Friday, January 27, 2023

Dangers and Recommendations of Algorithms


By Lilian H. Hill

A lot of uses of algorithms are beneficial; however, there are dangers involved. Decisions about admissions, scholarship awards, and hiring have been turned over to algorithms. Flaws in programming can cost individuals the opportunity to attend their college of choice because their entrance exams were graded based on a faulty metric. Hiring decisions can be negatively influenced if metrics involved are biased against minorities. People’s privacy can be violated if the algorithms designed to share individual’s information are inaccurate. 

In an interesting news story, Northeastern University installed heat sensor devices undergraduate students’ desks to track usage (Ongweso, 2022). Given that the students were enrolled in Northeaster’s Cybersecurity and Privacy Institute, it should not be surprising that the students detected the presence of the devices, hacked into them, developed an open-source guide so that other students could hack them. They then removed the devices and displayed them in an art exhibit spelling the word NO! The university had installed the devices at night without informing the students and without Institutional Review Board (IRB) permission. The students found that the devices were not as secure as the university claimed. 


The Center for Democracy and Technology recommends the following:

  • Human beings need to retain control of decision-making that involves people’s privacy, safety, and opportunities. Context and nuance are difficult to program into algorithms. 
  • Regulate data governance: Establish policies that determine long information should be kept and under what certain conditions it should be deleted.
  • Conduct regular audits to ensure that discriminatory outcomes or other unexpected harm do not occur.
  • Communicate regularly with stakeholders to provide feedback and address concerns about the systems that affect their schools.
  • Use algorithms for the purposes they were designed for. Adapting them to other purposes has the potential to yield harmful results.
  • Foster accountability by developing plans and policies to identify and correct errors in the programming. Have strategies and resources available to make amends when errors have been harmful to people. 
  • Ensure legal compliance so that the decisions made by algorithms are fair, accurate, and comply with legal standards for education. 


Center for Democracy and Technology. Algorithmic systems in education: Incorporating equity and fairness when using student data. Retrieved from 

Ongweso, E. (2022, December 2). ‘NO’: Grad students analyze, hack, and remove under-desk surveillance devices designed to track them.


Friday, January 20, 2023

Algorithms and Culture: A Complex Concept


As algorithms permeate many aspects of everyday life. Algorithms influence culture. On this episode, Dr. Lilian Hill discusses the relationship of algorithms and culture. Listen to the episode and join in the discussion.

Listen to the Podcast


Carah, N. (2017, August 16). Algorithmic culture and machine learning.

NBC. (2023 January 1). Meet the Press - January 1, 2023.  

Seaver, N. (2017, November 9). Algorithms as culture: Some tactics for the ethnography of algorithmic systems.

Striphas, T. (2015). Algorithmic culture. European Journal of Cultural Studies, 18(4-5).



Friday, January 13, 2023

Pandemic Applications of Algorithms


By Lilian H. Hill

Algorithms were essential in maintaining educational activity during the pandemic isolation that caused many students to learn from home through educational technology. We are only just finding out what has been gained and lost in terms of students’ learning, knowledge, and abilities. I heard a recent NPR report about children entering kindergarten who were lacking in knowledge, social skills, and even fine motor coordination because they had spent so much time interacting with devices (Feiereisel, 2022). Adult students may have similarly lost ground in learning, but the results are much harder to track because adults are learning in more diverse settings and are working toward many different goals).

The OECD (2021) estimates that “many forms of learning, in particular informal learning, were inevitably lost, as workplaces remained physically closed,” educational institutions switched to remote learning, and people were isolating themselves to protect their health. Reliance on technology for educational delivery magnified the digital divide.


Feiereisel, A. (2022, December 1). Kindergarten teachers observe speech and physical delays in young students. NPR Radio Broadcast.

OECD (2021, March 25). Adult Learning and COVID-19: How much informal and non-formal learning are workers missing?

Friday, January 6, 2023

Why Adult Educators Should be Concerned About Algorithms



Algorithms are highly efficient at automating laborious functions and have permeated into many aspects of our everyday life, but their characteristics can have devastating consequences. On this episode, Dr. Lilian Hill discusses the characteristics of algorithms and why adult educators should be concerned about them.

Listen to the Podcast



Bennett, E. E., & McWhorter, R. R. (2020). Digital technologies for teaching and learning. In T. S. Rocco, M. C. Smith, R. C. Mizzi, L. R. Merriweather, & J. D. Hawley (Eds,), The Handbook of Adult and Continuing Education (pp. 177-186). Stylus.

Dickson, B. (2020, June 10). What makes AI algorithms dangerous? Retrieved

O’Neill, C. (2017). Weapons of math destruction: How big data increases inequality and threatens democracy. Crown Publishing Group.

