In this weekly Media Literacy Digest, open education and connectivism advocate George Siemens, takes you to news and stories about his new media technologies discoveries and their possible impact on how we work, learn and communicate together.
Photo credit Andrea Danti
Inside this Media Literacy Digest
learning, networks, knowledge, technology, trends
by George Siemens
Every year, the Edge asks a few hundred people a provocative question. This year, the question is: How is the internet changing the way you think? (if you are interested in topics from previous years, they are available here).
As always, it is a fascinating read. And can take days to work through the major topics and themes. If the Edge wanted to make this service more useful, I would recommend applying some type of sensemaking activities to the 159 responses. What are the dominant themes that emerged? How are ideas related? What are the key controversies?
I appreciate thoughtful, relevant questions, but tinkering with the method of making sense of abundance is where value increasingly lies.
We leave data trails almost everywhere we go:
The explicification (it is not a real word, but it should be) of our activities is a somewhat recent development.
A few decades ago, I could go to the library, buy my sandwich with cash, have a conversation with a colleague... and I would not leave an explicit data trail that could be analyzed and dissected.
Retailers are capitalizing on explicit data trails:
...what is changing, experts say, is the rapid surge in the amount and types of digital data that retailers can now tap, and the improved computing tools to try to make sense of it.
The data explosion spans internal sources including point-of-sale and shipment-tracking information, as well as census data and syndicated services.
Companies also track online visitors to web commerce sites, members of social networks like Facebook and browsers using smartphones.
Similar data trails are left by learners online.
Universities - whether to lack of vision or concerns over privacy laws - have done little to improve their practices through better data collection and dissemination. Usually, educators only get as far as looking at LMS login records to see how often a student logged in or how many posts they read.
Educational analytics is a poorly developed field. Maybe that is good, though.
To date, most universities have been ineffective at creating compelling visions of new approaches to teaching and learning. Better data collection might only result in perpetuating existing pedagogical models.
Google, in its humble goal of organizing the people information of the world, has released Nexus One. Reviews are generally positive and the Nexus vs. iPhone comparisons are already beginning (in the technology field, you are cool based on how quickly you can declare something that is currently popular "obsolete" and list a new tool / software that will "kill product X").
The most innovative aspect of Nexus One may not be the product itself, but the process of selling it - an unlocked carrier independent smartphone (or superphone if you like hype).
Some speculation existed before the announcement of Nexus One that Google would be completely by-passing the traditional carriers and sell a phone as VoIP only. I guess that move was too disruptive for even Google to pursue...
After exploring the rapid increase in tuition over the last several decades (hardly news), That Old College Lie goes on to state that:
...for the average student, college is not nearly as good a deal as colleges would have us believe... Colleges are often lumped in with other non-profit entities like charities and hospitals in the public mind. But they actually most resemble the institution from which many of the oldest and most renowned colleges sprang: Organized religion.
Like the church, colleges have roots that pre-date the founding of the republic. They see themselves as occupying an exalted place in human society, for which they are owed deference and gratitude. They cherish their priests and mysteries, and they are disinclined to subject either to public scrutiny.
The author recommends more transparency and greater focus on measurement.
I think transparency is a good start - universities should be explicit about the data they collect in relation to students, professors, and learning in general. I doubt the solution to education's difficulties will be found in better measurement, however.
Higher education faces a significant challenge in demonstrating the value of its teaching role (the other two roles of HE - research and accreditation are still secure).
The growth of freely available resources and even a few alternate university models (University of the People) gives reason to pause and ask: "What is it that universities offer today's learners and is the existing model one that needs preservation"?
Not too many universities and colleges have an optimistic view of 2010. It is shaping up to be a year (and more) of budget cuts and frugality.
Unlike businesses - which are immediately impacted by financial downturns - governments feel financial pain when tax revenue drops (usually six+ months after downturns).
Universities are impacted only after governments begin grappling with new budgets. As a result, higher education feels financial pain a year or so after the rest of society. And that is when the cuts start.
Unfortunately, during periods of downturn, more students are enrolling in university... at exactly the same time that universities are dealing with cuts.
The new normal carries the contradictions of both a fragile macro-economic recovery and a countervailing trend of only modest increases in enrollment and new federal research investments predicted for the fall of 2010 (with the important exception of the community college environment).
The new normal is less financial leverage and smaller investments in core infrastructure, including IT on campus, even though the price of borrowing money has never been lower.
The new normal is more and faster disruption to the consumer technology eco-system at the same time that levels of investment in our aging IT enterprise infrastructure decline in both real and relative terms.
On a positive note - times of change are ideal for transformation as well. Universities will be more inclined to consider new approaches and innovations when there is a compelling need for change.
Work is changing in most fields... and Janet Clarey addresses how technology and information influence how she spends her time as an analyst and researcher and how that is changed in four years: "But I am noticing that the new things on the list are the type of activities that make it hard to set aside large blocks of time to read uninterrupted".
I have also moved from interacting with established information sources to interacting with information flow. I am finding it difficult to evaluate which approach generates more value.
When interacting with information flows, I have a greater sense of connectedness and general awareness of trends. But consumption is not creation.
I can experiencing information in short twitter-like blurbs. Creating something of value generally requires time and effort.
About George Siemens
From late 2009, George Siemens holds a position at the the Technology Enhanced Knowledge Research Institute in Athabasca University. He was former Associate Director in the Learning Technologies Centre at the University of Manitoba. George blogs at www.elearnspace.org where he shares his vision on the educational landscape and the impact that media technologies have on the educational system. George Siemens is also the author of Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age and the book "Knowing Knowledge" where he developes a learning theory called connectivism which uses a network as the central metaphor for learning and focuses on knowledge as a way to making connections.
George Siemens -
How Is The Internet Changing The Way You Think? - Junaid Khalid
Data Is All - ktsdesign
The Year Ahead In Higher Education IT - buket bariskan
How I Spend My Time As An Analyst and Researcher and How That Has Changed In Four Years - vivoandando