Learning on the Edge: Exploring Our Boundaries: Nov 10-30, 2008

"Boundaries" and "barriers"

"Boundaries" and "barriers"

by Laura Proctor -
Number of replies: 6
What do we mean by "boundaries"? and is that different than what we mean by "barriers"?

After thinking about this question, I looked up the words in a couple of dictionaries and thought about how I would decide to use one word or the other in various contexts. What struck me as similar about the meanings of these words is that they both refer to separation between things. There is an "inside" and an "outside" implied in most uses of both of these words. Using the word "barrier" seems to shift my focus to externally imposed obstacles whereas using the word "boundary" focuses more on limitations imposed from within. Is this a contrast you share? Do you think it is useful in this discussion of "learning on the edge"?

What are your thoughts?

In reply to Laura Proctor

Re: "Boundaries" and "barriers"

by Tracy Roberts -
I agree - it feels like there is a difference between the words, and that a "barrier" could be external/imposed, where "boundaries" come from within.

"Barrier" feels more negative to me - an obstacle, hassle, etc. "Boundary" feels more philosophical or ethical, something I choose.

an example might be the Patriot Act we discussed at the conference, and how it shapes use of certain tools and services hosted in the US.

Barrier: institutional policy prohibiting the use of X, even though you want to because it's easier, better functionality, faster, etc

Boundary: personal choice to only use/support [your country here] services

This may change how we feel about the use/non-use as teachers, admins, etc. But I don't like the idea of being limited in providing the best learning environment possible for students
In reply to Tracy Roberts

Re: "Boundaries" and "barriers"

by Nancy Riffer -
Tracy,
I'm curious about the discussion of the Patriot Act. Was it seen as a barrier provided by the government or as a boundary that individuals set for themselves when they know the intrusion possible under the Patriot Act. Or was the line of thinking different from these?
In reply to Nancy Riffer

Re: "Boundaries" and "barriers"

by Mary Burgess -

Hi Nancy and all - if I remember right, our discussions were in part around our expectations of students' use of educational technologies in courses when some of the applications sit on servers that would be subject to the Patriot Act.

In reply to Nancy Riffer

Re: "Boundaries" and "barriers"

by Tracy Roberts -
Hi Nancy,
It seemed to me that there was a split in the crowd: those who were still interested by this issue/topic, and those who were kind of getting tired of it.

I think the perception of this as a barrier/boundary comes more directly to us from institutions and cultures/attitudes/policies there. though I guess ultimately inspired by larger bodies - gov't/law/legal responsibilities.

and then a subtext to the discussion that i heard more than once was this idea: data travels to/through the states no matter what. so maybe we're kidding ourselves in thinking we keep it all in canada by avoiding services hosted in the US. true? I don't know.

personally, I am torn. I am a play-by-the-rules kind of gal, but at the same time, i do grow weary of this:

"Oh hey, here's a cool tool we could use in our courses...!"
"No. We can't: Patriot Act"
In reply to Tracy Roberts

Re: "Boundaries" and "barriers"

by Sylvia Riessner -
Me too. I get very different reactions to the two words. "Barriers" are something to be challenged (and overcome in some cases). "Boundaries" are areas I study and observe so I can find a way across.
Boundaries are for crossing; we have "trans-boundary rivers" that cross borders and "trans-boundary conservation" where people from different countries come together to try and develop ways to deal with shared issues.
"Boundaries" define groups but are not impenetrable. "Barriers" protect groups but also prevent a group from mixing or interacting with others.

Re. the Patriot's Act - do most instructors avoid using services that reside on U.S. servers because of this Act? We heard of an educator from an eastern province (can't remember which one right now) who couldn't use the free web conferencing service WizQ because their Privacy Act forbade it. We checked with our Territorial Act but ours is outdated and doesn't appear to deal with the issue at all.

I'm always very careful to tell people when I suggest they work "in the cloud" that they need to read the terms and conditions carefully and consider how comfortable they are with them (they vary a fair bit). The Patriot's Act is only one aspect to consider in terms of the security of your information. Having said that, I feel the risk is worth the reward. But it is a choice you should make with your eyes open

In reply to Sylvia Riessner

Re: "Boundaries" and "barriers"

by Laura Proctor -
Sylvia:
I understand that, in some cases in B.C., use of US-based services has been deemed acceptable as long as students are made aware of the location of the service and have the option not to use it. Being sure students have read the terms and conditions is the basis for informed choice and helps students develop goods skills to deal with the online world in other aspects of their life.

My sense is that much of the concern over this issue has come from institutions concerned about possible liability (not quite sure for what). In other cases, the information or discussions may be on topics which are particularly sensitive (politically or personally) in which case privacy issues are more significant - beyond just the Patriot Act issues.