented opportunity for addressing issues that have been limiting the system and need to be tackled in order to further enhance the equitable distribution of educational resources and outcomes. In this context, having access to high quality information and resources is instrumental to make progress and to be able to face new and unprecedented challenges. However, schools and teachers are often overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information and resources available, particularly in online spaces, and cannot necessarily find suitable materials by themselves. Furthermore, while many Federal funding schemes, Philanthropy efforts and knowledge brokers (e.g. non-profit, intermediary organizations and think tanks) have a stated mission to produce high quality knowledge resources to specifically support underserved communities and the educators that serve them, their materials just do not seem to get any practitioner uptake. Part of the underlying reason is related to the fact that these systems typically utilize more “traditional” communication and disseminating strategies, e.g. massive email lists, conference booths, or professional associations.

Research in the Network Science space argues that these more formal “distribution” channels are a “spray and pray” strategy that does not take advantage of existing social networks that support the efficient and effective movement of resources between and among individuals. Hence, knowledge brokers need a new and innovative set of tools – in response we are attempting to create a SOS Learning Recommender – that helps them to better understand social network structures and support the dissemination of knowledge resources to specifically targeted users. This would greatly increase the likelihood of those resources ending up in the hands of those that need them, as knowledge brokers would better understand exactly what (individual) schools and teachers are looking for. Additionally, as many resources often draw on dominant culture paradigms and assumptions that do not reflect the communities in which they may be deployed, enabling knowledge brokers to better understand the communities in which they want to deploy knowledge resources will allow them to be more responsive to local needs, see local communities as being funds of knowledge and assets, and contribute to the disruption of dominant cultures and beliefs that can be detrimental to underserved communities.

Primary Outcomes and Questions
In this context, knowledge brokers need to better understand the social opportunity spaces (SOS) in which they and their partners operate. Engaging with and within these SOS creates opportunities to find what individuals are looking for without imposing formal structures and considerations on them. Even more so, we know that these SOS are places where people access and acquire social capital. This social capital can then, among other things, facilitate information flows and the opportunity to attain valuable information from outside one’s regular working environment. Here, we focus on online SOS that take place within online social networking sites (SNS), such as Twitter. They not only allow knowledge brokers to easily share their information and resources with a wide audience of schools and teachers. Online SOS also provide an opportunity for knowledge brokers to re-consider their dissemination strategies, optimize their outreach and targeting efforts, as well as measure the impact of their efforts to support schools and districts. And while information overload and hidden network structures.

Places are limited and so any academic colleagues or students interested in attending should register interest in advance here to reserve a place. Places will be confirmed within 48 hours of receipt (subject to availability).


October 25, 2021
1:00 pm - 2:00 pm


Institute of Advanced Study, Seminar Room


Institute of Advanced Study

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