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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Making Sense Of New Technologies And Media: An Opinionated Digest by George Siemens - Jan.26 08

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How do great ideas spread and become "influencers" for those who are exposed to them? How can you involve yourself in deciding how to get our children educated? Are online learning tutorials a trend that is going to grow? How are future classrooms going to look like?

Photo credit: Mario Lopes

To these and many other fascinating issues George Siemens provides insightful answers and starting points for good discussion on how media, technology and education are evolving. One of Canada's most appreciated education and technology analysts, George is a unique researcher of the learning and education trends as well as a techno-philosopher interested in interpreting the best possible paths we, as humans, could take in our near future.

Dedicated to those who want to get a light, but comprehensive overview of media and technology key stories and issues that they may have missed out on this past week, this digest provides a cool selection of news, ideas, thoughts and stories you may have not caught on the front page of your preferred RSS news aggregator.


Sense-Making of Technology and Media: a George Siemens Weekly Digest


by George Siemens

The Power of Being Influenced

Photo credit: White House

Marketers rely on a few prominent people to promote their message, assuming that we will be influenced by celebrities ("be like Mike"). Research on networks suggests influence doesn't work that way - The Power of Being Influenced:

"A key reason some ideas are so successful, conventional wisdom has held, is that a few highly influential people espouse them ...It's a compelling idea, but does it really work?

Once an idea spread to a critical mass of easily influenced individuals, it took hold and continued to spread to other easily influenced individuals. In some networks, it was far easier to get an idea established this way than in others.

The entire structure of the network mattered, not just the few influential people."

The person sitting beside you often has more influence on your thinking than experts or celebrities.

Educating Our Children

Photo credit: Thomasz Trojanowski

The current issue of Forbes is focused on educating our children.

Numerous experts have put forward their theories in short articles. Missing, however, are the views and opinions of teachers, parents, and students.

While the commentaries of prominent people will obviously gain more attention, I think more wisdom is likely to be found in educators in the trenches. Better yet, host a "submit your view of education" session on YouTube. Then allow the network to filter the best ideas. Or host the discussion in a wiki.

Don't tell us how to fix education. Involve us in fixing education.

Second Life Tutorials


I'm preparing for a Second Life workshop I'm slated to deliver in the near future. And this list of tutorials looks useful for participants and newcomers to Second Life.

User created tutorials have come a long way. When I first tried installing Movable Type in 2001, I followed a written tutorial provided by the company. The process took quite a while (probably more to do with my skills than the manual).

Now, with YouTube, podcasts, blogs, and wikis, excellent help resources are often available. There is, of course, nothing formal about this... just people helping each other.

What's their motivation? Most likely, at some point, they similarly benefited from an online tutor (whether learning how to use a piece of software or coming to understand a concept better because someone shared it in a blog or wiki). The teacher is the learner is the teacher.

Trust Barometer

Photo credit: Dave Sackville

This is an interesting study: Trust Barometer, 2008.

The report looks at how people form trust with companies in different countries. Some findings are obvious (trust is higher with a "person like yourself"), but others provide insight into trends: citizens in countries with high government control rely on online forums and social network sites to gain information, youth are more more trusting than older generations... but they also rely on multiple sources of information in forming opinions, online and print use of media is nearing parity with younger members, etc..

The survey is, unfortunately, quite confined, as "opinion elites" (college educated, high income) comprise the sample.

The Future


The future figured prominently in my reading this week. Janet Clarey questions the future of physical classrooms based on Elliot Masie's question of Classrooms of the future.

She asks: do we need physical classrooms for learning? While the comments to her (and Elliot's) post range significantly, a tone of classrooms are dead is obvious.

I disagree. All tools in context. Narrow, one-approach thinking brought us to where we are.

Now, as "revolutionaries" sense some traction for change through the development of technology, the desire to see the future through a single lens is becoming obvious (revolutionaries seek to conserve once the revolution is finished).

As trends in learning and technologies become more divergent, "and thinking" becomes more important. Classrooms and the web. Blogs and LMS. Collaborative learning and blogging.

A few additional resources: Learning technologies and schools of the future (.pdf) ...and predictions for 2008 (coming in a bit late - it's cheating if your predictions aren't made at the end of the year or within the first few days of the new year :) ).

Content and Learning

Photo credit: Leah-Anne Thompson

The Open Education Resources (OER) movement continues to gain momentum - Open Yale, MIT OCW, Connexions, Open Learn - the list goes on.

Sadly, Canada - Land of Common Sense - has only one institution (Capilano College) with an OER initiative according to OCW Consortium.

This week, with a mix of applause and criticism, the The Cape Town Declaration was released as "a statement of principle, a statement of strategy and a statement of commitment" on open education resources.

It's vital to note that open access to content is but the first step on a long journey. How our institutions change in a culture of collaboration, how teaching as an act changes, how learners are accredited - these are the real areas of change.

Open content is an important start. But it is a foundation on which a new structure of education can be built. We need to start having that discussion.

Some Industry Stats...

Photo credit: Sanja Gjenero

A few stats on media, blogs, and mobile growth:

"Some 40% of web site operators have launched mobile sites and another 22% plan to do so in the next year...

The biggest impact of blogs, says the study, is in the speed and availability of news, while 61.8% of the respondents said that blogs were having a significant impact on the "tone" of news reporting... 9.3% translates into $27.5 billion being spent on various forms of Internet advertising in 2008."

Do Generational Differences Matter in Instructional Design

Photo credit: Tuso

The Instructional Technology Forum periodically hosts fairly regular discussions on key issues impacting the design of learning (you can subscribe to the forum mailing list here).

The current discussion is particularly relevant to educators and trainers trying to make sense of how the so called generational differences impact instructional design. The paper explores the range of literature - ranging from hype to serious research (Twenge in particular).

As with much educational research or literature reviews, the final evidence weighs in with "it depends". While acknowledging that a "glaring weakness" exists in generational research, the author suggests certain differences do exist between generations with regard to attitudes, motivators, and work habits.

The final conclusion on designing for different generations:

"Generational differences are evident in the workplace, but they are not salient enough to warrant the specification of different instructional designs or the use of different learning technologies."

I think, in this instance, the consideration of varied design approaches has been tied to the wrong variable (generational differences).

The greater area of change and impact is found in the habits, activities, and needs of learners (not based on generations, but on how technology creates new opportunities for learning networks far beyond the narrow domain of classroom walls).

I would like to see increased discussion on how we design for things we don't know and learners must come to know through exploration (consider how the iPhone was unlocked - while the target was known, an established process for achieving the target did not exist).

Instructional design is generally concerned with the process of teaching something that is already known. But we don't always know what we need. Increasingly, if my personal experience is any indication, I simply don't know what I need to know and must rely on my information and learning network to achieve intended outcomes.

I'd like to see an instructional design process that attends to the complexity of emergent or unknown processes.


Originally written by George Siemens and published as weekly email digest on eLearning Resources and News. First published on January 26th 2008.


To learn more about George Siemens and to access extensive information and resources on elearning check out Explore also George Siemens connectivism site for resources on the changing nature of learning and check out his new book "Knowing Knowledge".

George Siemens -
Reference: eLearnSpace
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posted by Patricia Mayo on Saturday, January 26 2008, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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