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Instructional Applications of Algorithms


By Lilian H. Hill

Algorithms are also used to support the Flipped classroom in which students learn content independently so that facilitator can use class time for activities that support meaning making, applying information, and retaining knowledge.

Platforms that allow students to practice basic skills are also benefited by algorithmic responses. Programs used in adult basic and literacy education make use of algorithms to provide personalized content for students, tailored to their level of achievement. Software to support learning can provide pronunciation guides for language learning. It can even engage in simplified conversations. 

Computer algorithms are essential to simulated learning. They are used to replicate complex and dangerous situations while allowing students, and the public, to remain safe. For students to practice appropriate responses for stressful situations, algorithms determine symptoms displayed by robotic simulated patients for health professions students, automate flight practice for pilot trainees, and orchestrate the atmosphere of war to train soldiers. 


Collins, R. (2020). Interdisplinarity in adult and continuing education. In Rocco, T. S., Smith, M. C., Mizzi, R. C., Merriweather, L. R., & Hawley, J. D. (Eds.), Handbook of adult and continuing education (pp. 31-37). Stylus. 

Friday, December 23, 2022

Algorithms and the Social Implications of Facial Recognition



Algorithms can influence decision-making about college admissions, healthcare, criminal justice, legal, housing, and much more. It is important to recognize that there are problems in the way algorithms can incorporate existing human biases and magnify them through Artificial Intelligence and machine learning. On this episode of Information Literacy, moderated by Lilian Hill, we’re going to explore algorithms and the social implications of facial recognition through use of Artificial Intelligence and machine learning. Join in the online forum.


Algorithm Justice League. Retrieved

Data, Algorithms, and Social Justice. Retrieved

Harwell, D. (2019, December 19). AI's social justice problem: It's amplifying human bias. Retrieved

Hiner, J. (2021, April 15). AI's social justice problem: It's amplifying human bias. Retrieved

O’Neill, C. (2017). Weapons of math destruction: How big data increases inequality and threatens democracy. Crown Publishing Group. 


 Listen to the Podcast


Friday, December 16, 2022

Algorithms for Automation and More


By Lilian H. Hill

We have been discussing the role of algorithms in computer programming and how they structure what we view online. Today, we are starting a series of postings about the role of algorithms in education, with emphasis on adult learning.

Algorithms are useful in automating many repetitive tasks in the education world. For example, plotting course schedules, scheduling classrooms, allocating resources, organizing campus policing, and running student success and retention initiatives are all tasks that can be made more efficient with automation. Workplace orientation and training programs are delivered using computer algorithms. 

Some colleges and universities are moving to using chatbots to answer standardized questions. When you make a call for information and you receive responses from an automated voice, that is a chatbot in action. Information queries online can also be mediated by algorithms. 

Learning management systems (LMS) such as Canvas and Blackboard make use of algorithms to automate delivery of online courses and programs. They provide for efficient documentation of attendance, participation, submission of assignments, grading tests, and documentation and tracking of student achievement. 

When there are a finite number of responses to questions, for example in multiple-choice questions, surveys, and even personality assessments, algorithms are responsible for the instant responses you receive. You only have to wait for a grade when your written essay is graded by a human being. Some essays are even being graded by using algorithms capable of machine learning. Unfortunately, these assessments may assess students’ abilities to memorize facts, or use specific vocabulary the system is programmed to recognize, and not how well they are able to question and apply information.


Dans, E. (2020). Algorithms and education: Not so fast. Retrieved  Retrieved

Robinson, C. (2020). Impressions of viability: How current enrollment management personnel and former students perceive the implementation of a chatbot focused on student financial communication.

Rosen, D. (2019, June 4). The role of artificial intelligence in adult basic skills education. LINCS Community for Adult Educators. Retrieved

Friday, December 9, 2022

Getting to Know the Information Literacy Moderator


Hi, my name is Lilian Hill, professor emerita of the University of Southern Mississippi. I retired after working for more than 35 years in adult education in both Canada and the United States. My work experience includes program development/administration, conference management, faculty development, and teaching at the undergraduate, professional, and graduate levels.

As a professor, I have published extensively in adult education, higher education, and pharmacy education journals. My primary areas of expertise are in adult learning, health literacy, and assessment and evaluation. In 2020, I published an edited book on Assessment Evaluation, and Accountability in Adult Education. Most recently, I co-authored a textbook titled So you detest reading? Literacy skills and strategies for college students (Kendall Hunt, 2022).

At the university level, I have taught a wide variety of courses in adult education and qualitative research. I have chaired and served on more than 100 dissertations and often contributed as the qualitative research methodologist.

