Media Literacy: Making Sense Of New Technologies And Media by George Siemens - Aug 2 08
To understand the times and changes we are going through, it is necessary to keep scanning the horizon for changes and new emerging patterns. Looking only at your close, surrounding community and environment doesn't help you see beyond your existing assumptions and prejudices.
Photo credit: RGBSpace
To ride them you not only need to scan deep and wide outside your familiar comfort zones, but you need to have enough bravery to test, expose yourself to some of these new media and technologies as much as placing under critical questioning many of your well established assumptions about how learning, work, collaboration need to be.
Educational technologist and connectivism evangelist George Siemens takes you through another journey into issues, ideas, research, and technology innovations that have a direct impact on how we live, work and learn from each other.
eLearning Resources and News
learning, networks, knowledge, technology, trends
by George Siemens
Fueling Online Learning
Ray Schroeder has started a new blog - Fueling Online Learning - looking at the impact of fuel prices on online learning. Much like blogs received their big "push" into prime time through a series of external events (terrorist attacks, tsunamis, hurricanes), it looks like online learning may come into its own through rising costs of fuel and increased concern to how our actions impact the environment.
Secure and Resilient
Science has an interesting article on the security and resiliency of societies. After an initial exploration of society's need to be structured in a manner that permits high stability (especially with the tremendous flux in urbanization), the article begins to explore the values of networks as an organizational scheme. In particular, the prominence of information as an economic resource and output is a key pressure driving restructuring efforts.
In a learning context, the discussion toward the end of the article gets to the heart of what networks offer - the increased ability for anyone/everyone to participate.
The authors state:
"Network-centric structures enable non-place-based access and temporary working arrangements, and cognitive capability built into network tools can facilitate economic integration of the disabled. This enhances not just the economic performance of society, but the quality of life of individuals involved; virtually all marginalized groups are highly interested in participating in the economy if they can and if the work can be structured to suit their requirements, which is precisely the flexibility the network-centric structure can provide. "
Fuel Prices and Online Education
I've seen a few dozen articles in the last several weeks about how high fuel prices are driving online enrollment in universities and colleges (see, for example, As Gas Prices Rise). In a surprisingly short period of time, we have moved from discussing the quality of online courses in relationship to face-to-face courses (this conversation was happening in the late 90's, early 00's) to seeing online courses as a critical contribution to meeting varying needs of students.
No doubt, we'll see a similar explosion in online conferences. Obviously, first preference is to meet others in person. And that will continue to happen in classes and conferences. The balance will shift, however. Instead of 100% being face-to-face, we'll see that drop to 60 or 70% (completely random guesses).
Online learning and conferencing is not just a shallow replacement. Interacting with others online is different than f2f- you meet different people, experience other cultures, interact with leading experts. It is a unique field in its own right. It is more than just a replacement of meeting in person. It affords different types (and quality) of interaction.
We Have the Pieces
We have lots of pieces. Content. Information. Knowledge. Social connections. Technology. These pieces are impacting education in a hit-and-miss manner.
We read of implementations of SecondLife, or laptops, or mobile phones (we're mostly done hearing about institutions implementing learning management systems - now we just hear about institutions moving from one platform to another). The missing piece? The whole.
While that might sound a bit comical, it is our current biggest challenge. We're squeezing the pieces into our existing model of content, information, and education.
The video (17 min) is someone cheesy in parts, sounds more like an iPhone advertisement than a video for education, and still tries to squeeze technology into an existing model. But, it's an interesting look at how we can improve information access and interaction when our systems are conceived in line with our devices.
Are We Getting Dumber?
Each generation has its voices that suggest our technologies are damaging our humanity. If you make certain predictions in every generation, I guess you're going to be right sooner or later :). I enjoyed reading Is cinematography making us stupid:
"the Journal of the American Medical Association on the work on 19th century neurologists George Beard and Silas Weir Mitchell, who thought the pace of life and the effect of new technology was harming the mind and brain of citizens in 1800s America - echoing similar concerns we still hear today."
The real challenge with too many false predictions is that we eventually tune them out...even when the prediction turns out to be true. Hmm. Where have we heard a story like that? Something about a boy and a wolf?
Are We Using Google? Or is Google Using Us?
Like much of the online world, I'm in an ongoing state of conflict with my reliance on Google. I don't want my entire digital life tied into one tool...and yet the tools Google makes generally exceed the functionality of competitors. And so I often drink from the brew where privacy, functionality, and principle blend seamlessly.
