Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Media Literacy: Making Sense Of New Technologies And Media by George Siemens - Aug 22 09

Sponsored Links

In this issue of MasterNewMedia weekly media literacy digest, open education advocate George Siemens, explores issues in technology and education that directly influence the way we work and think about our future.

Photo credit: ktsdesign

Inside this Media Literacy Digest:

  • Location - The prominence of mobile devices is raising the profile of location-aware programs.
  • It Is Raining In The Cloud - cloud computing needs to be defined more clearly if we are going to talk about it meaningfully.
  • Change That Prevents Real Change - Change pressures are amplified by the open education movement.
  • Some Thoughts On Technophilia - Danah Boyd challenges technological determinism.
  • Change, influence, power - Grassroots change has been prominent in education, but if it is change we desire, we must eventually find greater models of influence.
  • Neuroscience - Technologies are penetrating a wide variety of different endeavours across human society.
  • Online Campus... - Online learning continues to grow at a faster rate than on-campus enrollment.


eLearning Resources and News

learning, networks, knowledge, technology, trends

by George Siemens




The prominence of mobile devices (particular smart phones) is raising the profile of location-aware programs.

  • When I search on my iPhone, Google wants to know my location so it can provide more relevant search results.
  • Or, when I am in a city I'm not familiar with, Google Maps has guided me to many a coffee shop (and, more recently, Urban Spoon has assisted with dining options).

Applications for smart phones turn treasure hunting - in the form of geocaching into entertaining activities.

I've been experimenting with various location-aware applications (Whoshere, Latitude, etc).

At first, it's a bit disturbing. It's so easy to connect with people - not exclusively linked to existing social networks. Shared interest and a shared location can serve as a starting point for a conversation.

Twitter will soon offer location-awareness posting:

"For example, with accurate, tweet-level location data you could switch from reading the tweets of accounts you follow to reading tweets from anyone in your neighborhood or city - whether you follow them or not. It's easy to imagine how this might be interesting at an event like a concert or even something more dramatic like an earthquake."

Integrating our search history with our social network and our current location offers some interesting opportunities. And some interesting privacy and security concerns.

While we often broadcast only to our network, many people are indiscriminate in the people they "friend" online.


It Is Raining In The Cloud


Like many people, I store much of my data in what is very loosely called "the cloud".

Google stores many of my documents, email, social contacts, and calendar. Ning holds many of my online interactions, as do Twitter and Facebook.

The freedom of not being tied to one device is great.

The cloud model is still a bit undeveloped, however. It is undeveloped in terms of definition:

  • Is cloud computing simply using online services?
  • Or is it more about the technological infrastructure?
  • What about public and private clouds (I remember private Bluetooth networks promising a new way to interact with multiple devices)?

Cloud computing needs to be defined more clearly if we are going to talk about it meaningfully.

A recent report suggests that the end user experience of clouds is problematic as services like Amazon, Microsoft, and Google "suffer from regular performance and availability issues". With certain services - such as Gmail - down time is rare. With other services - such as Twitter - it's almost a given.

Cloud computing is still a recent development. I do not think current headaches differ much from the painful desktop computing experiences of the late '80s


Change That Prevents Real Change


Textbook publishers are experiencing turmoil. Change pressures are amplified by the open education movement.

A new model is clearly needed. Flatworld Knowledge is currently the most innovative companies in the textbook field: textbooks can be read online or purchased (for $30). But is it enough? My view is that it is not the right model.

I have posted thoughts on where I think the open education movement model falls short on my connectivism blog: Change that prevents real change.


Some Thoughts On Technophilia


Danah Boyd challenges technological determinism: Some thoughts on technophilia:

"It is easy to fall in love with technology. It is equally easy to fear it...

I want to push back against our utopian habits because I think that they're doing us a disservice. Technology does not determine practice. How people embrace technology has less to do with the technology itself than with the social setting in which they are embedded.

Those people who are immersed in a techno-savvy, technophilic community are far more likely to embrace technology than those whose social world is shaped by other patterns of consumption and communication."

Hard to disagree with that assertion. But what is new is also exciting.

A new tool can sometimes lead an educator into entirely new mode of practice. For example, I've used blogs in teacher education programs. On many occasions, the value of a blog or podcast is found in what it does to the educator who is actively experimenting.

I agree with Danah that simply dropping a new piece of software into a course won't necessarily result in positive learning experiences for learners. But a tool can change a way of thinking for the teacher. Perhaps teachers who are excited about trying a new tool produce a ripple effect of pedagogical improvement.

I would rather have an educator trying new tools (and failing) than have an educator who is quite content not experimenting.


Change, Influence, Power


How do we create change? This question sits centrally in many discussions on the use of technology in learning as well as the broader "how do we improve education" movement.

Grassroots change has been prominent in education - in effect a teacher experiments with blogs or Second Life outside of school mandates. Most of my use of technology has been in this category. I haven't been a part of many large-scale mandated strategies for including technology in education.

However, over the last several years, I've noticed the limitations of grassroots - systemic change must augment grassroots activity (even if, at the start, systemic change is mainly about providing a safe-fail environment).

If it's change we desire, we must eventually find greater models of influence. Which in turn requires that we participate at the power-table of strategy, policy, planning, and resource allocation. Some level of organization is needed once we are at this stage.

Even the environmental movement - one of the largest movements in history - has points of organization at government and policy levels.

InsideHigherEd summarizes the frustration of people (in this case, sociologists) who have an important contribution to make, but lack influence (in contrast with economists who are much better at organizing and influencing through power channels). The discussion seems similar to the policy discussion we had last week at Open Education 2009 - a mix of calls for:

  • Increased organization of activities
  • Increased grassroots movement.




Humans create tools to extend their potential.

  • Plows to accelerate digging dirt with hands.
  • "The wheel" to accelerate travels.
  • Clubs, swords, and explosives to accelerate our ability to kill.

Most of our history has involved building tools to extend the body. A few instances of using tools to extend the mind- language and books - can be observed in the past. In contrast, our own era is one of building tools to extend the mind: the internet, computers, haptic devices.

The future promises many more opportunities through innovations in neuroscience: What we're seeing across law enforcement, the arts, marketing, entertainment, and warfare is what is means to be human.

These technologies are penetrating a wide variety of different endeavours across human society. That - in and of itself - highlights the fact that we are witnessing the very early stages of a "Neuro Revolution"


Online Campus...


Online learning - after 15 years of hype - is now recognized as a viable solution to some rather complex problems facing universities - see Online Campus could solve many of U of California's problems.

Moving courses, programs, or even entire departments online should be justified by:

  • Better quality learning,
  • Increased access for learners,
  • Reduction of costs/increased revenue.

As is too often the case, the catalyst for interest is economic, not the potential for improving learning. But, as Staying the Course emphasizes, online learning continues to grow at a faster rate than on-campus enrollment.

Originally written by George Siemens for elearnspace and first published on August 21st, 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:
Location - Leonid Karchevsky
It Is Raining In The Cloud - The Proverbial Lone Wolf Librarian's Weblog
Change That Prevents Real Change - maxxyustas
Some Thoughts On Technophilia - Andre van der Veen
Change, Influence, Power - alastor
Neuroscience - Sebastian Kaulitzki
Online Campus... - Maciej Szubert

George Siemens -
Reference: Elearnspace [ Read more ]
Readers' Comments    
blog comments powered by Disqus
posted by on Saturday, August 22 2009, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

Search this site for more with 








    Curated by

    New media explorer
    Communication designer


    POP Newsletter

    Robin Good's Newsletter for Professional Online Publishers  



    Real Time Web Analytics