Regarding my service to my profession, I am co-editor of Adult Learning, the practitioner-oriented publication of the American Association of Adult and Continuing Education. I was honored to be recognized with the 

  • Okes Award for Outstanding Research in Adult Education by the American Association in Adult and Continuing Education in 2015 
  • Induction into International Adult Education Hall of Fame in 2018
  • Circle of 50 alumni by the University of Georgia in 2019
  • Career Achievement Award from CPAE in 2021
  • Lifetime Research Award, University of Southern Mississippi in 2022.

On a personal note, I am an artist, author, life coach, and recent graduate of the Academy of Culinary Nutrition.

I will leave you with a poem I wrote that shares the antecedents of my interest in this topic.

Lessons from my Mother 

I often say someone was not raised by my mother. Lately, I have been asking myself what I mean by that statement?

I say it when people are behaving rudely to one another.

When they refuse to understand a conflict from more than one perspective,when they are so sure they are right.

And fail to see that they could be wrong and the other person could be right.

When they disbelieve or disrespect the reasons people have for what they say and do.

When they fail to believe in other persons’ good intentions.

When they are focused on people’s exteriors, and do not care to learn about how they live, what they experienced, or what they learned.

When people fail to realize that we are all in this together, and that we are all afraid, clutching on to our little bits of the economic pie that does not trickle down, no matter how many times we are told that it will.

We hope to gain and not lose.

 We do not realize, much conflict is the result of people being manipulated within our socioeconomic system.

Whenever I would complain of being wronged, my mother would question me about what reasons the person would have for the way they acted.

As a child I was indignant.

Why did she not believe me that the other person was in the wrong?

 I understand now that my mother was teaching me to look at and respect other people’s perspectives. 

My mother prepared me to become an adult educator long before I ever knew the term.

 Why did it take me so long to understand?

Friday, December 2, 2022

Diving Deeper Into Algorithms


Algorithms have more influence than we know. Algorithms are embedded in the software program we use every day and may keep track of our personal information. This episode explores algorithms more deeply – why they are difficult to understand, how should we view them, and recognize their goals and objectives. This episode is a follow-up to the first episode on Information Literacy category as part of the Adult Learning Exchange Virtual Community. Dr. Lilian H. Hill is the moderator of the online forum. Listen to the episode and join in the discussion.


Mastantuono, M. (2021) The mathematics of misinformation.

Pflueger-Peters, N. (2022, May 20). An algorithm to detect fake news.

Listen to the Podcast

Friday, November 25, 2022

How algorithms influence what you see on the Internet



I am Lilian H. Hill, moderator of Information Literacy online forum.

Have you ever wondered if your computer is spying on you? Let’s say you searched for a topic on your laptop, only to find advertisements for related products on your smart phone or tablet later in the day, even from organizations or companies you did not view. This phenomenon is based on algorithms used by programs that operate on the internet. 

You may vaguely remember the word algorithms from high school math class, and probably forgot all about them. So, to remind you, an algorithm is a series of instructions for problem solving used in mathematics. The reasons they are pertinent now is that the word also refers to instructions programmed into computers for solving such as what you see when you perform a search on the Internet. In other words, algorithms are the foundation of how computers work. Computer technology can perform algorithmic operations at a speed not possible for human beings. 

Ubiquity of Algorithms  

Algorithms are everywhere because many items in our lives have embedded computer chips: in our cars, household appliances, home entertainment and security systems, and even doorbells. We wear them on our wrists as smartwatches or carry them around on our smartphones. They are even in medical devices such as hearing aids, pacemakers, or wearable glucose monitors. They provide for our convenience, health monitoring, and even safety. 

Personalized Information 

Social media and search engines such as Google are structured to personalize information that you see. They track information about your preferences and interests by following what you search for, how long you view websites, and even purchases you make online. You are more likely to see information you are interested in, but the trade-off is that you sacrifice some privacy. You are also more likely to see information that you agree with, meaning that algorithms may be shaping your opinions and view of reality. They are responsible for promoting fake news, information that is inaccurate, one-sided, or biased. They may promote and perpetuate racist, sexist, and other prejudicial perspectives. 

Machine Learning 

With the advent of machine learning, algorithms have become more independent of human control. They are controlling many things. For example, as many as 65% of stock market trades are controlled by algorithms instead of thinking human beings. Depending on their programming, the values they operate on may be to maximize profit no matter the results in human lives. Algorithms are at the forefront of innovation, creativity, and technological advancement. 

Algorithms are imperfect and have limitations based on their programming. They draw from past data, even while they are influencing our decisions. Because they have penetrated many aspects of our lives, this is a good time to ask questions about the influence of algorithms on our daily lives.


Algorithms are controlling everything in today’s digital world. Retrieved from 

Dangers and Recommendations of Algorithms

  By Lilian H. Hill A lot of uses of algorithms are beneficial; however, there are dangers involved. Decisions about ad...