Several years ago, I was on a panel at Milken Institute. One of my panel members - at that time just coming off of a research position at Microsoft - stated that once people realized what Google does with data, they would leave in droves.
I argued that people, when forced to choose, will almost always select convenience/functionality at the expense of privacy. So far, I've been right. Both Google and Facebook are strong indicators of this choice for functionality. Sure, Beacon crashed, but only because users weren't lulled into it. Give it a few years. Beacon will exist under a different name and will be viewed as novel and innovative.
A short account (fictitious) of what's happening - Are we using Google? Or is Google using us?:
"Harvest all the data in the world, rendering all available answers accessible to all possible questions, and then reinforce the meaningful associations while letting the meaningless ones die out.
Since, by diagonal argument in the scale of possible infinities, there will always be more questions than answers, it is better to start by collecting the answers, and then find the questions, rather than the other way around."
Somewhat clever twist of concepts to conclude the article...
New University Model
I don't know if I've ever had a conversation with someone who feels universities are doing exactly what they need to be doing.
We have an almost universal consensus that something is wrong and things need to change. Our happily little band of edubloggers has been building a case for change over the last 5 or 6 years. The calls for change are mirrored in more traditional sectors of society as well (wasn't it Drucker who said universities would be obsolete in 10 years?). The problem, however, is that we are focused on what's wrong. I think we get it now - it's a system that doesn't work as well as it could. For many different reasons.
We all understand that we have a problem of sorts. It is a solution that we are lacking. Carl Wieman's recent article on New University Education Model Needed reflects what I'm whining about: problem articulated, solution not provided.
Still, it's a good article that highlights ways in which universities are not serving society due to numerous changes in the society universities were originally created to serve. What we urgently need is some type of draft solution that serves the needs of all stakeholders in the education system.
Rumour Has It, the Web Is Big
Google acknowledges that the web is big. Really big. The article provides a one sentence summary that translates well as advice to people interested in forming personal learning networks: "We start at a set of well-connected initial pages and follow each of their links to new pages." It's that simple. Start somewhere. Follow links from there. That's learning today.
Metcalfe's Law is Wrong
We eagerly fall over ourselves trying to advocate for networks. The internet. The web. Personal learning networks. Some have even suggested connectivism.
Networks, as a concept, is so easy to comprehend that we use the term in advanced ways without paying much attention to what we mean. Or, more specifically, we often don't consider the nature of different types of networks.
What are the attributes of learning networks? What influences network formation? How are network elements (in learning) different when we achieve deep understanding of a subject versus when we have only a shallow understanding? Judging from the focus of several recent editions of educational journals, it looks like educators are waking up to the importance of greater precision in the discussion of networks.
Metcalfe's Law is Wrong provides a critical exploration of one of the foundational aspects of network theory. Metcalfe's Law states that the value of a network is related to the number of users.
The article acknowledges the mathematical validity of Metcalfe's law, but highlights a critical flaw: "the assignment of equal value to all connections or all groups." All nodes are equal, but some are more equal than others.
In Search of a Beautiful Mind
Seymour Papert is a living legend, having exerted tremendous influence in numerous fields, including artificial intelligence and education. In 2006 he was struck by a motorcycle and sustained a severe brain injury - a devastating condition for anyone, but perhaps even more so for one of the world's leading thinkers about learning.
In Search of a Beautiful Mind is a touching article about the challenges of a genius like Papert learning to perform the most basic functions of humanity: speech, walking, reading.
The article provides a powerful reminder that our humanness is not a function of how any single person is more gifted in a particular area than any other person. The thin veneer of intelligence that briefly raises one person to heights of recognition above others can quickly be stripped away.
In the end, family, friends, and colleagues form the most basic source of strength for even the most brilliant members of society. But it's a bittersweet story - someone like Papert receives enormous support in his recovery (at a cost of over $15,000 per month) while many people with similar injuries have a vastly diminished prospect of recovery.
I've been playing with MobileMe - Apple's service for people to distribute data across multiple tools, similar to Microsoft's Live Mesh - over the last few days. While the service is classified as an example of cloud computing, it's really more like simple data synchronization (at least currently).
Cloud computing is more about, well, computing. Computing shared by multiple devices. Distributed. Synchronizing data may be a part of that. But certainly not the whole. We're entering the twilight zone of term ambiguity again (remember web 2.0? A term that mean everything and nothing all at once).
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