Making Sense Of New Technologies And Media: An Opinionated Digest by George Siemens - June 1 08
New media technologies are taking over the stage even when you are the presenter? If attendees to your last presentation got frequently distracted, kept avidly typing on their laptops or if your students kept getting distracted in your class, are you failing as a communicator or is your audience in need of being further educated? Where does your ability to engage start to fail and where does the new multi-channel, always-on interactive dialogue start? Who is really wrong?
Photo credit: Dovile Butvilaite
"I'm sympathetic with the concerns of laptop mis-use. Yet I wonder if the problem isn't partly with our lack of modeling proper technology use. Perhaps we ought to utilize these tools for academic purposes, rather than continuing lecture models and seeing laptops as add ons to learning rather than a key contributor."
...writes George Siemens while giving voice also to others who, like Chris Lott, actually promote the use of "backchannels" in class and during lectures:
"We all know that regardless of what a participant has at hand- a backchannel, a laptop, a cell phone, a book, or a set of Legos- they are not and never will direct 100% of their attention forward and they will find ways to create the attention cycles that characterize engagement."
George Siemens, who looks at how we can best extract new knowledge and valuable interaction opportunities from our our worn academic path, takes you each week on a tour of his most recent adventures, discoveries and new findings.
Here his media and technology report for this week:
Social Media in Plain English
CommonCraft continues its tradition of taking complex ideas and reducing them to their essence in short videos. Their most recent release is Social Media in Plain English (just under 4 minutes). The video presents the value of social media creators (the amateurs) using new tools and approaches to personalize and augment the activities of traditional "big companies". Well done, though I'll pass on the pickle ice cream, thank you.
Theory and Practice of Online Learning
Terry Anderson has released the second edition of his popular Theory and Practice of Online Learning (direct link to entire book in .pdf). The book is available for purchase or as a free download. Topics include social media, philosophies of technology, mobile learning, cost decisions about technology, libraries, learner support and more.
On a personal note, I appreciated Mohamed Ally's opening chapter on learning theory, including extensive discussion on connectivism. The broad range of subjects, both theoretical and practical, ensures that this publication will continue to be a critical resource for trainers, educators, and students.
Understanding the Backchannel
Photo credit: Henrischmi
Chris Lott is one of the most insightful writers I follow. I've had several opportunities over the last six months (while I was in Fairbanks) to spend time with Chris. Great experience each time. He offers a rare blend of creative and critical thinking - I guess that's what happens when a poet holds a degree in philosophy.
Anyway, Chris recently posted on understanding the backchannel (a backchannel is essentially a tool such as Twitter, IRC, or IM that allows for participants to interact with each other while in a classroom or conference):
"Others have bought into what I consider a common fallacy: if the backchannel weren't there that attention would be directed at them (or whoever is speaking) instead. We all know that regardless of what a participant has at hand- a backchannel, a laptop, a cell phone, a book, or a set of Legos- they are not and never will direct 100% of their attention forward and they will find ways to create the attention cycles that characterize engagement. I was able to ignore all of my horrible, disengaged, shallow, incompetent teachers just fine back when the only thing digital any of us had access to was a watch."
Music and Video Games
I'm not sure what this means (if anything) - apparently, bands are selling more songs on Xbox than on iTunes.
All content converges on entertainment?
Hey You, Pay Attention!
Photo credit: Noel Powell
Educators are concerned about student use of technology in the classroom. Laptops are an easy exit point from a lecture. A few years ago, I upset a series of colleagues when I stated something to the effect of "if students are distracted in your class, the issue is not with them, but with you as a teacher". Apparently, they didn't agree.
I do think that laptops can be challenging in classrooms. Learners can get themselves into trouble with too much time spent online, creating a situation where they get too far behind in course material to catch up. Then they run the risk of failing or dropping out. But imposing control by limiting laptop use is about more than fostering learning.
It's about the rights of the learners. And, failing is a part of that right. We can minimize laptop use, but what about iPod touch? Or mobile phones? When I don't have a laptop at a conference, I learn differently, not more. I learn what the speaker is saying, rather than the resources she is citing. When I have a computer, I don't play solitaire as suggested in this article - Hey you, pay attention!.
I use the opportunity to find related resources, follow up on information presented, and generally enlarge the sphere of what would often be a single-perspective presentation. I'm sympathetic with the concerns of laptop mis-use. Yet I wonder if the problem isn't partly with our lack of modeling proper technology use. Perhaps we ought to utilize these tools for academic purposes, rather than continuing lecture models and seeing laptops as add ons to learning rather than a key contributor.
The Role of University Faculty in the OER World
Open educational resources are an extension of the learning object excitement of a few years ago (with less complex meta-data schemes :)). I'm very much in favor of sharing learning resources, especially when they have been developed with public funds. But, OERs are not the answer. They are at best a transitory solution.
Product-based approaches to learning will ultimately fail. Two significant pressures: 1) Learning is a social process that requires interaction between learners and educators, 2) information development will continue to increase exponentially, meaning today's OERs cannot be kept current. But, while we are waiting to fully experience the flaws of OERs, here are a few thoughts on The Role of University Faculty in the OER World.
According to Stephen,
"I don't expect massive numbers of downloads or WordPress-like popularity. Rather, I view it as one prong in my overall research effort, a demonstration, in code, of the concepts I talk about in writing."
A demo area is set up for interested parties to play with the software. Great example of putting real examples of theoretical concepts.
I arrived in Ghana late on Tuesday this week. I'll post reflections on the experience on my connectivism blog some time later this week. It is a lovely country with beautiful, friendly people. As I said to a colleague, if I could be assured of broadband, I'd move here (assuming, of course, that they would have me!).
That may reveal my somewhat pathetic addiction to online access, but, hey, it's true :). I presented on A narrative of learning for a world without boundaries (slides are here).
John Connell was kind enough to provide a summary of the talk. He concludes by mentioning a participant accusing me of being a Maoist. Not sure what I said that caused that reaction. But I am fully willing to sell my presentation to anyone who would like to pay.
Originally written by George Siemens and published as weekly email digest on eLearning Resources and News. First published on May 31st 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".George Siemens -
Reference: eLearnspace Blog [ Read more ]
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