Making Sense Of New Technologies And Media: An Opinionated Digest by George Siemens - May. 03 08
Understanding media, new technologies and learning is the best investment that can be done when in search of interpreting if and how the world we live can really still be changed. It is at the intersection of these vast realms of interest areas that there is huge new progress to be made. It is by studying the ways in which we communicate, create and pass on our knowledge to our heirs that best tells who we really are and where we are headed next.
Photo credit: Sebastian Kaulitzki
Sometimes, the lure of fresh new ideas or of a new technology can distract me from seeing the pattern, the trend, the possible turn at the upcoming intersection.
This is why it is important to cruise widely on the horizon of what is happening, allowing other trusted guides to take you in those areas and places where you would have never ended by yourself.
In this weekly feature on Master New Media, George Siemens, education and learning researcher, plays this very role of a trusted, wise guide, taking me and you on a fatastic tour of things we should open our eyes to while starting to ask ourselves new and interesting questions.
Digital Montessori for Big Kids
Games provide a useful model for learning (cost and time are two limiting factors). Games provide an ecology of exploration. Clear aims are pursued (complete a level, for example) in a flexible manner. Learners have time to explore peripheral experiences. The pseudo-linearity of intent within games combined with the ecology of exploration provide much of the value of games.
An interesting post on the subject: Digital Montessori for Big Kids:
"We're so accustomed to silo'ing kids by age and ability these days that the mere suggestion of mixing in older or adult peers makes us somewhat uncomfortable. And yet, there is immense value in commingling experts and novices, learners and teachers, grown-ups and kids - especially in third places for informal sociability where one's rank in terms of age or credentialing does not matter."
Data Visualization Talks
Data visualization is highly useful in helping us to make sense of complexity. If you're new to the concept, a few useful online talks are available to provide a basic introduction. We will be seeing many more visualization tools for use in learning: visualizing conversation/connections, content elements (word cloud, for example), related content, related learners, displaying relationships between complex concepts, etc.
Teaching: Networks and Social Connections
If you're interested, I've posted the slides from my presentation this morning - Rethinking Teaching: Networks and Social Connections to the Pacific Northwest Higher Education Teaching and Learning Conference.
A somewhat interesting confluence of factors - social learning, activity theory, network theory, and technology - is occurring. And it seems to be accelerating. Recent conferences I've attended indicate a shift in educator mindsets from tools (blogs, wikis, podcasts) to concepts (networked learning, distributed cognition, rethinking teaching, etc.). Nice to see.
Writing History, Together
I've been focused lately on trying to get a sense of the defining element that shapes, drives, and influences what's happening in the educational technology space today (and to a related but lesser degree, what's happening in society). I guess I'm asking the question: "What is the element/entity, that if we understood it better, would illuminate that nature and scope of the changes occurring?".
People living in the midst of a revolution likely aren't aware of the full scope. And, I suspect, people living in non-revolutionary periods are not aware of how history will perceive their era. Are we in revolutionary or non-revolutionary times? Ultimately, history will pass the verdict.
But in trying to find the element that will illuminate what is happening today, I'm increasingly returning to information. To how we create it. Share it. Dialogue around it. To this end, I find sites or concepts that alter how interaction with and around information of particular interest. For example - History Commons "allows people to investigate important issues by providing a space where people can collaborate on the documentation of past and current events, as well as the entities associated with those events.
" While people have always been able to do this, the scope and ease of collaborating and (hopefully) creating a multi-perspective information source is now greater than before. It just feels different to me. Like we're still going through many of the motions I recall going through in the past with regard to information creation/sharing...but something fundamental is different. Can't quite put my finger on it...
Connections Are Everything
Connections (obviously, but still worth noting occasionally) are central to how we socialize with and without technology. Technology brings to the forefront the sometimes less obvious connections found in a pre-internet world. How we used to network in face to face environments is now permissible at a more advanced level.
"My connectivity to individuals in libraries around the world have made me better at what I do and enabled me to build a rich understanding of practices different than just those I am surrounded with on a day-to-day basis. Maintaining these connections are incredibly important...connections are everything in the very technical sense that understanding and interacting with modern information technology can be seen as the management of connections."
Videos in Courses
Could the Chronicle be awakening from its slumber of pre-1980's view of technology? It appears as if some signs of life exist as it explores video in courses. Capturing videos of lectures is a useful idea...but the length of videos can be an issue.
If a lecture is boring, a one hour video of a lecture will retain this character. The TedTalks approach to video makes more sense (now, all you have to do is convince Nobel Laureates to speak to your class).
No Rest for the Wiki
Wikis embody much of the collaborative spirit that drives the discussion of participative technologies. They're (theoretically) open. Reflect the multiplicity of voices that often comprises the development of information and new ideas.
They're accessible and easy to use. But, challenges exist in adoption because wikis force a consideration of where we end and the group begins. Technical issues are partly a problem as wikis are not the most intuitive tools available, but ease of use is improving.
The big issues rests with the conceptual shifts required for using wikis. As this article - No Rest for the Wiki - (focusing on corporate adoption of wikis) states:
"Even employees convinced of the usefulness of wikis aren't necessarily comfortable with them, especially when their work may be seen and tinkered with by colleagues from across the company."
What Do People Want?
Once again, the field of mainstream media provides practical insight into what ails education as an enterprise:
"This is something that people in the media world don't understand. Media in the 20th century was run as a single race--consumption. How much can we produce? How much can you consume? Can we produce more and you'll consume more? And the answer to that question has generally been yes.
But media is actually a triathlon, it 's three different events. People like to consume, but they also like to produce, and they like to share."
Isn't that what we want with our learning experiences? We don't just want to read your book. We want to talk about, create something around it, share it with our network and peers. Seems simple, but to truly implement it would be rather disruptive for education as we know it today.
Originally written by George Siemens and published as weekly email digest on eLearning Resources and News. First published on May 02th 2008.
To learn more about George Siemens and to access extensive information and resources on elearning check out www.elearnspace.org. Explore also George Siemens connectivism site for resources on the changing nature of learning and check out his new book "Knowing Knowledge".
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