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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Media Literacy: Making Sense Of New Technologies And Media by George Siemens - Jan 17 09

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In this issue of the Media Literacy digest George Siemens deals with the predominance of advertising in Web 2.0, usage statistics of social networks, alternative approaches to teaching, and the need to improve existing learning platforms.

Photo credit: Rogers

Furthermore, today digest points to an interesting MIT experiment devoted to try out new teaching approaches. MIT is gradually dropping long lectures, and focusing on smaller classes where learners can collaborate and interact with each other more actively. A small and intimate learning environment is the best way to let students improve their skills.

And from such a view it should appear as comforting news that such a long-established and respected academic institution decides to try a different solution where teachers and learners can truly share their knowledge, instead of being just put together in the same room following the sterile approach "I teach, you learn".

If you want to know more on alternative teaching approaches, and understand better the disruptive changes that our educational system is facing, this weekly digest with George Siemens is a good starting point to get more involved.


eLearning Resources and News

learning, networks, knowledge, technology, trends

by George Siemens


Web 2.0 Called; It Says It's Just an Ad Platform Now


I've whined before about how web 2.0 was / is a threat to open source software. Open source is an ideology (although watered down from Stallman's initial version) about openness, democracy, and participation.

Web 2.0 is about free of cost. It's a soul-less version of open source that relies on certain external conditions for its existence. Ideologies can outlive many waves of change. It's too early to say that web 2.0 is on the wane due to economic pressures, but a concept tied to external realities (markets, politics) will always be challenged to live in tumultuous times.

Web 2.0 Called; It Says It's Just An Ad Platform Now

"Time and time again, many of the most innovative services online today run out of money before the huge number of potential and diverse users that could find value in them end up discovering them. Those services end up serving instead the world of advertising, or as is the case with many of the most awe inspiring research technologies - financial services professionals."

Adults and Social Network Sites


Pew Internet's recent report - Adults and Social Network Sites (.pdf) - doesn't offer anything dramatically new for those who have been active in online social networking sites.

Of greatest interest is the growth over the last three years - 35% of adults have a profile, four times the number from 2005... but significantly less than the 65% of teens with a SN profile. As is often the case with new technology adoption, the percentages decline with age (down to only 7% for those in the 65+ category).

The adoption of SN sites does reveal some interesting distinctions by race and income: non-whites are more likely to use these services and use declines as income increases.


Time to End "Courseocentricism"


Aside from winning the most awkward new term - courseocentricism (why not just course-centricism?) - this article makes a compelling case for the limitations of current views of courses. The author appeals for ending course silos as a way to improve consistency across curriculum and thereby produce a more integrated or connected body of knowledge. From the article:

"At a time when amazing new forms of connectivity are made possible by new digital technologies and when much of the best recent work in the humanities has made us more aware of the social and collective nature of intellectual work, we still think of teaching in ways that are narrowly private and individualistic, as something we do in isolated classrooms with little or no knowledge of what our colleagues are doing in the next classroom or the next building and little chance for each other's courses to become reference points in our own."

I like the idea of thinning our classroom walls and allowing connections to be formed between concepts from other subject areas. But that responsibility shouldn't rest on the educator.

"Getting on the same page" (author's words) seems a bit at odds with opening up class rooms. We need to all get on our own page, form our own connections, our own understanding of different fields. It seems that the desire still runs high for educators to apply increased organization when problems become intractable.

What is really needed is a complete letting go of our organization schemes and open concepts up to the self / participatory / chaotic sensemaking processes that flourish in online environments.


The Season of Predictions


The season of predictions is upon us. I've never been fully convinced of the value of predictions (if someone says 2009 is the year of the mobile phone, what does that mean to me? What should I do differently? Use my phone more? Text more?).

Ironically, the value of predictions is less in what they predict... and more in how they provide a framework for existing trends. Predictions that only look one year into the future are really a "pause and reflect" activity.

A few recent articles / predictions:


At MIT, Large Lectures Are Going the Way of the Blackboard


It's encouraging to see universities adopting different approaches to teaching.

While research on the so-called learning sciences is not fully settled, enough is understood about learning to warrant significant reconsideration of how teaching occurs in universities.

At MIT, Large Lectures Are Going the Way of the Blackboard

The physics department has replaced the traditional large introductory lecture with smaller classes that emphasize hands-on, interactive, collaborative learning. Last fall, after years of experimentation and debate and resistance from students, who initially petitioned against it, the department made the change permanent. Already, attendance is up and the failure rate has dropped by more than 50 percent.

Changes of this nature still occur within the existing structure of universities. The next, somewhat obvious, question to tackle is "how should universities be structured when access to information and ability to create learning networks shift from instructor to learner control?".


Frustrating Conferences...


Conferences are terrific opportunities for meeting colleagues, encountering new ideas, and getting as sense of what's happening "over there". For dissemination of knowledge (information, really, but knowledge is the term most people relate to), few processes are more valuable.

But conferences can be frustrating. Very frustrating. Who hasn't encountered the joy of sitting in a conference room, listening to droning presentations, feeling as if though they've lost the "which session is going to be the least bad" lottery from the program brochure?

Several years ago, I was asked to join the ED-MEDIA steering committee. As a group, they have been very willing to entertain different approaches for improving the conference.

Now, under the umbrella of AACE, we're pleased to announce Spaces of Interaction: An online conversation on improving traditional conferences. (Ning site for the event).

The discussion happens February 18-20, 2009. It's free. It's online. And it's open. If you're a conference organizer, sit on a conference committee, or attend conferences, we'd love to hear your input on how the experience can be improved.

You may find this article - Conference Connections: rewiring the circuit - to be a useful lead up to the online event.


What Not to Build


I met with an individual today who is creating a virtual world for young teens. The project is conceived as serving a niche market. Of course, we all feel our ideas are unique or our particular circumstance is different from others. I left the meeting with a sense of "why are people still building these things? why not take advantage of infrastructure that is already in place?".

Operating systems and platforms that are used as the base of innovation are increasingly free. The value is in the creativity and innovation unleashed by many contributors. Google gets this. That's why they announced OpenSocial. And Android. Competition based on openness.

Stephen Downes continues his reflection / future thinking with What Not to Build (this follows his important Future of Online Learning: 10 Years On). In this (shorter) paper, he offers advice to the elearning industry on what not to build... what is being built... what is a fad... and what might be worth building.

I don't agree with all of his statements. iPhones are hyped, but I don't think they are a fad... though Android and RIM may impact their market share.

Cloud computing will not be noticed because, well, that's the point. The technology becomes transparent. People are already "using the cloud" without being fully aware of it. This may depend on how one defines cloud computing - i.e. if it includes Google Docs, Gmail, MobileMe, and other hardware / software applications that don't confine computing to a particular device - then I don't think it's a fad.

Those two small points aside, Stephen has written a good article that will make edtech professionals rethink future / emerging projects.

Originally written by George Siemens for elearnspace and first published on January 15th 2009 in his newsletter eLearning Resources and News.

About the author


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".

Photo credits:
Web 2.0 Called; It Says It's Just an Ad Platform Now - Eric Isselée
Adults and Social Network Sites - Cathy Yeulet
Time to End "Courseocentricism" - moori
The Season of Predictions - Andrei Kiselev
At M.I.T., Large Lectures Are Going the Way of the Blackboard - Luis Louro
Frustrating Conferences... -Fleyeing
What Not to Build - xavigm

George Siemens -
Reference: eLearnSpace [ Read more ]
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posted by Daniele Bazzano on Saturday, January 17 2009, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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